SINCE Shell set up its refinery at Stanlow about 80 years ago it has allowed the public free use of the private thoroughfare which links Ellesmere Port with the site and the communities surrounding it.
But, as we reveal today, a series of smashes and near misses has prompted Shell to close Oil Sites Road to through traffic from Sunday, March 30.
Stanlow’s general manager, Yuri Sebregts, has written a personal letter to residents of Ince, Elton and Thornton-leMoors, who use the road, setting out the reasons for shutting down.
Here is what he tells them:
“During the last meeting of the Shell Stanlow Community Liaison Panel held on November 6, 2007, Shell provided a briefing to representatives of Stanlow’s local communities on the issues surrounding Oil Sites Road and its possible closure.
“We pointed out that, despite the addition of speed signs and road markings, dangerous incidents were still occurring on Oil Sites Road.
“Last year the company’s CCTV cameras recorded three near-fatalities due to extreme speeding on the road which has a speed limit of 30mph.
“Since then Cheshire County Council has conducted two traffic surveys on the road. These surveys were conducted during weekend periods when fewer employees, approximately 100, were on site.
“They revealed that during an average weekend over 2,000 vehicles used the road, and 66% of those road users were breaking the speed limit. Speeds of up to 90mph were recorded.
“The surveys also identified that a large percentage of vehicles used the road for cut-through purposes and not to access Shell sites.
“We have looked into alternative methods of traffic calming to reduce incidents on the road but none have proven viable. Speed bumps would restrict access for emergency response vehicles and other vehicles essential to our operations such as cranes, cherry pickers and forklift trucks.
“Speed cameras are not an option as Cheshire Police are unable to support this scheme on a private road.
“Stanlow takes safety very seriously. Shell encourages staff and contractors to report all safety incidents and these are then placed on to a site incident management system.
“After an analysis of the data within this system it became apparent that more high potential safety incidents were reported on Oil Sites Road than for the rest of the site’s operations combined.
“Aside from speeding, other incidents included vehicles overtaking at site entrances whilst cars were entering and leaving Shell sites.
“One particular incident involved a car driving through a red light at the distribution terminal entrance narrowly avoiding a loaded tanker.
“Due to the severity of the incidents mentioned above, and following consultation with the police and the local council, we have concluded that the most effective option would be to close the road off to the general public.
“The reasons behind this approach are the need for increased safety and greater security.
“Shell’s safety culture simply does not tolerate this type of behaviour and security, too, is also very much in the company’s thoughts – particularly during these sensitive times.
“I have personally witnessed several incidents that have alarmed me and, as a result, I am committed to take every reasonably practical action to prevent a fatality occurring on the road.
“I acknowledge that the road is often used by residents of Elton, Ince and Thornton-le-Moors to access Ellesmere Port and I apologise in advance for any inconvenience the road closure will cause. However, the safety of individuals using the road is my primary concern.
“The road will therefore be closed off as a through road to the general public on Sunday, March 30.