‘It sounded like gunshots’: Traders speak on A34 lorry fire

A lorry driver escaped with minor injuries after a vehicle burst into flames shortly before 2am on Saturday (April 13) on the A34 between the Hinksey Hill and Botley interchanges near Oxford.

The stretch of road was closed throughout Saturday and overnight before reopening on Sunday afternoon.

READ MORE: Police called to Tesco Express at Millbrook Square in Grove

Authorities have defended how the road closure was managed after coming in for criticism over how the disruption was communicated to motorists.

Oxford Mail: A34 lorry blazing.A34 lorry blazing. (Image: National Highways.)

A county council spokesman said there was not a “silver bullet” available for any of the partner organisations in the event of A34 closure.

Commenting on the fire, deputy manager at Victorian gastropub the Fishes, Jack Christie, said: “Our live-in team could hear it.

“The chef described it as kind of sounding like gunshots.

“The main affect is our tables were later than normal.”

Mr Christie said other than the customer delays, the shop still had “good trade”.

But Tracey Fisk, an employee at the nearby Oxford Garden Centre, said: “The first thing I knew of it was when I got to the roundabout and I saw the road closed.

Oxford Mail: Oxford Garden Centre.Oxford Garden Centre. (Image: Google Maps.)

“We get to work but getting home it took over an hour for a 10-minute journey.

“I spoke to the workmen when they came in and they told us it was going to be closed for two days.

“We jiggled our staff around but both lanes reopened on Sunday which was surprising so that was a bit inconvenient as we ended up over-staffed.”

The A34 is managed by National Highways rather than Oxfordshire County Council but we approached both authorities to ask about disruption caused as a result of the closure.

An Oxfordshire County Council spokesman said: “Partners in each area work hard to manage diversions and congestion when incidents happen.

Oxford Mail: Damage to the road.Damage to the road. (Image: National Highways)

“We work closely with National Highways, Thames Valley Police, bus companies, and others to reduce the impact on the network when a major route is closed.

“During incidents like this, we deploy, at the request of National Highways, the strategic diversion routes for traffic that have been agreed with them.

“Warnings were issued on social media by National Highways, as well as on Oxon Travel and through local radio, urging drivers to seek alternative routes, delays are monitored, and mitigation put in place where possible.”

Vale of White Horse district councillor for the Botley and Sunningwell ward, Emily Smith, said: “Because the A34 is used for so much through traffic from the south to the north of the country, we have a lot of lorries passing through our community.

Oxford Mail: Emily Smith.Emily Smith. (Image: Vale of White Horse District Council.)

“Botley has stubbornly high levels of air pollution as homes are so close to this busy and often congested road.

“This lorry fire could have been so much worse had it happened at a busier time of day.”

National Highways has been contacted for comment.

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