News

Behind the scenes documentary opens up life on the roads

Inspecting structures in Area 9

Next week the people who look after Britain’s high speed roads take a starring role in a new four part BBC2 documentary ‘The Motorway: Life in the fast Lane.

The first of four episodes – Weight of traffic - airs on Tuesday 9 September at 9pm and looks at what goes into maintaining the M6, from workers negotiating live lanes of moving traffic to the workforce working through the night to replace the road surface.

The Highways Agency gave camera crews from The Garden Productions unprecedented access over six months to follow its staff and then Area 9 teams from Amey and Skanska as well as the Central Motorway Police Group and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. The cameras were on hand to record, amongst much else, the response to the storms and torrential rains of last winter.

Amey business director for strategic highways Margaret Seear has viewed an early cut of the series and says what comes over most strongly is how the people working on the highways really care about the roads, local residents and drivers. “There’s a real team spirit and I  hope the films opes people’s eyes to a career on the roads,” she says. “It’s edge of the seat stuff at times.There’s a lot of passion for the job on display along with humour and obvious enjoyment. And it becomes obvious that you can’t tell what the day will bring.”

The documentaries don’t shy away from the risks drivers take, the impact of accidents and the dangers the workforce face along with all the safety precautions.  But they also bring out how much care goes into working with local residents when major works like resurfacing are underway, Seear says. “And they show the affection the workforce has for the big structures like Spaghetti Junction and the care they take over on going maintenance.

Highways Agency West Midlands Regional Control Centre operations manager James Hawkes said it was strange at first to be followed about by a crew of people with cameras but was soon used to it. The Garden Productions team were on hand during one night of the storms of the winter when the motorway was blocked by four different tree falls. “I haven’t seen the films yet but I hope they show the speed we cleared that up. Despite all the wind and the rain, the trees were gone in an hour and we managed to stop people getting into more trouble by diverting through Stoke which had roofs blocking the roads.

“We can be a bit of a behind the scenes service,” Hawkes says “but this will show the public that there is a plan. We know the risks, we anticipate the incidents and we are prepared with the response.”

Highways Agency chief executive Graham Dalton said: “Motorways are loved and often, to be fair, loathed by drivers throughout the country but the nation couldn’t survive without them.

“I think it’s important for us to show just how taxpayers money is spent on the strategic road network and at the same time answer all those burning questions drivers have about what happens on motorways like the M6 which play a major role in all our lives.”

The Motorway: Life in the Fast Lane, BBC 2 9 September, 9pm