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18:00 - 29 June 2006
Woodspring MP Liam Fox found time for a whistle-stop tour of his constituency last week before heading out to Basra and Afghanistan.

On Friday the shadow defence secretary came to Portishead with shadow transport secretary Chris Grayling to discover first-hand some of the traffic problems in the area.

The latest draft of the Greater Bristol Strategic Transport Study recently revealed an ambitious proposal to build a new road bridge over the River Avon.

Transport chiefs believe a new crossing would relieve the M5 bridge at Avonmouth of local traffic and reduce congestion problems.

But campaigners, who spoke to Dr Fox and Mr Grayling about their concerns, criticised the plans, adding that 3 million spent on reopening the Portishead to Bristol railway line for passenger trains would be more economical.

The MPs also travelled to Nailsea to discuss the expansion of Bristol International Airport and the effect it would have on surrounding villages.

On Saturday morning, Dr Fox joined residents in Clevedon who have launched a campaign to reduce the speed of traffic near the Cottage Hospital.

Old Street, which runs through the town centre, is notorious for its history of accidents and speeding vehicles.

In December last year, town council chairman David Shopland was knocked down by a car on a zebra crossing while walking to a meeting. He spent more than two months in hospital after suffering serious injuries and, six months later, he is still recovering.

But despite accidents such as this, traffic calming in Old Street, according to one resident, is not being regarded as a main concern.

Resident Hugh Brougham has been living in the street for three years.

So far he has collected more than 200 names on a petition and expects the numbers to rise substantially when all the sheets are collected.

He said: "I started the campaign because I felt something had to be done.

"I have spoken to the Highways Agency and they said that Old Street was not a priority because there had been no fatal accidents. So basically, somebody has to lose their life before someone will do something about it.

"I think that is a pathetic excuse and unacceptable and we will fight until something is done.

"We would like a survey to be done to assess the dangers and speed limits to be enforced.

"Many people do not abide by the speed limit and at night some cars get up to 80mph along here.

"It is very dangerous and we believe replacing the zebra crossing with a pelican crossing would be a good start.

"At least that way you would be able to cross safely and the traffic would have to stop.

"But also because it's a long straight road, whether it's a speed camera or humps, the traffic somehow has to be slowed down."

And it seems even people who don't live in Old Street are concerned about the danger of the road.

Mum Beverly Cockerill, of Porlock Close, said: "Although I don't live in the street, my son went to Highdale Nursery and there is definitely a problem and people do speed here."

Michelle Thorogood, who lives in Weston, came to Clevedon especially to sign the petition.

She said: "My children go to Clevedon Community School and it is worrying.

"Sadly, it's the same old story. It takes someone to be run over before something gets done.

"The same thing happened at Mary Elton - a young girl was killed before anything was done to slow traffic down."

Dr Fox, who has now added his name to Mr Brougham's petition, said: "This is one of a number of places locally where there is a lot of public concern about safety on the roads, with ever more congested roads and higher speeds from many cars.

"But in this particular place we have got a huge level of activity crossing the road. There is the cottage hospital, the health centre and local schools, and there is a worry that the view is being taken that it is not a problem until someone is injured, which is not a responsible way to do things.

"This is clearly a difficult place because there are two different junctions, a zebra crossing and two bus stops, and it requires someone with knowledge of these things to sit down and plan this whole area properly to make sure you can maximise traffic flow but minimise the risk to the public and to youngsters who are using this crossing."

After talking to residents Dr Fox made his way back to London before flying to Basra and Afghanistan where he is spending four days on the frontline. During his trip he will visit British troops and talk to commanders about the current situation.

Dr Fox also recently visited Hannah More Primary School in Nailsea where there are similar problems with traffic.

"I have suggested taking representatives from both areas to Weston to meet North Somerset Council highways officials to see if something can be sorted out before someone is injured further," he added.

Constituents could see Dr Fox a bit more as the shadow defence secretary is hoping to move with his wife Jesme, a cancer specialist, to Tickenham in the near future.

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