Disaster waiting to happen

A white Mercedes articulated lorry with the "dnata" logo in blue on the side curtain. Its cab is in a stream and being pulled out by a red mobile crane during the night.
The DNATA truck being recovered from the Longford River, 31st Dec 2019.

Yesterday a car and a truck collided on a road I’ve travelled along a lot while doing air freight work around Heathrow airport, namely the Bedfont Road south of the Longford and Duke of Northumberland Rivers which form the southern boundary of the airport, resulting in the death of three of the passengers in the car (all British Airways employees) and injury to a fourth (the truck driver, as might be expected, was much less seriously injured but was taken to hospital as a precaution). The truck belonged to DNATA, a Dubai-owned company which operates three big cargo sheds off that road, serving numerous major and minor airlines including Emirates, Qatar, El Al, Virgin Atlantic, Turkish Airlines and many others (it happened outside another shed which they do not own). Cargo sheds, for anyone who isn’t aware, are big warehouses where cargo is dropped off to be screened before being put on an aeroplane; alternatively, it can be screened elsewhere, or held securely after manufacture and delivered as “known” or “secure cargo”. (See earlier post for details about the congestion at the Heathrow cargo centre which led to those sheds being built there.)

Bedfont Road is a busy road. It’s also a narrow road, just wide enough for two vehicles to pass with care in places, and has numerous blind bends and a 40mph speed limit, and comes off a dual carriageway which links the A30 with the Heathrow perimeter road (also both dual carriageways). All the alternative routes have weight and/or width limits. Of course, if everyone drives carefully, accidents like this won’t happen but roads cannot be designed on the presumption that everyone will and driver distraction is a fact of life. It seems to have been built well before the cargo sheds when it was just the road from Bedfont to Stanwell village, which has a 7.5-tonne weight limit, but it now carries vehicles which are just too big for the road space. It needs to be widened and the blind bends straightened out, and possibly the speed limit reduced given the large number of side turnings used by large articulated trucks. I expect, however, that only the last of these will be put in place as it will be both the cheapest and least disruptive, but a car which hits a 44-tonne truck at 30mph does not stand much more chance than it stands at 40mph.

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