Episode 2 A1: Britain's Longest Road


Episode 2

Documentary series centred on the A1. Traffic police in Scotland respond to an emergency with an overturned car, and tempers boil over after a double crash at rush hour.


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Transcript


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The A1, Britain's longest road.

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Stretching almost 400 miles, from the City of London

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to the heart of the Scottish capital.

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Connecting two nations and passing through 18 counties.

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It's an unrivalled highway,

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used by hundreds of thousands of vehicles every day.

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We're going southbound, down the A1,

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on the northbound carriageway.

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But not all journeys go to plan.

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I thought, am I going to lose my life?

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Cars are coming close. It is the dangerous place to be.

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Lives can hang in the balance.

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The rear end of that vehicle, it's unrecognisable.

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This is actually the bodywork of the car.

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24 hours a day...

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It's not a safe place here.

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..there's a team of people who keep us safe from harm.

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POLICE SIREN

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The police...

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..response teams...

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We don't know whether they've got the road closed... We don't know what's happened.

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..and traffic officers...

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Keep going.

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..keeping Britain's most iconic road...

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-Get out.

-..on the move.

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Substantially damaged flatbed truck in lane two.

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The A1, the monster that it is, will start to return to normal.

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Coming up...

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..traffic police in Scotland...

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-Goodness.

-..deal with a shocking incident.

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This is actually the bodywork of the car.

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A collision near Newcastle puts traffic officers' lives at risk.

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Cars are coming close.

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It is the dangerous place to be.

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And it's doughnuts at dawn

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as racers refuel at one of the A1's biggest diners.

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Got to eat, boys. I want to save up for one of these cars!

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Spanning nearly 400 miles,

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the A1 passes by some of Britain's most recognisable landmarks.

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From Ferrybridge Power Station in West Yorkshire,

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to the bustling metropolis of Newcastle.

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But as the road enters Scotland,

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it cuts through much more barren landscapes,

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where the hills of the Borders meet the wild North Sea.

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Patrolling this isolated section of the road

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near the border with England are PCs Stuart Logan and Davey Johnson.

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This area's rugged beauty is certainly captivating,

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even for those who spend countless hours driving through it.

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Very picturesque down here, too.

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-It is.

-The sea would be a touch chilly, though.

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But it's very nice to look at.

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As night falls, Stuart and Davey's first emergency call comes in.

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POLICE SIREN

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When vehicles career off the road, there's a real threat to life.

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People can be trapped inside with serious injuries.

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And Stuart and Davey fear the car could cause more havoc.

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Our concern will be that a secondary collision could occur.

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People are not anticipating

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a stricken car lying in the middle of a road.

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So it's really imperative that you get there quickly

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in order to make the scene as safe as we can.

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The accident is just off the A1, along a winding,

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unlit section of a rural B-road.

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As they head round the bend, they're greeted by a shocking sight.

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Oh, goodness.

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Somehow, the car has ended up on its side,

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right in the middle of the road.

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Miraculously, the driver has walked away with minor injuries

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and is being treated by paramedics.

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Are you OK? Are you sore?

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-No, I'm not sore, just shaken.

-OK, no problem.

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To prevent another accident,

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Stuart and Davey now need to stop all traffic at the scene.

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Stuart's pretty sure he knows

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how the car's ended up in such a bizarre position.

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Looking at the scene here, it's clear what's happened -

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that the driver's come round this bend

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that we've just come round here,

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and then obviously then subsequently made contact with the shrubbery

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and the wire fencing.

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And it's obviously just hit the vehicle at an absolute sweet spot,

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which has caused it to overturn.

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The car's a total write-off,

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but Stuart's convinced that it saved the driver's life.

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While the driver's taken away for treatment,

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Stuart must now figure out how to remove the rolled-over car

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and get the road reopened.

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Every year, there are over 2,000 separate accidents

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along the A1 between London and Edinburgh.

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One in every seven takes place along a short stretch near Newcastle.

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Today, traffic officers Peter Senior and Scott Wilson...

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-OK, mate?

-Yeah.

-..will patrol a part of this corridor of collisions.

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Charlie, Lima 41, go ahead, over.

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Ironically, an area

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that's watched over by the A1's very own guardian angel.

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There's Rusty Rita, Peter.

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Aye, Rusty Rita, Angel of the North.

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Our role is basically keeping the traffic moving, erm,

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and dealing with absolutely anything that can happen out on the road.

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People keep asking, "What's a typical day?"

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It's a difficult question to answer, because you just never know

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what you're going to be dealing with.

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We've got something in the opposite carriageway.

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The pair quickly head towards the scene.

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It appears this troublesome section of the A1

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has claimed its latest victim.

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Hello. Are you all right?

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-Have you had a little bump, have you?

-Yeah.

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-Have you exchanged your details with the other driver?

-Yeah, these are his details here.

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-Right.

-It's just... You know when you just don't know what to do?

-Yeah.

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Nicole Wall's been left badly shaken

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after a near miss caused her to hit the kerb.

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-You're not injured at all?

-No, no.

-Is the car badly damaged?

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Um, I can't drive, because both those wheels are knackered.

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We'll just hang on, while you make sure you get something sorted, OK?

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With her boyfriend on the way,

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Peter knows there's a limit to what he can do.

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Well, we're not mechanics.

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I mean, as drivers, yes, we do know how to change a wheel,

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but, you know, it's out of our role to do that.

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For Nicole, today's routine journey along the A1 has ended

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with a seriously scary experience.

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So Pete's role is to offer a comforting shoulder to cry on.

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What I'll do, I'll pass your details to our control room,

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they might give you a ring in a while,

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to make sure you're all right and you're getting sorted.

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-Thank you.

-Is there any other concerns before we leave you?

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-No...

-You're all right now, are you?

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-Yeah, I'm better now, yeah.

-OK.

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Take care, OK?

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I think she was just pleased to see somebody

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who could give her a bit of advice and reassurance.

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You know, I think it helped put her at comfort a bit.

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For Peter and Scott,

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it's just the start of what promises to be a long and busy shift on this

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dangerous and anything-but-angelic stretch of road.

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With hundreds of thousands of vehicles using the A1 every day,

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there are literally millions of motorists' mouths to feed.

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But refreshments are never too far away...

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..at places such as the A1's Stadium Diner near Grantham,

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which attracts more than 200 truckers a day.

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They flock there for home-made classics,

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generous portions and service with a smile.

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Thanks for that.

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Margaret and Albert White

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have made their fortune keeping A1 truckers trucking.

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Yeah, we have steak pie, mince and onion pie,

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chicken and mushroom, cottage pie, chilli, lasagne.

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And with her personally designed menu,

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it's Margaret's way or the highway.

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They're not allowed to do anything different.

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If they do anything different, they get told off, don't you, Mary?

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To ensure her loyal customers don't decide to drive on by,

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Margaret knows standards have to be kept high.

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Oh, no. They're not cooked enough. Nowhere near.

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Nicola. They want putting back on, they're as hard as rock.

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-Oh...

-Can't saute them.

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But the diner is just one part of their empire.

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With parking space for 200-300 lorries,

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and a massive refilling station,

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Albert's gone from a humble trucker to a successful businessman.

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The business is growing from when we first took the truck stop.

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We was probably doing 20, 30 lorries a night, parking up.

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We're now to 200-plus a night.

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We're just busier and busier.

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I think what they say is from a little acorn grows an oak tree,

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or something like that.

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So this is our oak tree now, I think. That's... Yeah.

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At 68,

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Albert's still looking for ways to pull in the pounds

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from the nearby A1.

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He's recently shelled out over 120 grand

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on a state-of-the-art truck wash.

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We've always wanted one of these. I've always wanted one.

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So, er, it's quite nice to say I've got as good a truck wash

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as anybody else has got.

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And, yes, it's pleasing to see it working.

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Yeah.

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It's even more pleasing when there's three lorries behind it

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waiting to be washed, but we can't have everything.

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Not this weather.

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More than 230 miles north in the Scottish Borders,

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PCs Stuart Logan and Davey Johnson

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are still dealing with an unusual crash just off the A1.

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Aye, I mean, it's a bit of a wallop.

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This is actually the bodywork of the car

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that's skidded along the road.

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-Probably be the door handle and the mirror.

-Yeah.

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The driver's lost control on a bend and spun the car onto its side.

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I can only assume that she's climbed out through this open window,

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erm, because the door -

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it would be quite a significant weight to push that door up

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to get out.

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Miraculously, she's escaped with minor injuries.

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With the pick-up truck now here,

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Stuart and Davey can move the car off the road.

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You attach the chains to the top side of it,

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pull it down onto its wheels,

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and then it'll be winched onto the back of the truck.

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It took a dramatic chain of events for the car

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to end up in this position.

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Getting it back on four wheels isn't for the faint-hearted, either.

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It's only now that Stuart and Davey

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can see the full impact the car's absorbed.

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You can see the fuel rim's completely sheared.

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And Stuart knows the driver's lucky to be alive.

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It's down to luck whether another vehicle

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came round the bend, or didn't,

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and subsequently caused a secondary collision.

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But I think this just comes as a stark reminder to us all

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that you are very, very vulnerable on the roads.

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For the officers, it's back to the A1.

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Davey's been patrolling this patch for over two decades,

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and over the years,

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he's seen a common theme emerge when it comes to crashes.

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Most of the accidents I've attended haven't been down to speed,

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it's been down to driver error.

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At this time of year, you know, the roads are really slippery,

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and then you come to, er, say...

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you know, a tight bend on a country road

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and you go to turn on it and the road surface is slippy,

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and rather than go round a corner,

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you just end up going straight on, as perhaps what happened tonight.

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Thankfully, this remote stretch of the A1 in the Borders

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remains quiet throughout the rest of their shift.

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But as Stuart heads back to the station,

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he spots something he can't ignore.

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I've just noticed that there's, er,

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there's an abnormal load escort

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on the opposing carriageway on the A1

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and I heard on the radio that they've suffered a blow-out.

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It's 11pm -

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and Stuart is unlikely to be heading home any time soon.

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Around 70 miles south, on the outskirts of Newcastle,

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traffic officers Pete and Scott

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are on night patrol along this most troublesome section.

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Alpha, Charlie, Lima 41.

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It's rush-hour, and with traffic at its peak,

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the pair are expecting problems.

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Something stationary on the other carriageway.

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Is it an RTC or a breakdown?

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-INDISTINCT RADIO VOICE

-Breakdown.

-Breakdown, I think.

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Police are already on the scene,

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but Peter and Scott need to double back and take over the job.

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However, it's soon clear this simple breakdown

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is more hazardous than they first expected.

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You can see that officer, he's half on the verge,

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but half into the running lane.

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Now, that could encourage traffic to try and pass,

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so we've positioned our vehicle fully into lane one,

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where we'll take control of the traffic behind.

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With vehicles speeding around the bend at 70 mph,

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they need to make the scene safe by warning oncoming traffic.

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I've put in a 100-metre taper of cones and directional arrows -

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and already, you can see how traffic's

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now filtering out into the outer lanes.

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Scott's just put a line of cones down past the incident.

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The idea of that, it means when vehicles get past us,

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they're not likely to just try and jump back in,

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which, again, could be dangerous.

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It turns out the white car

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has actually been involved in an accident,

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leaving driver Misha Patterson stranded for an hour.

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The A1 was at a standstill.

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I was stationary, cos there was someone in front

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trying to get in, on to the A1, and she just smashed in the back.

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A bit shook up.

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Have you got recovery on the way?

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How long are they going to be?

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Right. What we'll do is... It's a bit dangerous.

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What we'll probably do is we'll get recovery sorted for you,

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with it being so close to the live running lane.

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If they come before then, that's fair enough,

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but we'll just get the ball rolling. All right?

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With traffic hurtling past the scene,

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Scott knows that the risk of a second crash is high.

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Some people might not see that and then come and maybe clip it,

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or panic when they do see it and then swerve out.

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It is... It is a safety risk.

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The cordon adds a full element, that they won't see anything.

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Even when we came down the slip, and we knew where it was,

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we couldn't see it until we were right on it.

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Even with a safety cordon in place,

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approaching vehicles are struggling to move out of the lane in time.

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Cars are coming close and they're going past quite quick, as well,

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so it is the dangerous place to be.

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And all it takes is for one driver to misjudge the situation

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to cause further chaos.

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I mean, Peter's extended our taper, but, as you can still see,

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cars are still coming up on to our taper of cones and not seeing it.

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The result, another minor bump to deal with -

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and the drivers aren't happy.

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Because nothing can be planned out because it's not planned works,

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there's been another crash in front of our closure.

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There's adequate signage and cones out to filter traffic out...

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With his warning lights flashing

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and the cordon as long as he can make it,

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Peter has done everything he possibly can.

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It appears this van's been travelling down

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on the southbound carriageway towards our closure.

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Just prior to the closure,

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the van slowed down, and for whatever reason,

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the car behind hasn't, and it's bumped the back of the van.

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So it's a minor collision.

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Nobody's injured. The drivers will just have to exchange details now.

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Further up the road, Misha's car is finally being picked up -

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and she's left cursing her luck.

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You can't make some days up, can you?

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As awful as it sounds, it's only a piece of metal.

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At least that can be fixed. As long as you're all right, you know what I mean?

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For Peter and Scott, a seemingly simple job

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has turned into something much more complicated.

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The driver of the Porsche was the one who was upset,

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even though he was the one who drove straight into the back of the van.

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I mean, what he was trying to say is, why didn't we take our closure

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right back to the prior roundabout,

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which was approximately a quarter of a mile away?

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So I did explain to him that due to the size of our vehicle,

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we don't carry enough equipment to put a closure on going so far back.

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Sometimes, credit's hard to come by.

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At least for Peter and Scott, they're ready to grab a bite to eat

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at the end of what's been a hectic shift.

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And more than 150 miles south near Grantham,

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feeding many of the thousands of travellers and truckers

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who use the road every day

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is the A1 Stadium Diner.

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It's 6.30 in the morning and the catering team are clocking on for

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another busy breakfast shift.

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-Morning.

-Morning.

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But along with the usual lumbering juggernauts,

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owner Albert's getting his forecourt ready for some special guests with a

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taste for speed.

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About ten Lamborghinis coming up for breakfast.

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So I'm just putting the signs there

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so they can park in front of the caff.

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I think they're touring Lincolnshire today and then I believe they're

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going to an airfield to do a bit of driving around bollards

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and everything like that.

0:20:330:20:35

I think I'm a bit too old to get in and out of a Lamborghini, nowadays.

0:20:370:20:41

They're a younger man's car, or probably somebody that's a lot

0:20:410:20:44

slimmer than me, anyway, to get in and out of.

0:20:440:20:47

Albert's keen to give these supercar drivers a speedy service.

0:20:490:20:53

-Morning, girls.

-Morning.

0:20:530:20:56

How are we doing?

0:20:560:20:57

So it's all hands to the pump - or, in Emma's case,

0:20:580:21:01

the industrial tin opener.

0:21:010:21:02

I'm just preparing the tomatoes.

0:21:040:21:07

We do this every day.

0:21:070:21:09

We have to do eight tomatoes,

0:21:090:21:12

eight beans and we normally do a few extra beans,

0:21:120:21:14

because we get through them quite a lot in the afternoon.

0:21:140:21:17

You'd be surprised how much we get through.

0:21:170:21:19

Most of these will be gone, at latest, tomorrow morning.

0:21:190:21:23

So, again, one of us will be out here doing it again.

0:21:230:21:26

While Emma's up to her elbows in tomatoes...

0:21:290:21:31

..the hungry petrol heads are pulling in for their pit stop.

0:21:330:21:36

With almost £2 million worth of Huracans and Aventadors

0:21:380:21:42

cruising onto the forecourt, it's quite a sight for Albert.

0:21:420:21:45

First time we've had ten Lamborghinis.

0:21:480:21:50

Yeah.

0:21:500:21:51

Although the lorry drivers probably won't be too happy

0:21:510:21:55

if they have to queue up for their breakfast!

0:21:550:21:57

Inside, the griddle's already stacked.

0:21:580:22:01

Come on in, lads.

0:22:020:22:03

And, dressed in her Sunday best,

0:22:030:22:05

Margaret's on hand to make sure her VIP customers get a proper feed.

0:22:050:22:09

But with a dizzying array of meals on offer,

0:22:110:22:13

the drivers seem spoilt for choice.

0:22:130:22:15

You've got to eat, boys, because I want to save up

0:22:170:22:20

for one of these cars. So you have to spend your money.

0:22:200:22:24

After the hard sell,

0:22:240:22:25

these trucker-sized breakfasts are soon flying out.

0:22:250:22:28

But Margaret's more interested in wheels than meals.

0:22:300:22:33

I've had a few sports cars in my day, but nothing like this.

0:22:330:22:37

Wow.

0:22:370:22:38

I think we could still drive one of these, couldn't we, Margaret?

0:22:380:22:41

I think so, yeah.

0:22:410:22:42

One of the guys said, "You can, you're never too old."

0:22:420:22:45

-Get a cushion.

-Yeah.

0:22:450:22:48

Inside, the Lambo-lovers can't get enough of the food.

0:22:480:22:51

But even with her regulars having to wait their turn,

0:22:520:22:55

Margaret's not budging from her mantra.

0:22:550:22:58

We don't serve fast food, we serve good food as fast as we can.

0:22:580:23:01

That's my motto.

0:23:020:23:04

The breakfasts are really good today and hopefully it'll settle

0:23:080:23:11

everybody's stomach before we start driving very quickly.

0:23:110:23:14

I think it's great, but it might actually reappear

0:23:140:23:16

when we get on the runway!

0:23:160:23:18

They've had their full English, and, as they leave,

0:23:200:23:23

there's just room for a doughnut.

0:23:230:23:25

For Margaret, it's been the perfect pit stop.

0:23:340:23:37

PLATE SMASHES

0:23:370:23:39

-Well, almost.

-That's your bonus gone, girl.

0:23:390:23:42

These Lambos will soon be thundering around at some ridiculous speeds.

0:23:450:23:49

But up in Scotland,

0:23:510:23:52

another vehicle with massive horsepower isn't going anywhere.

0:23:520:23:56

-Hello, hello.

-How are you doing, all right?

-Not bad, thank you.

0:24:000:24:03

Traffic officer PC Stuart Logan should have clocked off by now, but

0:24:030:24:07

faced with a stranded truck carrying a 35-tonne wind turbine part,

0:24:070:24:11

he is now heading for a late one.

0:24:110:24:13

Which one is it that's blown out?

0:24:130:24:15

-The back inner one.

-Oh, inside one there. I see that. Yeah.

0:24:150:24:18

It's that one that's gone.

0:24:180:24:20

You can see how much an effect it's having on this outer tyre,

0:24:200:24:23

because the tyre on the inside was blown out,

0:24:230:24:25

so now all the weight is now going through this one outer tyre.

0:24:250:24:31

The transporter was halfway through a 70-mile trip from Grangemouth to

0:24:310:24:35

Berwick when driver Chris Leonard realised he had a problem.

0:24:350:24:38

Well, I was driving up there and it were a right bang.

0:24:390:24:43

You can normally tell if it's you.

0:24:430:24:46

It goes like a gunshot going off.

0:24:460:24:48

So, yeah, could've done without this.

0:24:490:24:53

On this section of the A1, there's no hard shoulder.

0:24:550:24:59

Even though the load is well lit,

0:25:000:25:02

Stuart wants to shed more light onto the scene to divert vehicles around

0:25:020:25:06

the stricken lorry.

0:25:060:25:07

It's definitely not a job for the faint-hearted.

0:25:120:25:14

That's a perfect example of drivers just simply not looking where

0:25:190:25:23

they're going. You can see how blatantly obvious this is here.

0:25:230:25:29

And, yet, look at how close these cars come before they even bother

0:25:290:25:34

moving out in the outside lane.

0:25:340:25:35

Get out!

0:25:360:25:39

But unfortunately, this is the risks that we face in dealing with

0:25:390:25:43

incidents on the fast road network.

0:25:430:25:46

Thankfully, Stewart will soon be out of harm's way.

0:25:470:25:50

The recovery team is on scene and Stuart's doing everything he can to

0:25:530:25:57

make this a quick tyre change.

0:25:570:26:00

I'm just giving him a hand so he can see what he's doing.

0:26:000:26:02

It's obviously pretty dark under there.

0:26:020:26:05

He needs to see, make sure the jack's lined up properly.

0:26:050:26:09

30 tonnes would be the complete weight of it,

0:26:090:26:12

so it's a fair old weight.

0:26:120:26:14

More than what your average trolley jack

0:26:140:26:15

would be able to manage, anyway.

0:26:150:26:17

Incredibly, this tiny hydraulic jack is soon supporting the back-end of

0:26:180:26:22

the load.

0:26:220:26:24

Then it's on with the heavyweight tyre swap.

0:26:240:26:26

A pneumatic wrench makes quick work of the wheel nuts,

0:26:280:26:32

but the hardest job of all is getting the new tyre on and,

0:26:320:26:35

for this, only two crowbars will do.

0:26:350:26:37

He's nearly there, I think. It's a tough old beast, eh?

0:26:400:26:43

There's just no give in it. That's the problem, eh?

0:26:430:26:46

There we are. That's it on.

0:26:490:26:50

The whole thing's taken just over ten minutes and soon

0:26:540:26:57

they'll be on their way.

0:26:570:26:59

I know, aye, keep safe.

0:27:050:27:07

This lengthy load can now head off to become part of a 115-metre wind

0:27:100:27:15

turbine, which will tower above the Berwickshire countryside.

0:27:150:27:18

Well, that's it all away.

0:27:200:27:23

The other officers have come back, escorted it down the road,

0:27:230:27:26

so just gathered up all our equipment and we can go home.

0:27:260:27:30

It's a shift that's lasted from two in the afternoon to almost two in

0:27:320:27:35

the morning, and even for an A1 patrol officer,

0:27:350:27:39

it's been a long day.

0:27:390:27:40

Thankfully, Nicole's boyfriend came to the rescue

0:27:470:27:50

and she's hoping she'll never get stranded on the A1 again.

0:27:500:27:54

And Margaret's still hoping that bacon and eggs will one day

0:27:540:27:58

pay for her very own sports car.

0:27:580:28:00

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