West Midlands PCC hearing reveals improvements to major incident response on motorways

M 6delay

Extra training for police officers, earlier access to crash sites and changes to the way Highways England works nationally - a number of improvements have been made to how major incidents are dealt with on motorways thanks to West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson.

The PCC today (DEC 20) held a follow-up meeting to see how the response to emergencies on the motorway has improved since a fatal crash on the M6 in February.

It followed his hearing on March 18 that looked into why the M6 remained closed for 24 hours following the tragic incident on February 4.  As a result, people were stranded in their cars and vans for hours, with hospital appointments, family funerals and business meetings and deliveries missed - costing the regional economy millions.

During that initial hearing, 11 recommendations were made. This new meeting - which was webcast live from Lloyd House in Birmingham - checked on the progress since then.

Improvements have included:

  • Much more information put on police logs for all agencies to use.
  • Highways England now has earlier supervised access to crash sites to assess the carriageway and traffic management needs.
  • More training for CMPG and Highways England officers.
  • Highways England now mobilises repair materials to incidents immediately.
  • Major incident training workshops led by Highways England.
  • Highways England now has a major incident hotline where its partners can reach it straight away.
  • Highways England is working to improve its social media output so it can connect with drivers quicker. The police has also boosted real-time information on its social media feeds.
  • Improved communication and collaboration between all agencies.
  • Damaged road surfaces are now planed down, allowing traffic to get moving again quicker.
  • A fact-finding visit to London's traffic control centre, which managed the Olympic Games traffic issues, has been organised to learn lessons about how they deal with major incidents and events.

The hearing was told how these improvements have already strengthened the response to incidents on the motorway - nationally as well as regionally. For example, following a severe fire on the M6 northbound earlier this year, all three damaged lanes were resurfaced much earlier as a result of these new ways of working.

However, there is still much work to be done and the upcoming construction of HS2 poses other challenges all groups will need to take into account.

Following today's hearing, an initial report will be published before Christmas, followed by a more in-depth document in the new year. The PCC will also be meeting government ministers about the issues and the work he has done.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: "These hearings have proved to be extremely worthwhile, with a number of improvements made as a result. This just goes to show what PCCs can achieve if they think a little differently.

"We've come a long way since February but we still have an incredible amount of work to do. Obviously, HS2 is the elephant in the room and if things aren't spot on now, the challenges will be truly vast - the process of construction could seriously undermine our economy during that time. We need to make sure we are prepared for HS2 and its construction doesn't bring our region to a standstill.

"One thing is certain, the problems we have on the roads cannot be solved by one organisation: they are issues for all of us and we must all play our part. The Combined Authority will have a major role in bringing all these things together."