Documentary series centred on the A1. Police race to the scene of a head-on collision. A milk lorry overturns, bringing rush hour chaos to the A1.
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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 a dangerous place to be.
Lives can hang in the balance.
The rear-end of that vehicle is 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 race against time to the scene of a head-on collision...
Two vehicles coming together on a road like this,
you're looking at 100mph-plus impacts.
MAN CRIES OUT
A lorry overturns and brings chaos to the Great North Road...
So he's had to try and swerve to avoid and he's overturned.
And a reckless speeder...
88mph in a 50.
..putting workers' lives at risk.
You're barrelling into their roadworks doing 88mph.
Seriously not cool.
The A1 is a 400-mile superhighway,
a key artery from Central London through the fields of Lincolnshire,
past the northern powerhouses of Leeds and Newcastle
before crossing the border
and ending at Edinburgh's Waverley Station.
In all, 15 police forces
are tasked with keeping Britain's longest road safe.
At its most northerly point, it's the job of Police Scotland.
Nearly 20 miles from Edinburgh,
PCs Stewart Logan and Davie Johnson are patrolling the A1...
..and it's not long before they're
called to a crash on a road that runs alongside the main carriageway.
Yeah, we are listening. We're en route from Haddington.
With one of the casualties thought to be in a serious condition,
Stewart and Davie need to get there fast.
We're en route to what's been deemed a head-on collision
on this road, which is the A6093,
which is running parallel to the A1.
As you can see, it's just a two-way undivided road,
but it'll be a national speed limit,
so you'll be looking at vehicles travelling legally up to 60mph,
and then when you're looking at two vehicles coming together on
a road like this, you're looking at
potentially 100mph-plus impacts
because of the nature of the speeds.
Within minutes of getting the call,
Stewart and Davie are at the scene of the crash.
It looks like the van appears to have pulled out into the path
of this, but we'll jump out and we'll assess it from there.
It's clear this is a serious incident
and with no ambulance on the scene yet,
the first priority is to check on the injured.
-Chap here's complaining of chest pains...
-..and pain in his leg.
Alan's going to get an ETA for the ambulance
just to find out what's happening.
-Is this the driver of the van here?
A 72-year-old man is in the back of the car in considerable pain,
but police don't want to move him until paramedics arrive.
Hello, chap, have you got a wee second?
In the meantime, Stewart interviews the van driver.
What's happened, then?
So you were coming this way?
And she was sitting, waiting to turn right?
Right, OK. Right, no problem at all.
Are you all right in yourself?
The seatbelt or whatever, or just the impact from it?
Right, OK. No bother.
What to do, sir, is you just take your time.
We've got an ambulance coming, so we'll get you checked out anyway
cos you've obviously had a heck of a dunt.
The ambulance has arrived and the crew start work on releasing
the badly injured man from the car.
I can support you here. Just take your time. OK?
MAN CRIES OUT
The old gentleman who's in the vehicle is going to be treated
by the emergency staff from the ambulance
and then we'll get an assessment on what we need to do,
but at the minute, we'll leave the situation locked down
because, again, we need to be tentative because of his age.
MAN CRIES OUT
Do you want the Fire Service?
Get the board under his bum and just slide him with the board.
MAN CRIES OUT
With the passenger in so much pain,
the ambulance crew are struggling to free him from the car.
If they can't release him soon, Stewart will have no choice
but to call the fire brigade to cut him out.
The next half hour will be critical.
The A1 is the scene of more than 2,000 accidents every year.
A large proportion of these occur where there's the greatest
volume of traffic, such as the stretch of the road near Durham.
It's 7.30am and Highways England traffic officers
Peter Senior and Scott Wilson
are heading into heavy rush-hour traffic
when they get a report of a serious incident north of Durham.
We'll head south in case 4-2 need any assistance. Over.
An overturned lorry could mean serious injuries
and, with a fire engine rushing towards the scene,
it doesn't look good.
We'll hit all the emergency lights and we'll pick our way through.
Even though the accident is on the other side of the road,
Peter and Scott are finding it difficult
to battle through the traffic.
This is all down to rubbernecking at the minute.
And as Peter and Scott arrive at the scene, it's clear why.
You can see the incident coming up now on the opposite carriageway.
A 17-tonne truck has overturned after colliding with a 4x4...
..and is now on its side,
blocking a lane of traffic and the hard shoulder.
Scott's first priority is to find out if there are any injuries.
Now, then, how are you doing?
Amazingly, the lorry driver is shaken, but unhurt,
after what sounds like a terrifying accident.
He was overtaking an LGV and he pulled into lane one,
not expecting to see anything,
then there was, for some reason, a bit of traffic,
so he's had to try and swerve to avoid,
clipped one of them and he's overturned.
Thankfully, there's been no injuries,
but he's had a lucky escape, to be honest.
And paramedics have also given the driver of the silver 4x4
With traffic still moving past,
Scott's keen to get him off the carriageway,
so police escort him and his damaged vehicle away.
With everyone safe,
Peter and Scott can now concentrate on trying to clear the carriageway.
We're keeping lane two running for the moment.
We've got recovery en route for the LGV.
When it's getting righted, we will have to put a full stop
on the carriageway just to get it back on its wheels.
But moving the lorry could be harder than they think.
Scott's just discovered it's beginning to leak its load
all over the carriageway.
Yes, yes. That is containing milk
and it has started to go into the gully.
The lorry was transporting 3,000 litres of milk
from Leeds to Gateshead.
It may not sound like a hazardous fluid, but if it's not stopped,
it could have an impact on the local environment.
A little bit can cause a big danger.
If it gets into drains and gets into the waterworks,
it can kill fish and all sorts of things.
Using a specialist absorbent,
the team mop up the leaks as best they can.
But as the recovery cranes arrive to right the lorry,
Peter's worried that disturbing the load
could make the spill even worse.
It's full of milk cartons. Some of them have burst open.
We won't really know anything else now until they right the vehicle.
If the whole load spills,
Peter and Scott could face an environmental threat
on top of the traffic problems already unfolding.
It's going to be a testing morning for the traffic officers.
More than 110 miles north near Edinburgh,
the emergency services are also tackling
another challenging and serious situation.
A1 patrol officers PCs Stewart Logan and Davey Johnson are
at the scene of a horrific head-on collision between a car and a van.
Luckily, the driver of the van has escaped with just minor injuries.
But a 72-year-old passenger is still in the back of the car
with a suspected broken leg and suffering severe abdominal pain.
PASSENGER GROANS IN PAIN
He urgently needs medical attention.
-Well done, well done.
-You've not far to go.
So far, the man's injuries have made paramedics apprehensive about moving
him from the vehicle, but they need to transport him to hospital.
-I know, I know, I know.
With his condition not improving,
they decide he'll have to make a painful exit from the car.
Finally, after 15 minutes, he's free from the vehicle.
Is most of the pain coming from your left leg?
-Leg and his chest.
-Just the left.
The injured man is an American tourist on holiday
with his wife and friends.
They were due to fly home in the next 24 hours.
But with the man needing hospital treatment,
it could be weeks before he's well enough to travel.
The main concern is down to age. The gentleman's 72.
People's bodies just can't cope with the same level of injury
as younger people can, so we therefore have to be quite tentative
about how we go about dealing with it.
The man's injuries are serious,
but Stewart knows things could have been significantly worse.
In a collision of this level, if both vehicles had been older,
then, yes, you'll be looking
probably at more serious injuries on the...
certainly the driver of the Nissan,
because they'll have taken quite a whack of the impact.
Everybody involved in the crash was wearing a seatbelt
and that will have saved their lives.
You could be the driver of this van, driving along the road,
minding completely your own business,
and then two seconds later,
a vehicle crosses your path and you're involved
in a head-on collision with it.
Anyone who thinks, "I'll be OK, I'm only going two minutes up the road,"
well, this is the consequence of the things that we witness
and you just never know.
As the man is taken to hospital,
Stewart and Davey get to work clearing the road,
so that some of the local traffic can get moving again.
We're going to tow this vehicle back a bit, using our X5,
so that we can at least get the road partially open.
While the clear-up continues, some of the surrounding roads
must stay closed, but not everyone wants to follow the police signs.
If you wait there for us.
Can you wait there for us?
We have road closed signs at both ends of this road
and as you can see,
people come along and just say, "Oh, well, I'll just drive through it..."
paying absolutely no consideration for what that sign means.
It means the road's closed, so if it says closed,
it means you cannae drive through it.
Is there still a sign in the middle of the road
-saying the road's closed?
You know, there's people's safety at risk here.
I'm out sweeping up debris in the middle of the road
and you're coming battering along on a national speed limit road
just because you've decided you can't be bothered
complying with a road closed sign.
You know, they're there for a reason, so if you see one,
then please do what it says.
Before long, the van and the car are recovered
and the road's treated to soak up any oil and fuel spillages.
As the traffic starts to flow again,
Stewart and Davey can finally head back to the A1.
Nearly 120 miles south of rural Scotland
is one of the busiest sections of the A1 near Durham.
It's here traffic officers Peter Senior and Scott Wilson
are dealing with a serious accident.
A lorry carrying 3,000 litres of milk has overturned.
The driver has escaped unhurt,
but his load is leaking all over the carriageway,
with potentially devastating effects for local wildlife.
It's a dramatic scene and passing drivers are slowing down to look,
so Scott needs to try and keep everything moving.
People slow up and it is a danger and it also hinders the traffic
and makes traffic further back slow down and there can be
further shunts further and further back,
not even close to this incident.
It's going to take two heavy recovery vehicles
to right the 17-tonne lorry
and the road will need to be clear.
We do have to stop the whole carriageway
to get the vehicle back on its wheels, so it is going to cause
a few further delays, but it's just one of those unfortunate things.
The specialist recovery team get started,
raising the lorry with inflating cushions and onto wooden blocks.
They can then secure the winch underneath, ready to pull.
-Is it getting ready now, is it?
-I would think so.
It's time for Scott to step out into the traffic to shut the road.
Reporting Alpha Charlie Echo 4-1.
That's the traffic stopped by hand. Over.
But as the recovery truck starts to pull the lorry
slowly onto its wheels, there's a problem.
As they're starting to winch the truck over,
because all the cargo's lying against the side of the wagon,
the side's starting to split out of it, so what their concern is,
if they get it so far, and it suddenly bursts,
we're going to have milk burst all over the carriageway.
The consequences would be serious,
so the team have no choice but to stop.
The lorry's sides simply aren't designed to bear
the three-tonne weight of the load and so they need to secure them
with heavy-duty straps before they can continue.
But with the road closed, and traffic building,
they need to work quickly.
Closing the road is a huge decision for traffic officers
and it can happen because of breakdowns, rather than accidents.
Further south on the A1 in Doncaster,
it's a chilly Friday morning.
RAC patrol Noel Bonner has just started his shift.
The roads can be a little bit busier on Fridays.
It can cause a little bit of traffic.
This stretch of the A1 - there's very little hard shoulder,
so it makes it quite dangerous when people break down.
Within a few minutes of joining the road,
Noel receives his first call-out of the day.
We've just got a job on the Doncaster bypass, so the A1M.
We've got a vehicle that's got a puncture.
It's had a blowout and it's got no spare with it,
so we're going to go and see what we can sort out with that.
59-year-old grandmother Janet
was driving alone when her tyre blew out.
Hiya. Who's Janet? Hi, Janet. Right.
We'll get something sorted for you and get you on your way.
Well, I was driving from my house to my daughter's
and they heard a noise... I pulled over and found my tyre out.
I phoned my daughter up and she's come out with friends to my rescue.
It's been really scary.
Shocked me. It has shocked me.
With no spare wheel in Janet's car, Noel has to use a special one
he carries that fits most makes of vehicles.
Wheel's going to be fine. It's just where it's shredded,
just makes it more difficult to pull them off. That's all.
-He's doing really well. Yeah.
He's definitely my hero.
Noel knows the hard shoulder is no place to gather your family...
..because, on average, around 50 people are killed
or seriously injured in accidents at the roadside every year.
You don't realise how fast the vehicles are going
while you're stood here.
-They are going at some speed.
This is what scared me. I didn't like being out here on my own.
Within just 25 minutes, Noel has got Janet's car ready to rejoin the A1.
-She'll laugh about it tonight when she's in bed.
-When I'm nice and warm in bed.
Keep on the hard shoulder because you're within 200 yards.
Just take your time and then just watch out for any traffic
that's coming off to then merge into it.
Noel has got Janet safely away from a dangerous situation.
The majority of the time we're helping people
on the A1 who are happy to see you.
They're happy that they're going to get something sorted.
Along with the road noise and the wind and the chill factor,
it does make it a scary place to be.
But more than 90 miles further north at the A1 in County Durham,
traffic officers are still tackling another high-risk job...
A recovery team is battling to lift an overturned truck
which is carrying 3,000 litres of milk.
They've been forced to stop the winch after worries
the pressure of the load could cause the sides
of the lorry to burst at any second.
Scott has no choice but to reopen the outside lane
while they try and secure the sides to prevent a major spill.
Our aim is to keep traffic moving, that's why we're here.
So instead of having it all stopped while they put more straps round it,
it's safe enough to keep things moving in lane two.
Then when they're ready, I'll stop it again by hand and then
we'll go and try and re-right it again.
It's now 11am.
Peter and Scott have been at the scene for three-and-a-half hours.
There are massive tailbacks,
but this is one job the recovery team can't rush.
Soon, the heavy-duty straps are in place, and they're ready to go.
So once again, Scott needs to stop the traffic.
Charlie Echo 4-1.
We've just temporarily hand-stopped traffic while they reposition
this LGV, over.
A mechanical winch begins to lift the truck.
While a second cable on the other side ensures the lorry,
and its precarious cargo, is lowered very gently.
They've managed to get the wagon back on its wheels.
Luckily, the big extra strap they put round
prevented the side from bursting over.
Some milk is still leaking.
But thankfully, it's only minor,
and the team are able to shovel it away.
Now the priority is to get the traffic moving.
As the milk lorry is towed away,
Scott and Peter remove the cones
and traffic is released into the inside lane.
Alpha Charlie Echo 4-1.
That's the lane one closure now removed,
you can reset your signs, over.
Finally, after more than four hours, Peter and Scott can be on their way.
And the major spill they feared has been averted.
If it had gone, it would have caused a lot of problems.
It's one of the worst things you can spill, isn't it, milk?
Why, there's no point crying over spilt milk, is there?
That's true. So they say.
Thankfully, overturned milk lorries
AREN'T an everyday occurrence on the A1.
But sadly, speeding motorists ARE.
It's a constant problem for the A1 police patrols,
especially in roadworks
when speed restrictions are in place to protect workers.
That's absolutely outrageous, 67mph in a 40.
It's 10:20 in the evening on the A1 near Newcastle
and PC Alan Keenleyside is on the lookout for speeding drivers...
..in a 50 mile an hour stretch of roadworks near Dunston.
So, I've got colleagues of mine from our partner agencies,
from Highways England, from construction firms,
actually working on the road surface of the A1 northbound tonight.
And clearly the dangers of speeding on the roads,
at this exact stretch of road here,
last year saw a fatal road traffic collision at high speed.
One vehicle lost control,
overturned and the driver of that vehicle was killed.
It's Friday night, the most common day of the week to have an accident,
and Alan doesn't want speeders taking any chances
with the lives of the workforce on the road.
And it's not long before he spots a clear offender.
His onboard camera shows the car in front in the outside lane
travelling well over 80mph.
Using a detection device, he's able to record the car's average speed.
88 miles an hour in a 50.
And the driver's not done yet.
And he's getting quicker.
Alan has to get up to more than 90mph to catch up.
Flash the blue light.
It's time to pull this driver over.
We've got roadworks on with a full road closure
and I've got the driver at 88mph,
so we'll be stopping this driver and having a word.
I think this is a driver that potentially knows
he's possibly in a spot of bother.
Hello, how are you? Do you know why I've stopped you this evening?
What sort of speed do you think you were doing
when I put the blue lights on to alert you?
-Um, 70, 80?
-70, 80? OK. And the speed limit is?
I've got it recorded at 88mph. OK?
The average stopping distance for a car doing 80mph
is more than 120 metres.
The equivalent of around 27 car lengths.
A collision with road workers or their equipment
would almost certainly have resulted in fatalities.
So, it took you 14.705 seconds, all right?
To cover a distance of 0.3604 miles.
So that equates to your average speed being...
88 miles an hour in a 50.
Certainly way over the top, isn't it?
Appreciate you're on your way home from work, all right?
But there's actually guys on this bit of the road here
who are at work on the A1.
And you're barrelling into their roadworks doing 88mph.
Seriously not cool.
The driver is immediately facing penalty points and a fine.
You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence
if you don't mention now something you later rely on in court.
Anything you do say may be given in evidence.
I don't usually speed, I usually stick to the speed limit.
Just a bit eager to get home today.
Probably lucky I'm not losing my licence.
For Alan, this has been a typical Friday night job.
People have had a pretty rubbish week at work
and they just want to get home to the wife and kids.
But do you know what? It doesn't matter how bad your week's been,
don't bring that frustration, that tiredness, onto the A1.
Because people get hurt on the A1
and that's the last thing anybody wants.
The American tourist who was injured in the head-on collision
spent more than three weeks in hospital
before returning home to the States to continue his recovery.
Police race to the scene of a head-on collision. A milk lorry overturns, bringing rush hour chaos to the A1. And a reckless speeder is tracked down after putting road workers' lives at risk.