Documentary series centred on the A1. A patrol officer must help a biker fighting for his life, and traffic officers come face to face with a lorry driver flouting the law.
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The A1, Britain's longest road.
Stretching almost 400 miles from the City of London
to the heart of the Scottish capital.
Connecting two nations and passing through 18 counties,
it's an unrivalled highway
used by hundreds of thousands of vehicles every day.
We're going southbound down the A1 on the northbound carriageway.
But not all journeys go to plan.
I thought, "I'm going to lose my life."
Cars are coming close. It is the dangerous place to be.
Lives can hang in the balance.
The rear end of that vehicle, it's unrecognisable.
This is actually the bodywork of the car.
24 hours a day...
It's not a safe place here.
..there's a team of people who keep us safe from harm.
We don't know whether they've got the road closed or we don't know what's happened.
..and traffic officers...
-..keeping Britain's most iconic road...
-..on the move.
Substantially damaged flatbed truck in lane two.
The A1, the monster that it is, will start to return to normal.
..a countryside crash leaves a biker fighting for his life...
You're always thinking the worst with a motorcycle accident.
..traffic officers come face-to-face
with a lorry driver flouting the law...
You can't stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway.
I'm going to break the law, then.
..and for one motorist, a blowout sparks a culinary crisis.
My tea's in the oven!
Tea's in the dog!
From busy city routes to urban motorway, and even countryside road,
the A1 is an ever-changing landscape
which can bring unique challenges for the people
that work the length and breadth of this historic highway.
A1 patrol officer PC Darren Lant's patch
in his native Northumbria
covers more than 70 diverse miles of the road.
He's heading to one of its most troublesome sections
just north of Newcastle.
Here, the A1 becomes a single lane road with no central reservation.
The dynamics of accidents change.
You get more serious accidents up here with motorcycles and cars.
We do get quite a lot of head-on collisions on this road,
simply because people want to do the overtake on the single carriageway
and they don't appreciate how fast the other car, the inbound car,
is coming towards them.
And not long after, a call comes in
confirming just how treacherous this section of the A1 can be.
As one of the closest patrols...
-..Darren responds immediately.
We've now got reports of a motorcycle and a car collision
just south of Morpeth.
But still 15 miles from the scene, it's crucial he gets there quickly,
which involves high-speed driving
and overtaking along this single-lane section.
Stay where you are.
We've got very little details at the minute,
but we believe the motorcyclist is injured.
You're always thinking the worst with a motorcycle accident.
As he approaches the accident,
there's already a mile-long tailback...
..forcing Darren to squeeze perilously
between queueing traffic and oncoming vehicles.
Arriving on the scene, the situation looks extremely serious.
The rider is being treated on the road
after colliding with the back of a car at high speed.
-Can I give you a hand?
-No, you're all right.
-Are you sure?
With paramedics taking care of the rider,
Darren starts to piece together exactly what happened.
-How are we doing? Are you all right?
-I'm a bit shaken.
-OK. Don't worry about it.
-I think he's breathing now.
-I'm an architect on the site of Hebron Hill Farm.
-It's a bad right-hand turn here.
-I've slowed down, I've indicated to turn right,
I've come into here,
and as I was driving in, there was an almighty whack.
All I would assume is that he's tried overtaking.
The full force of the impact has flung the rider
almost 20 metres down the road.
The driver of the silver car here, the BMW, he appears to be OK.
A little bit shocked and shaken.
We're going to get him away, get him off the site, give him a cup of tea,
get him warmed up. And then we'll keep the road closed
until we make sure HE'S all right.
As other officers control passing traffic,
Darren learns the full extent of the biker's injuries from paramedics.
Left forearm's broke?
His thigh is broke, is it?
-Multiple, is it?
Multiple fractures and possible internal injuries
could be life-changing for the motorcyclist.
Darren's going to be pushed to the limit
dealing with this serious incident.
More than 110 miles south of the rural landscape of Northumbria
is one of the busiest intersections on the whole of the A1,
where it meets the M62.
Traffic officers Paul Day and Rob Larkin
are tasked with keeping this area safe.
A common danger is lorry drivers taking a break on the hard shoulder.
When the traffic officers turn up, they don't usually stick around.
It looks like we've scared him off.
He's left scene. Over.
By law, lorry drivers need to rest for 45 minutes
every four and a half hours.
They should find a safe place to pull over,
but some of them think it's OK
to take their break on the hard shoulder.
But that's against the law.
Foreign LGV parked on the hard shoulder, Rob.
Paul wants to catch this trucker before he gives him the slip.
Because it's quite wide, LGVs just think it's OK to stop,
especially foreign LGVs.
They don't realise they cannot stop on a British motorway
except for an emergency.
The driver's keen to let Paul know
-he's abiding by the rest break rules.
-You all right?
Yes, yes, yes. 45 minutes.
Can't stop on a British hard shoulder, boss,
you have to come off at the next junction.
It's not my problem, mate,
you'll have to come off at 37 and turn right.
-When you turn right, there's a parking space off there.
-Thank you very much.
It may seem like a minor issue,
but these illegal pit stops put lives in danger.
Being parked on the hard shoulder
is one of the most dangerous parts of the motorway.
The longer you are on the hard shoulder,
the greater the chances are you're going to get hit.
More than 50 people are killed or seriously injured
in hard shoulder accidents on Britain's roads each year.
Yet, despite the danger,
drivers continue to put themselves and others at risk.
But with thousands of lorry drivers using the A1 every day,
it's a battle to which Rob and Paul will return.
More than two hours' drive north near Morpeth,
PC Darren Lant is still dealing with the aftermath of a serious collision,
where a 57-year-old biker's life is on the line.
Less than an hour ago,
his motorbike collided with the back of a stationary BMW,
which resulted in the rider suffering life-threatening injuries.
After stabilising him,
the paramedics can now get the motorcyclist off the road
and into the ambulance.
Yeah, he's not very well, bless him.
He's conscious and breathing,
but he's got multiple fractures, both arms and, possibly, both legs.
Certainly, one of his legs, but possibly both of his legs.
With the paramedics taking care of the biker,
Darren's attention now turns to the traffic,
which is tailing back several miles in both directions.
It's the main road, isn't it?
There's only one way in and out of Scotland up this way,
so we've got to get this open because of the delaying traffic.
People are getting frustrated.
But before the road can be fully cleared,
Darren needs to document the scene...
..and gather any evidence which could be used in a prosecution.
While the wrecked bike waits for its roadside rescue...
..its owner is on the way to the last place
any driver wants to end up when they set out on a journey.
The motorcyclist, he's going to be blue-lighted down
to Newcastle's Royal Victoria, the hospital, the trauma hospital,
where he's going to go into specialist care.
An hour after the accident,
this vital section of the A1 is cleared of debris
and ready to be reopened.
Motorcyclists accounted for
one in every seven people killed on the A1 in 2015.
And Darren is well used to dealing
with the aftermath of these accidents.
I don't know, I've got mixed feelings about motorbikes.
I like watching motor superbikes and all that sort of stuff, but...
You just get no protection,
very, very little protection on a motorbike.
You kind of become desensitised to it.
I've seen it that many times now,
and I've dealt with that many accidents,
it's just part and parcel of a motor patroller's job.
It's our role.
With the motorcyclist heading to hospital for emergency treatment,
back at base, Darren has the difficult task
of informing his family.
What's happened is your dad's been involved
in an accident on his motorcycle.
He's all right.
He's got some quite nasty injuries,
and he's been taken to the RVI.
He's in a critical, but stable, condition,
and, obviously, he's going to be in there for a while.
It's a call no-one wants to receive or make.
But with over 180,000 casualties on Britain's roads each year,
it's a hard reality of every patrol officer's role.
130 miles south,
on one of the busiest motorway stretches of the A1 near Doncaster,
two Highways England traffic officers
are on a mission to prevent accidents.
Rob and Paul are on the lookout for lorry drivers
illegally blocking the hard shoulder,
putting themselves and other drivers at risk.
Now, they've got another lorry in their sights.
It looks like he's broken down, but I'm not sure.
Drivers can only stop on the hard shoulder of the A1 in emergencies.
But some truckers use it as a parking spot
when trying to follow an EU law
saying they must rest for 45 minutes every four and a half hours.
-I just realised I'm on my four and a half.
I knew you were going to tell me that.
You can't stop on the hard shoulder of the motorway.
I know, that's why I used this bit instead of a slip road.
This is not allowed. You're actually on a motorway.
You can't stop here, either.
Lorry driver Paul Coote is on his way to Norwich
with a wagon full of kitchen units and broom handles,
and it's looking like he's trying to give Paul the brush off.
I'm going to break the law, then. You've just told me to.
That's up to yourself. You've got to find your own place to park.
I stick to the law and I'm going to be reported for it.
Well, you're not sticking to the law
because you're not allowed to stop on the hard shoulder
of the motorway, but that's not my choice. It's up to you, that.
I'm sticking to the EU tacho laws.
A tacho, or tachograph, is a digital device
fitted to vehicles which records speed and distance.
It will register if the driver fails to stop his truck
for the required 45 minutes, which is a serious breach of EU law.
So, lorry driver Paul is desperate to stick around.
Am I good for four minutes?
I can't tell you you're good for four minutes.
What I have to do is pass your details on. If you're saying
-"four minutes", then four minutes is four minutes.
Paul doesn't have the power to move the driver on,
but he can inform him of the rules.
If you'd have come off at 37,
there's a lay-by off the left-hand side there.
-I didn't know that.
-I appreciate that,
but you've just got to do the job.
Your responsibility, you're the man.
-All right? No worries, I'll pass your details on.
-Right, have you got any recovery?
-Yeah, it's coming! It's coming!
You're not going to win.
You're not going to win.
Right, it's safer out of the vehicle than in the vehicle,
cos you're going to stay for your four minutes.
But you're safer out of the vehicle than in the vehicle.
-And keep your eye on traffic, all right?
-All right, then.
-Look after yoursen, yeah?
Paul radios an update to the control room.
He's on a tacho break, very, very close to the end of his break.
Obviously, we've given him safety advice, said he shouldn't do it.
We've had a bit of a debate about it,
and the upshot is he's staying here till he's finished his break. Over.
Paul Coote has been driving lorries for more than 40 years.
But today, he admits he's learned a valuable lesson.
He's come out and he's pointed something out
which I didn't know of. I knew I'm not allowed on the hard shoulder
on a motorway, but being on a slip road,
I thought I might have been all right on a works unit.
I'm not. It's something I've learned.
And that's the way it goes.
It's practically impossible to know every area,
every place you could stop.
If you're on a regular route,
you have a regular stopping point.
Once I realised I was three miles from the M18,
I had to stop.
I've got to adhere to the law, but it makes you break another law.
So, where do you stand?
It's just a nonsense, I'm afraid.
The tacho laws were brought in to protect truckers
from being asked to drive while tired.
And fatigue is still a factor
in about one in five serious motorway crashes.
But to avoid breaking the law by stopping on the hard shoulder,
drivers need to plan ahead.
All we can do is explain and say, "Look, you're not allowed to stop,
"you know you're not allowed to stop."
You get a bit of backwards and forwards with them,
saying, "I've no time left, I've no time left".
Well, that's fine. You might not have any time left,
but it's their responsibility
-to find a place of safety...
-Before the time runs out.
..before the time runs out.
As an ex-bus driver himself,
Paul understands the lorry driver's dilemma.
My mates who are truckers are going to go mad with me.
Is that because you're the nasty guy from Highways England?
-All I keep doing is moving trucks on.
-Get off my motorway!
As Britain's longest road, the A1 sees its fair share of broken down
vehicles and, as this footage shows,
being stranded next to fast-moving motorway traffic...
..is an extremely perilous place to be.
On the Western bypass near Newcastle,
there's no hard shoulder for stricken vehicles to pull into,
so they're especially vulnerable.
Fortunately, there is help at hand.
Motorbike rider, Peter Dodds.
Breaking down is a traumatic experience for everybody.
It has a knock-on effect for everybody,
kids going to school and so on,
so you need to get those people out of there as quick as possible
to let everybody else do their thing through life.
When vehicles break down,
it's Peter's mission to get them off the road fast.
-I'm going to put you on the back of the bike.
We'll pick your car up, you in the car,
take you off to a place of safety.
But how does one man and his motorbike move a car
weighing just over a tonne?
This is no ordinary bike.
It's been specially adapted with a hydraulic trailer.
It unfolds, allowing Peter to carry cars and small vans off the A1
all in a matter of minutes.
Which is why round these parts he's known as the minute man.
Just driving up the road and the car just came up with a fault
on my dashboard.
It totally cut out. Just wouldn't restart.
In next to no time, the Polo is hitched up on Peter's trailer.
It's awesome technology.
Gets us off the road and safe quick.
In just ten minutes, Peter and his incredible bike are back on the road
with driver and car in tow...
..leaving the traffic on the A1 to flow freely again.
Peter's one of a small band of minute-men patrolling the A1.
They deal with more than 900 incidents every year,
and their powers really come into their own
when dealing with emergencies.
There's been a three-car pile-up outside Newcastle at rush-hour.
With traffic mounting, it looks like there's no way through.
This is clearly a job for the minute man.
Peter makes short work of cutting through the cars.
He's one of the first recovery services on the scene.
Where a three-vehicle shunt on the outside lane
has led to traffic chaos.
We've got a Mondeo estate and then a Skoda Yeti four-wheel drive.
The lightest one there is going to be the Astra at the front, actually.
Let's have a look.
Fortunately, no-one is hurt,
but Peter knows the longer the cars stay in the lane,
the greater the chance of another collision and there are vulnerable
drivers stranded in the central reservation.
The lad on the back just didn't stop.
He ploughed into the back of him and then he hit the back of me
and I hit a lass that was in front of me,
but obviously her car was not that much damaged.
Mine's mostly superficial.
Popped my radiator, as well.
But his luck is about to change.
His car is a perfect fit for Peter's bike
and he'll be off the road in no time.
Are you ready to go?
We'll take you around to the Angel Of The North out the way.
-Jump in your driver's seat, there. Don't touch anything.
-Put your seat belt on.
This lad will put you on the front seat of the car.
Put him in the passenger seat, please.
Peter's ready to roll just as the recovery truck turns up
to deal with the other two vehicles.
For this hi-vis hero, it's just another day on the job,
and for the drivers desperate to get on their way,
Peter and his hi-tech bike have saved the day.
Obviously when the bike turned up, I was wondering what it was.
When I seen it getting put into its positions and stuff,
it's a good bit of kit.
Love the bikes, absolutely love them,
and, most of all, I love helping people.
With more than 60% of us commuting by car,
it's no surprise Britain's major roads feel the strain.
It's Friday night rush-hour,
the A1's busiest time of the week.
PC Alan Keenlyside is battling through traffic to another incident
So we're travelling to a report of a live lane breakdown on the A1,
so we're in rush-hour traffic now.
It's potentially going to be on an unlit or poorly lit section of
the A1, so we've got a real risk here of a stationary car
in the slow lane of the A1, and it's vulnerable
and we need to get there really quickly.
Worst case scenario is a car travelling at 70mph
crashes into that vehicle.
There's always injuries and it's quite often loss of life, so,
yeah, we treat it really, really seriously.
The vehicle is going to be around this bend.
There it is.
It's actually sticking well out into lane one.
Alan has called in help from colleagues
in an unmarked police car.
Do you want to come ahead of me in the unmarked?
What I've done, then, is that's an unmarked motor patrol vehicle.
It's safer to have a fully marked vehicle at the back
using all our reflective equipment.
With traffic building fast,
Alan needs to make sure the driver is out of harm's way.
It's backed up as far as you can see backwards in lane two.
I would normally go down but they've actually just pushed it.
They've been able to push the vehicle downhill.
That will get the two police vehicles off the road
and now we can deal with this broken down with all lanes open.
-You all right?
-I'm all right.
Aye, all right.
Driver Alistair's had a blow out on the main carriageway and Alan's
not prepared to let him change the tyre in such a dangerous spot.
We could temporarily stop the slip road.
-Do you want me to put closure on just before the junction?
Alan has no choice but to shepherd the car back onto the A1.
While the other team closes the slip road,
driver Alistair reverses the car the wrong way up it...
..and he finally finds a place of safety.
I was going home for my tea, so my tea's in the oven!
-Tea's in the dog.
-No, no, tea's in the oven.
I phoned the wife. "I'll be a bit late."
"Why?" "I've had a blow out."
"Oh, right, I'll put your tea in the oven."
She didn't even ask if I was OK!
Blown there, right the way round.
There you are, try that.
But changing the wheel is proving a much tougher job
than they both expected.
Is it going in at all, is it?
-It seems to be a fair bit still to go on that.
-Yeah, there is.
On all four of them.
The only thing I can think of is you're putting a steel wheel on
and it's an alloy wheel nut.
The pair are baffled as to why the bolts are failing to fully tighten.
Alan's determined to get Alistair on his way and hopes someone at the
local services can shed some light.
The gentleman has got the best part of 35 miles to go,
so I'd be happy if he went to the service station,
got into the garage and see if they've got anything in there.
Kind of hoping, if I've got to be honest,
that this service station that we're heading to
might have some repair parts.
It's always nice to be able to help someone to a resolution
whereby they're on their way and they're on their way home.
At the service station, it looks like help might be at hand.
Sometimes in these places you get people from the AA and the RAC
who might be taking a break and cue the right....
It's the RAC!
Seen who it is?
It's the fourth emergency service!
Or is that the AA? It's the fifth emergency service.
-I'll ask them, anyway.
-But the driver doesn't have the parts...
This lad is just a recovery lad so unfortunately he can't help me.
..so Alistair finally calls his own recovery provider,
hoping they can get to grips with the tricky wheel bolts.
We've got a canny gap and that's as tight as we can get them.
-But, that's right.
-Aye, there's a sticker there, tells you.
-It's telling you that's all right.
-Who reads instruction manuals?
Why didn't we see that?
So pointing to that there, which clearly shows that there's a gap
between the nut and the casing of the wheel, which we've got...
If there was something wrong, at least he's going to check it
and you're going to get the professional looking at it.
You've already looked at it!
If you lads haven't been there and I'd done that myself,
I'd have been like, "No way."
-It's not very obvious, is it?
-It's only yellow and black.
They could have made it stand out a bit more, couldn't they?
The motorcyclist left badly injured after crashing on the A1
has undergone multiple operations, but is now on the road to recovery.
And, after fixing his tyre, Alistair finally managed to make it home for his tea.