North Devon A361 Link Road upgrade ‘will save lives’ says transport boss

Bill Hockin says changes to the North Devon Link Road will save lives.
Bill Hockin says changes to the North Devon Link Road will save lives.

The Gazette talks to Barnstaple transport boss Bill Hockin about his view of the North Devon Link Road

A Barnstaple trucking magnate believes the most important thing a new North Devon Link Road will do is save lives.

Bill Hockin of William C Hockin Transport & Tankers Ltd has more than 50 lorries a day driving up and down the A361/A39, carrying some 1,500 tons of freight.

The director of the national Road Haulage Association was speaking to the Gazette as we continue our A Better Link for North Devon series of articles.

He was among those calling for a dual carriageway of the link road before it was built 30 years ago and has not changed his opinion.

“It will obviously help the business in time and financial gain, but I think the important thing is the safety aspect,” he told the Gazette.

“There have been quite a few deaths on that road and I know they are not caused by the road, but it doesn’t help the situation.

“If we can save one life a year, they are someone’s family and worth saving.”

If Devon County Council’s plans for upgrading the road are successful, it is likely to be a partial dual carriageway, but with more dualled sections to help move the traffic.

Mr Hockin, 67, and his wife Irene began the business in 1974, with one lorry that he drove. Today they employ around 100 staff, with two fuel depots in Barnstaple plus offices in Plymouth, Tiverton and Avonmouth.

He recalls attending a meeting on the proposed link road and being shocked to hear the delegates discussing plans for three lanes.

“I said they had to be joking, it had to be dual carriageway – I think the difference was about 12 to 15 per cent,” he said.

“So here we are nearly 30 years later talking about dualling some of it. I would like to see it all dualled, but if we can’t get it all we need to get what we can.”

Of the Gazette’s campaign, he said: “It’s brilliant and lovely to see. We need support as it’s going to be of benefit to everybody.”

He would also like to see the lay-by picnic rest areas reinstated.

The county council has received £1.5million in government cash to work up a business case for upgrading the Link Road.

That will be used to bid for a share of the Government’s £475million Local Majors Fund later this year.

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