Highways England traffic officers move onto local roads to ease disruption

Highways England's traffic officer patrols are moving out onto local authority roads for the first time, in a bid to lessen the impact of the M5 Oldbury Viaduct project. The TO service, which has been helping to clear incidents and break-downs on the Strategic Road Network since 2004, is now working with Sandwell Council and West Midlands Police to help keep traffic moving free of obstruction on principal roads close to the Oldbury Viaduct as part of a 13-month pilot project.

The £100m Oldbury Viaduct repairs scheme between junctions one and two of the M5 has brought significant disruption to the motorway and surrounding area since work started at the beginning of the year. A contraflow is in place with two narrow lanes and 30mph speed restrictions in both directions. Any break-downs or other incidents on roads in the area have added to the problems as vehicles seek alternative routes directed by Highways England to avoid the M5.

Highways Englnd has signed a partnership agreement with the West Midlands Combined Authority for greater collaboration on joint traffic management. The traffic officer service operating out of the West Midlands Traffic Control Centre is working with Sandwell Council and local police to direct traffic officer patrols to respond to incidents on the A41 leading from junction one of the M5, on the A4123, which connects with junction 2, and on the A4034,  A457 and A4252.

HE's chief executive, Jim O’Sullivan, said: "We want our customers to experience safer and better journeys.Working more closely with our partners means our traffic officers can now support those who break down near the main motorway network while the Oldbury viaduct repair scheme continues."

The West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, said: “It’s important that people have confidence that every step is taken to minimise disruption when essential repairs and upgrades take place. Firstly, this means closer working between the WMCA and Highways England around planning, so that we can ensure these works go as smoothly as possible.

"Secondly, measures such as introducing traffic officers to local roads means we can act more quickly when there are breakdowns to clear the way and get traffic flowing. A huge amount of investment is going into the network in the coming years. This needs to be planned, communicated and managed as well as possible to keep disruption to a minimum. This partnership agreement will help us achieve this."