A DECISION which is set to remove dozens of lighting columns along the M65 has been branded ‘absurd’ and ‘outrageous’ by MPs.
Backed by community leaders the Lancashire Telegraph launched a campaign to get all the lights on the motorway switched back on after years of darkness.
But Lancashire County Council has confirmed it is set to axe the lights on the six-mile stretch from junctions 10 to 14 which had remained lit.
The news comes days after Blackburn coroner Michael Singleton told an inquest he was going to write to Highways Agency bosses with grave concerns over the switch-off policy.
Mr Singleton was speaking after hearing about the aftermath of a fatal crash last November involving Mark Burgess near junction eight, which saw following motorists colliding with debris left on the road.
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle branded the plan ‘outrageous’ and Pendle’s Andrew Stephenson said the move was ‘absurd’.
The motorway lights are switched off after midnight until 5am but the new move would leave the M65 without illumination permanently.
County Council officials said the lighting columns would be removed to allow a concrete barrier to be installed which would help reduce accidents involving vehicles striking the central reservation.
They confirmed there were no proposals to replace the outgoing lights.
Mr Birtwistle said: “I have argued all along that the lights should be switched back and I’ve been inundated with complaints about this.
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“This decision is absolutely outrageous and if the county council was interested in road safety this would never happen.”
The MP has insisted that any cost saving would be minimal and the authority had received no instruction from government to make the switch-off.
Mr Stephenson said he had highlighted the coroner’s concerns with Transport Minister Robert Goodwill and would now be raising the latest development with his office.
He added: “I think it is absurd to turn them off, especially when the coroner highlighted the tragic death of Mr Burgess.
“It is an outrageous suggestion and one which I will be opposing.”
County councillor Christian Wakeford, who represents Pendle West, said: “Without these lights we are going to have more accidents and potentially more deaths. While savings are needed, when it comes to saving lives, that has to take precedent.”
County councillor John Fillis, highways cabinet member, said: “The barrier along the central reservation of the stretch of the M65 maintained by the county council is in need of replacement.
“We're proposing to install a concrete barrier to further improve safety, particularly by reducing the risk of serious collisions caused by vehicles crossing onto the wrong side of the carriageway in the event of an accident.
“To replace the existing steel barrier with the improved concrete barrier we would need to remove the street lighting along this section