New interactive signs which warn foreign drivers in their own language planned for Holy Island causeway

The signs on the Holy Island causeway are set to be upgraded – with the aim of including technology to warn foreign drivers in their own language.

Friday, 1st November 2019, 5:36 pm
Updated Friday, 1st November 2019, 6:05 pm

Continuing problems with motorists using the tidal crossing who ignore or are not aware of the warnings have prompted the area’s ward councillor, Roderick Lawrie, to call for improved signage to alert people to the dangers.

In the last five years, around 50 rescues have taken place of people stranded on the causeway when the tide came in.

“Each rescue comes at a cost and although no one has been hurt or worse been killed so far, I think we need to do more,” said Coun Lawrie, who represents Norham and Islandshires.

“This is a very important part of our county’s tourist offer, but the tides can catch people out.”

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He is asking a formal question seeking improvements at a full meeting of Northumberland County Council on Wednesday November 6.

Back in 2012, in response to increasing concerns from islanders and rescue teams, the county council installed flashing message signs to try to alert drivers to the dangers.

This did seem to have an impact at first with the number of call-outs reducing, but this was relatively short-lived and the numbers have been on the rise once more in recent years.

Coun Glen Sanderson, the cabinet member for local services, said: “We have been liaising closely with the Coastguard and the RNLI to highlight the need for people to check tides and safety, but we plan to do more.

“The old interactive signs were reasonably useful, but I want to upgrade these for next year.”

Planned improvements include converting the power supply to renewable energy sources, making the signs more durable and introducing number-plate recognition.

“By using new technology, we hope to be able to recognise foreign number plates and display signs in the relevant language,” Coun Sanderson said. “There is a bit more work needed on this, but hopefully we can include this because of the number of foreign visitors using the causeway.”

As previously reported, the RNLI launched a new publicity campaign during the summer in a bid to limit the rising number of cars getting stranded.

The messages on the new posters, which were shared with tourism businesses and holiday parks, were also printed on coffee cup covers, paper bags and drip mats for use in places where they would be seen by visitors.

The local authority has repeatedly offered reassurances that physical barriers are not on the table as a solution.

At a meeting in July, director of local services Paul Jones said: “There’s absolutely no appetite from islanders and also it’s not something we think is appropriate for that location.”