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  News from 2008

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Times & Star News Crime
Jail threat for M6 roadblock crash driver
Last updated 19:58, Thursday, 16 October 2008

A MARYPORT man who caused a crash on the M6 as he tried to force his way past an official roadblock is facing a possible jail sentence.

Paul Simpson, 50, of Bounty Avenue, was driving to Kendal to collect his mother from hospital when he encountered a Highways Agency patrol vehicle, with its lights flashing and an illuminated sign telling motorists: "Do Not Pass."

Agency staff were setting up a "rolling" roadblock to protect police and motorway workers clearing up after a fatal crash half a mile along the motorway.

But Simpson tried to barge past the roadblock, and collided with an agency vehicle as it moved to block his path.

Simpson denied driving dangerously but he was convicted after a trial.

Sitting in Kendal, Judge Gerald Chalk imposed an immediate driving ban on Simpson, a Class 1 HGV driver employed by a Carlisle firm, telling him: "Iím considering sending you to prison."

The court heard how highways staff were sent on to the M6 at Tebay on January 31 to create a "rolling" roadblock, holding back traffic.

But Simpson tried to get past a car and then hit the back of the highways vehicle.

Greg Tomlinson, a Highways Agency supervisor, said his colleague had adhered to procedures. As Simpson gained on their vehicle, he made aggressive gestures at them, he said.

Simpson told the court he had not seen the sign on the rear of the highways vehicle.

He said: "I overtook him and thatís when the agency tried to ram me off the road," he said.

Simpson said he not think he did anything dangerous.

Highways Agency regional director David Grunwell said Simpson had risked the safety of road workers working to clear away debris from a fatal accident.

He said: "We hope this conviction will remind drivers that it is an offence to ignore the instructions of traffic officers."

Simpson will be sentenced on November 4 after background reports are prepared.


Retired military man Jonathan Krelle receives his veterans badge from Mrs Judith Greensmith, the High Sheriff of Merseyside High-flying Jonathan scales
11:10am Saturday 16th August 2008
By Staff Reporter

A FORMER airman has been hailed by his new bosses for his contribution to Britain's armed forces.

Jonathan Krelle, who lives in Unsworth, now works for the Highways Agency's Traffic Officer Service, and was honoured at a special ceremony designed to mark this yearís national Veterans Day.

At the ceremony at the Thistle Hotel at Haydock, Merseyside, Jonathan was presented with his national veterans badge by High Sheriff of Merseyside Mrs Judith Greensmith.

Veterans Day, on June 27, was launched last year to ensure that the contribution of veterans both past and present was never forgotten.

Jonathan, aged 39, spent ten years in the RAF as a driver, reaching the rank of corporal and serving in both Afghanistan and Iraq where he helped to supply fuel to battlefield helicopters.

He also became a military parachutist on a small team working to air drop refuelling equipment to helicopters on the front line.

He now works among a team of around 40 traffic officers based at Rochdale serving the M66, M62, M61 and M60 motorways.

Traffic officers were introduced by the Highways Agency to keep drivers on the move by responding to and quickly clearing up anything, such as minor accidents, breakdowns and debris in carriageways. They also assist the police at serious incidents by managing traffic.

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select to view the articleOPERATION STACK 2008
BBC NEWS         Thursday, 6 March 2008
Lorries waiting to cross the Channel are parked on the M20, with Operation Stack in place, closing the road between junctions eight and nine.

"This must have cost Kent millions and millions of pounds," said Paul Carter.

A SeaFrance spokesman said the company was working to solve the pay strike by its officers as quickly as possible. "This has gone on now for seven days," said Mr Carter.

"I intend to write to Mr (Nicolas) Sarkozy to tell him about the massive disruption it is causing to Kent residents, the Kent economy and the broader UK economy."

A caller to BBC Radio Kent said the whole mid-Kent area had been "closed down" by Operation Stack and traffic being diverted on to the A20.

"I have never seen it has bad as this - it is absolutely appalling," she said.

"The rest of the country don't realise what is happening in all the villages along the A20."

"My sons can't get home because the A20 is jammed."

Kent Police said phase two of Operation Stack, from the Leeds Castle to Ashford junctions of the M20, was likely to be in place permanently until the strike ended.

Emergency gates

It said it was the first time in the 20-year-history of Operation Stack that sections of the M20 had been closed for more than three days.

Mr Carter said KCC would soon announce an off-road site which could be used as a lorry park as an alternative to Operation Stack when there was disruption at Dover Port.

"We have found a very do-able site that the Highways Agency and police are hopefully going to support," he said.

"We have got to look at land acquisition and, most importantly, the government has got to fund it."

The Highways Agency has announced it is to install six emergency gates between junctions seven and 12 of the M20 to improve traffic flow in the event of major incidents.

The gates, to be installed in the central reservation from Monday, will allow drivers to cross to the opposite carriageway in a contraflow system.

A spokesman said they would be used in major incidents such as accidents, but might also be opened when Operation Stack was in force.

"They won't be used every time, but the situation will be assessed on a case-by-case basis," he said.

In the summer, a £12.6m quick moveable barrier (QMB) will come into operation on the M20 which will allow a contraflow between junctions 11 and 12 when Operation Stack is in place.

SeaFrance said the officers were striking in support of a pay increase equivalent to 25% over three years.

"Frankly, we can't afford it," said UK sales director Bill Laidlaw.

"Things aren't going to improve in the next day or so as far as I can see."

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Drivers are to be given the option of paying to drive faster in extra lanes on up to 500 miles of Britainís most congested motorways.          From The Times          March 5, 2008

The toll lanes, part of a government plan for road pricing, will have signposted speed limits 10 or 20mph faster than on adjacent uncharged lanes.

The lanes will be created from 2010, either by turning the hard shoulder into a running lane or by building an extra lane.

Drivers travelling with at least one passenger may be allowed free access to some of the lanes but, on others, the Department for Transport (DfT) will make all vehicles pay to ensure that traffic flows freely.

Similar toll lanes are in use in America, where they have been dubbed "Lexus lanes" because of the perception that only wealthier drivers can afford to use them. The DfT has yet to decide how much motorists will pay to use the lanes but in America drivers pay about £5 at the busiest times.

The speed limit for each lane will be displayed on overhead gantries. The lanes will be enforced by CCTV cameras on the gantries, which will also carry beacons to detect pre-paid tags in the windscreens of passing cars.

The toll lanes are likely to be introduced on the most congested sections of the M1, M4, M3, M5 near Bristol, M6, M20, M23, M27 and M62, the DfT said yesterday. The Highways Agency believes that it could save more than £1 billion by abandoning plans to widen parts of the M1, M6 and M62 and instead converting the hard shoulder into a running lane from 2010. Motorway widening costs up to £40 million a mile; hard shoulder conversion costs £10 million.

Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, said: "Allowing motorists to enter a reserved lane if they are carrying passengers or willing to pay a toll gives them a real choice without having to change their route.

"If your journey is absolutely essential, such as when catching a flight or attending a funeral or important business meeting, you will know you are going to get there on time without having to allow an extra half hour in case of gridlock."

Ms Kelly said that the initiative would help the Government to move beyond the "sterile debate" between road-pricing enthusiasts and those who claim it will be a stealth tax.

But she made clear that the Government believed that road pricing, in which drivers would pay a fee for each mile travelled on all congested roads, was the best long-term solution. Trials of road pricing will begin in the autumn and local charging schemes in Manchester and Cambridge are likely to be approved after the local government elections in May. Ms Kelly said that councils could bid for a share of £200 million a year, which the DfT would make available until 2019 for local congestion-charging schemes.

Motoring and business groups welcomed the idea of toll lanes but expressed concern that using the hard shoulder would not provide as much extra capacity as building a new lane.

David Frost, the director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "We need extra capacity and that means building new roads. Opening up motorway hard shoulders cannot be a long-term answer to solving congestion on our motorways."

Edmund King, the president of the AA, said that once toll lanes had been introduced it would be a simple step to introducing charges on the other lanes. He said that drivers would be willing to pay a toll for a fast journey on an extra lane but not for a slow trip on a converted hard shoulder.

Peter Hendy, the chairman of the Commission for Integrated Transport, said: "This is a clever way forward on the contentious issue of road pricing because it gives people a choice."

Friends of the Earth said: "Extra motorway lanes are not the answer to Britainís transport problems. The additional capacity will encourage more traffic, which may lead to more climate-changing pollution."

Rob Gifford, the director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: "Two limits on the same motorway could confuse drivers. The Government would need to think very carefully about the unintended consequence of more crashes on a more controlled network."

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Published Date: 07 February 2008
Location: Preston
Emergency services "stage" rescue select for full article

By Rachel Dearden
There is an eerie silence on Samlesbury Airfield in Lancashire.

An overturned lorry looms over the wreckage of a Ford Fiesta crushed under the weight of the HGV's load. Further up the hard shoulder a tanker has broken down and its load has spilled on the carriageway.

The only sound comes from a minibus of students shocked and distraught at the carnage that is unfolding before them.

Before long, Highways Agency traffic officers arrive at the scene, responding to an emergency call made from a roadside telephone.

See a slideshow of the event         
It later emerges the lorry driver managed to break free from the wreckage and raise the alarm.

Fire crews arrive next, working their way through the standing traffic with police and ambulance crews on their tail.

The teams join forces to assess the risks and get the passengers to safety while working to clear the motorway.

The passengers in the minibus are becoming increasingly distressed and it is feared they may try to cross the carriageway.

Ambulance crews calm them before carrying one casualty off on a spinal board and leading the others to safety.

A passenger in a neighbouring car has sustained head injuries and is also lead to an ambulance.

Meanwhile, fire crews build towers under the truck to secure it before recovery vehicles drag the Fiesta out from the wreckage.

Crushed cars are winched to the back of the breakdown trucks and taken away. The tanker was carrying chemicals and a substance is sprayed on the road surface to neutralise it.

Accident investigators set to work, using hi-tech satellite equipment to asses what has happened.

Throughout the incident the motorway has been closed in both directions to allow emergency access.

Highways Agency traffic officers have been working to alert radio stations and arrange diversions to limit the build-up of standing traffic.

Finally, ropes are attached to the overturned truck and it is raised to safety.

Throughout the exercise teams work together to secure the safety of those involved and to clear the motorway as quickly as possible. The whole operation is over in just an hour and a half.

Fortunately this is a training exercise to drill the response to major motorway incidents, and the casualties are actors from Southport College.

North West Traffic Officer Service (NWTOS) team manager Shane Harrington said: "Our on-road and control room traffic officers have dealt with many serious real-life incidents and we have both 'hot' and 'cold' debrief systems in place with our partners such as the police so we can learn lessons from each of them.

"However, the idea of Exercise Valentine is to allow managers of the emergency services and the traffic officer service to take a step back and observe how colleagues respond to a serious incident without getting involved."

07 February 2008                 view more news               view the thread on this               view the article
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Traffic officers help to keep journeys safe
16 January 2008
EDITORIAL - whtimes@archant.co.uk select to view article

THEY are the eyes and ears of the motorways.

Covering over 70 miles of road, the specialist traffic officers save police from attending hundreds of incidents every month.

The Highways Agency service opened its eastern regional control centre in South Mimms two years ago this month.

A team of 45 traffic officers patrol parts of the M25, M1 and A1(M).

Their responsibilities include dealing with minor collisions, removing damaged and abandoned vehicles and clearing dangerous debris, although dealing with incidents involving injury or fatality remains the responsibility of the police.

The patrols now attend about 1,500 incidents a month.

select to view article Highways Agency operations manager Eddie Oag said: "Our traffic officers patrol the motorways 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so they are able to make a difference to a large number of drivers, helping to make the motorways safer and journeys more reliable."

Insp Dave Partridge from Hertfordshire Constabulary's strategic roads policing unit said: "Over the last two years the Highways Agency traffic officers have made a huge impact on the way in which incidents on the road network are dealt with.

"They provide a vital support role at police-led incidents as well as taking the lead on other matters which were traditionally left to the police to resolve.

"This support has taken the strain off the police services as well as providing valuable assistance and reassurance to members of the public."

At the South Mimms control centre, a team of operators are also responsible for answering emergency roadside telephones, setting overhead message boards on motorways and dispatching patrols to incidents across the region.

16 January 2008                view more news               view the thread on this               view the article
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click here for full story! Drivers warned to fuel up before setting off
Drivers in the South West are being urged to avoid putting themselves in danger by running out of fuel on motorways.

The Highways Agency has launched a campaign to try to slash the numbers of people breaking down on the motorways in Gloucestershire Wiltshire and Somerset by simply running out of petrol or diesel.

The latest figures produced by the Highways Agency show that 243 drivers ran out of fuel on motorways in Gloucester between February 2007 and January 2008. In total 1,341 drivers ran out of fuel on the motorways in the South West.

Now a major new campaign is hitting the county's roads to raise awareness of the dangers of running out of fuel in the motorway hard shoulder.

The campaign, Check Your Fuel Level, is being run until Friday, 29 February, 2008.

Highways Agency engineers based in the South West have arranged to deploy yellow message signs at key points across the motorway network to remind drivers to top up. Some of the regional motorway network's electronic Variable Message Signs (VMS) will also be used to remind motorists to stop for fuel.

Highways Agency Traffic Officers will also be visiting motorway service areas to talk to drivers about the importance of journey planning, including having enough fuel to complete their travels or being aware of where they can top up once they are out on the motorway network.

Events are being held at:

Graham Bowskill, Director of the Highways Agency in the South West, said, "The motorway hard shoulder should be used only in genuine emergencies but the number of people breaking down simply because they have run out of fuel is alarming.

13 Feb 2008                view more news           view the topic           view the article!
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