Episode 4 A1: Britain's Longest Road


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Episode 4

Documentary series following the people who work on the A1. An A1 patrol officer gets called to help a biker fighting for his life.


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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 on the northbound carriageway.

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But not all journeys go to plan.

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I thought, "I'm 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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The police...

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..response teams...

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We don't know whether they've got the road closed

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or 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...

-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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SIRENS WAIL

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..a countryside crash leaves a biker fighting for his life...

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You're always thinking the worst with a motorcycle accident.

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..traffic officers come face-to-face

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with a lorry driver flouting the law...

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You can't stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway.

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I'm going to break the law, then.

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..and there's an unexpected truck-stop for one deflated driver.

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Picked up a bolt in the tyre,

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so I won't be going anywhere for a while.

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Something I wasn't expecting today.

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From busy city routes to urban motorway, and even countryside road,

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the A1 is an ever-changing landscape

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which can bring unique challenges for the people

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that work the length and breadth of this historic highway.

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A1 patrol officer PC Darren Lant's patch

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in his native Northumbria,

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covers more than 70 diverse miles of the road.

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He's heading to one of its most troublesome sections

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just north of Newcastle.

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Here, the A1 becomes a single lane road with no central reservation.

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The dynamics of accidents change.

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You get more serious accidents up here with motorcycles and cars.

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We do get quite a lot of head-on collisions on this road,

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simply because people want to do the overtake on the single carriageway

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and they don't appreciate how fast the other car, the inbound car,

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is coming towards them.

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And not long after, a call comes in

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confirming just how treacherous this section of the A1 can be.

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As one of the closest patrols...

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-Sirens on.

-..Darren responds immediately.

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SIRENS WAIL

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We've now got reports of a motorcycle and a car collision

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just south of Morpeth.

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But still 15 miles from the scene, it's crucial he gets there quickly,

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which involves high-speed driving

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and overtaking along this single-lane section.

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Stay where you are.

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We've got very little details at the minute,

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but we believe the motorcyclist is injured.

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You're always thinking the worst with a motorcycle accident.

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As he approaches the accident,

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there's already a mile-long tailback...

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..forcing Darren to squeeze perilously

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between queueing traffic and oncoming vehicles.

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Arriving on the scene, the situation looks extremely serious.

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The rider is being treated on the road

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after colliding with the back of a car at high speed.

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-Can I give you a hand?

-No, you're all right.

-Are you sure?

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With paramedics taking care of the rider,

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Darren starts to piece together exactly what happened.

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-How are we doing? Are you all right?

-I'm a bit shaken.

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-OK. Don't worry about it.

-I think he's breathing now.

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-What happened?

-I'm an architect on the site of Hebron Hill Farm.

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-OK.

-It's a bad right-hand turn here.

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I've slowed down, I've indicated to turn right.

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I've come into here,

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and as I was driving in, there was an almighty whack.

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All I would assume is that he's tried overtaking.

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The full force of the impact has flung the rider

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almost 20 metres down the road.

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The driver of the silver car here, the BMW, he appears to be OK.

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A little bit shocked and shaken.

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We're going to get him away, get him off the site, give him a cup of tea,

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get him warmed up. And then we'll keep the road closed

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until we make sure HE'S all right.

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As other officers control passing traffic,

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Darren learns the full extent of the biker's injuries from paramedics.

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Left forearm's broke?

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His thigh is broke, is it?

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-Multiple, is it?

-Yeah, yeah.

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Multiple fractures and possible internal injuries

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could be life-changing for the motorcyclist.

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Darren's going to be pushed to the limit

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dealing with this serious incident.

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More than 110 miles south of the rural landscape of Northumbria

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is one of the busiest intersections on the whole of the A1,

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where it meets the M62.

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Drive around this section and it's impossible to miss

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Ferrybridge power station,

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and the thousands of lorries

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that pummel this stretch of road every week.

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Traffic officers Paul Day and Rob Larkin

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are tasked with keeping this area safe.

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A common danger is lorry drivers taking a break on the hard shoulder.

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When the traffic officers turn up, they don't usually stick around.

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It looks like we've scared him off.

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He's left scene. Over.

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By law, lorry drivers need to rest for 45 minutes

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every four and a half hours.

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They should find a safe place to pull over,

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but some of them think it's OK

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to take their break on the hard shoulder.

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But that's against the law.

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Foreign LGV parked on the hard shoulder, Rob.

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Paul wants to catch this trucker before he gives him the slip.

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Because it's quite wide, LGVs just think it's OK to stop,

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especially foreign LGVs.

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They don't realise they cannot stop on a British motorway

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except for an emergency.

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The driver's keen to let Paul know

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-he's abiding by the rest break rules.

-Hi.

-Good day.

-You all right?

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Yes, yes, yes. 45 minutes.

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Can't stop on a British hard shoulder, boss,

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you have to come off at the next junction.

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It's not my problem, mate,

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you'll have to come off at 37 and turn right.

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-When you turn right, there's a parking space off there.

-OK.

-OK?

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-Thank you.

-Thank you very much.

-All right.

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But by stopping on the hard shoulder, he's breaking another law.

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It may seem like a minor issue,

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but these illegal pit stops put lives in danger.

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Being parked on the hard shoulder

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is one of the most dangerous parts of the motorway.

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The longer you are on the hard shoulder,

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the greater the chances are you're going to get hit.

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More than 50 people are killed or seriously injured

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in hard shoulder accidents on Britain's roads each year.

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Yet, despite the danger,

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drivers continue to put themselves and others at risk.

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But with thousands of lorry drivers using the A1 every day,

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it's a battle to which Rob and Paul will return.

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The Great North Road is a backbone for Britain's haulage industry.

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Nearly 150 miles away, in Norfolk,

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one truck driver has a load that's more at home

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on Britain's waterways than its motorways.

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ENGINE TURNS

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It's early Friday morning,

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and specialist boat transporter Paul Douglas

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is preparing for an epic 190-mile voyage

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from Norfolk to York.

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Hopefully, fingers crossed...

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..get there in enough time to get unloaded today.

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Paul needs it to be all plain sailing,

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because if it doesn't reach the marina by 3pm,

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they won't take the cruiser off

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and he'll have to return after the weekend.

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If we have to deliver this on Monday rather than today,

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it could be a case of not having enough time to fit all the work in,

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so it's pretty imperative I get it off today

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or I'll lose money the following week, so it's, um...

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We'll do our best.

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The luxury cruiser, Athena, is on its way to its new owners in York,

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who are looking forward to a weekend on the water.

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Friday's generally a bad day for being on the roads.

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We've got all of today to get to York and get this unloaded.

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So, hopefully, we won't have too many delays.

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Last year, Paul transported more than 200 boats over 100,000 miles.

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Making him and his precious cargo a regular sight on the A1.

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But he's still 50 miles from joining it

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when it sounds like there's a problem.

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There's a clicking noise coming from my front wheel.

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Do you hear it?

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FAINT CLICKING

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A clicking noise, if you can hear that.

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It wasn't doing it when we set off.

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And the reason for the noise couldn't be more deflating.

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Picked up a bolt in the tyre.

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So, we won't be going anywhere for a while.

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Something I wasn't expecting today.

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I better go and make a phone call.

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Hi, Wayne. It's Paul at Beverley.

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I've got a puncture on me tractor unit,

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a bolt stuck in the tyre on the road side.

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Good if you could get someone out to me.

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While he waits for roadside assistance,

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Paul and the boat are left high and dry.

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They could be here within an hour, we could be sat here two or three.

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If we're sat here for two or three, the day is scuppered.

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If they are here within the hour...

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..we've still got a fighting chance.

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130 miles north, the Athena's new owners,

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Malcolm and Celia, are at York Marina,

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ready for the imminent arrival of their luxury cruiser.

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We told you the other day about

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-the boat being launched today.

-Right, OK.

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But Paul's puncture could prove to be a real let down.

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He might get here, he might not.

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He just said that he'd had a tyre blow out on the road.

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-Now I'm sure it's all fine!

-SHE CHUCKLES

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But, obviously, he's had to stop and deal with that,

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so it has just delayed him slightly.

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Now, if he is here for three o'clock,

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we can lift it off because we've got just enough daylight.

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If he comes any later than that,

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it's too dark and we can't lift the boat off in the dark.

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-All right.

-Oh, dear.

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-So, we'd have to wait until Monday morning.

-Right.

-I'm sorry.

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-SHE LAUGHS

-Well, you can't...

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It's beyond your control.

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The clock is ticking for Paul.

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And there's still no sign of his puncture repair man.

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He'll be here within the next 90 minutes.

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Hopefully, they'll be here in 30 minutes,

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but they'll be here within 90 minutes.

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So, it's just a case of sitting and waiting.

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Not good.

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With the marina's dusk deadline looming large,

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will Paul make it back to York on time?

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220 miles away near Morpeth,

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A1 patrol officer PC Darren Lant

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is still dealing with the aftermath of a serious collision,

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where a 57-year-old motorcyclist's life is on the line.

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Less than an hour ago,

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his motorbike collided with the back of a stationary BMW,

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which resulted in the rider suffering life-threatening injuries.

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After stabilising him,

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the paramedics can now get the motorcyclist off the road

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and into the ambulance.

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Yeah, he's not very well, bless him.

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He's conscious and breathing,

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but he's got multiple fractures, both arms and, possibly, both legs.

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Certainly, one of his legs, but possibly both of his legs.

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With the paramedics taking care of the biker,

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Darren's attention now turns to the traffic,

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which is tailing back several miles in both directions.

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It's the main road, isn't it?

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There's only one way in and out of Scotland up this way,

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so we've got to get this open because of the delaying traffic.

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People are getting frustrated.

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But before the road can be fully cleared,

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Darren needs to document the scene

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and gather any evidence which could be used in a prosecution.

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While the wrecked bike waits for its roadside rescue...

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..its owner is on the way to the last place

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any driver wants to end up when they set out on a journey.

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The motorcyclist, he's going to be blue-lighted down

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to Newcastle's Royal Victoria, the hospital, the trauma hospital,

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where he's going to go into specialist care.

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An hour after the accident,

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this vital section of the A1 is cleared of debris

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and ready to be reopened.

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Motorcyclists accounted for

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one in every seven people killed on the A1 in 2015.

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And Darren is well used to dealing

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with the aftermath of these accidents.

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I don't know, I've got mixed feelings about motorbikes.

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I like watching motor superbikes and all that sort of stuff, but...

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You just get no protection,

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very, very little protection on a motorbike.

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You kind of become desensitised to it.

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I've seen it that many times now,

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and I've dealt with that many accidents,

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it's just part and parcel of a motor patroller's job.

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It's our role.

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With the motorcyclist heading to hospital for emergency treatment,

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back at base, Darren has the difficult task

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of informing his family.

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What's happened is your dad's been involved

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in an accident on his motorcycle.

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He's all right.

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He's got some quite nasty injuries.

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And he's been taken to the RVI.

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He's in a critical, but stable, condition.

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And, obviously, he's going to be in there for a while.

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It's a call no-one wants to receive or make.

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But with over 180,000 casualties on Britain's roads each year,

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it's a hard reality of every patrol officer's role.

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130 miles south,

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on one of the busiest motorway stretches of the A1 near Doncaster,

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two Highways England traffic officers

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are on a mission to prevent accidents.

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Rob and Paul are on the lookout for lorry drivers

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illegally blocking the hard shoulder,

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putting themselves and other drivers at risk.

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Now, they've got another lorry in their sights.

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It looks like he's broken down, but I'm not sure.

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Drivers can only stop on the hard shoulder of the A1 in emergencies.

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But some truckers use it as a parking spot

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when trying to follow an EU law

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saying they must rest for 45 minutes every four and a half hours.

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Hiya, mate.

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-What's up?

-I just realised I'm on my four and a half.

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I knew you were going to tell me that.

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You can't stop on the hard shoulder of the motorway.

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I know, that's why I used this bit instead of a slip road.

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This is not allowed. You are actually on a motorway.

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You can't stop here either.

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Lorry driver Paul Coote is on his way to Norwich

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with a wagon full of kitchen units and broom handles,

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and it's looking like he's trying to give Paul the brush off.

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I'm going to break the law, then. You've just told me to.

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That's up to yourself. You've got to find your own place to park.

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I stick to the law and I'm going to be reported for it.

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Well, you're not sticking to the law

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because you're not allowed to stop on the hard shoulder

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of the motorway, but that's not my choice. It's up to you, that.

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I'm sticking to the EU tacho laws.

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A tacho, or tachograph, is a digital device

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fitted to vehicles which records speed and distance.

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It will register if the driver fails to stop his truck

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for the required 45 minutes, which is a serious breach of EU law.

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So, lorry driver Paul is desperate to stick around.

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Am I good for four minutes?

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I can't tell you you're good for four minutes.

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What I have to do is pass your details on. If you are saying

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-"four minutes", then four minutes is four minutes.

-Yeah.

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Paul doesn't have the power to move the driver on,

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but he can inform him of the rules.

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If you'd have come off at 37,

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there's a lay-by off the left-hand side there.

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-I didn't know that.

-I appreciate that,

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but you've just got to do the job.

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Your responsibility, you're the man.

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-Yeah.

-All right? No worries, I'll pass your details on.

0:19:210:19:25

-Right, have you got any recovery?

-Yeah, it's coming! It's coming!

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You're not going to win.

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You're not going to win.

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Right, it's safer out of the vehicle than in the vehicle,

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cos you're going to stay for your four minutes.

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But you're safer out of the vehicle than in the vehicle.

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-And keep your eye on traffic, all right?

-I will.

0:19:440:19:46

-All right, then.

-Thank you.

-Look after yoursen, yeah?

0:19:460:19:49

Paul radios an update to the control room.

0:19:520:19:55

He's on a tacho break, very, very close to the end of his break.

0:19:550:19:58

Obviously, we've given him safety advice, said he shouldn't do it.

0:19:580:20:02

We have had a bit of a debate about it,

0:20:020:20:04

and the upshot is he is staying here till he's finished his break. Over.

0:20:040:20:08

Paul Coote has been driving lorries for more than 40 years.

0:20:090:20:12

But today, he admits he's learned a valuable lesson.

0:20:120:20:14

He's come out and he's pointed something out

0:20:140:20:17

which I didn't know of. I knew I'm not allowed on the hard shoulder

0:20:170:20:19

on a motorway, but being on a slip road,

0:20:190:20:21

I thought I might have been all right on a works unit.

0:20:210:20:24

I'm not. It's something I've learned.

0:20:240:20:26

And that's the way it goes.

0:20:270:20:29

It's practically impossible to know every area,

0:20:290:20:32

every place you could stop.

0:20:320:20:34

If you're on a regular route,

0:20:340:20:35

you have a regular stopping point.

0:20:350:20:37

Once I realised I was three miles from the M18,

0:20:370:20:41

I had to stop.

0:20:410:20:43

I've got to adhere to the law, but it makes you break another law.

0:20:430:20:46

So, where do you stand?

0:20:460:20:48

It's just a nonsense, I'm afraid.

0:20:480:20:50

The tacho laws were brought in to protect truckers

0:20:520:20:55

from being asked to drive while tired.

0:20:550:20:57

And fatigue is still a factor

0:20:570:20:59

in about one in five serious motorway crashes.

0:20:590:21:02

But to avoid breaking the law by stopping on the hard shoulder,

0:21:040:21:07

drivers need to plan ahead.

0:21:070:21:09

All we can do is explain and say, "Look, you're not allowed to stop,

0:21:100:21:14

"you know you're not allowed to stop."

0:21:140:21:16

You get a bit of backwards and forwards with them,

0:21:160:21:19

saying, "I've no time left, I've no time left".

0:21:190:21:22

Well, that's fine. You might not have any time left,

0:21:220:21:25

but it's their responsibility

0:21:250:21:27

-to find a place of safety...

-Before the time runs out.

0:21:270:21:30

..before the time runs out.

0:21:300:21:31

As an ex-bus driver himself,

0:21:320:21:34

Paul understands the lorry driver's dilemma.

0:21:340:21:37

My mates who are truckers are going to go mad with me.

0:21:370:21:39

Is that because you are the nasty guy from Highways England?

0:21:390:21:43

-All I keep doing is moving trucks on.

-Get off my motorway!

0:21:430:21:46

The A1 connects major cities,

0:21:520:21:54

cuts through countryside,

0:21:540:21:56

and even crosses borders.

0:21:560:21:58

If tarmac could talk, its 396 miles would have a lot of stories to tell.

0:21:590:22:05

For specialist boat transporter Paul Douglas,

0:22:060:22:09

who is stranded near King's Lynn,

0:22:090:22:11

today's journey is more nightmare than fairy tale.

0:22:110:22:14

Do you want me to blow the air up or out?

0:22:190:22:22

Yeah, if that makes it easy, yeah.

0:22:220:22:24

He's got a 3pm deadline

0:22:250:22:27

to complete his delivery of a boat to York.

0:22:270:22:30

With his clients ready set sail 130 miles away...

0:22:330:22:37

..Paul needs his puncture fixed as soon as possible.

0:22:390:22:41

He has got here in very good time. He is on with it.

0:22:430:22:46

It is going to make the day a bit tighter,

0:22:460:22:48

cos we still need to get the boat in the water before it gets dark.

0:22:480:22:52

I'm still hopeful, but we are up against it a bit more now.

0:22:520:22:55

With the damaged tyre off,

0:22:560:22:58

Paul is keen to get a closer look at the cause of his travel delay.

0:22:580:23:02

Yeah, you can just see it there, look.

0:23:020:23:06

From the tread to where the inside will be, will be about three inches.

0:23:060:23:10

It will be a decent-sized bolt in there.

0:23:100:23:13

Are you going right to the front with it?

0:23:150:23:18

Each of the truck's tyres weighs in at over 100 pounds.

0:23:180:23:21

Changing one of these beasts by the roadside

0:23:210:23:24

means you have to watch your back in more ways than one.

0:23:240:23:26

I'm just trying to keep an eye out just in case there are any

0:23:280:23:31

straying cars or lorries.

0:23:310:23:32

Some of them will give us a bit of room,

0:23:320:23:34

but you only need somebody texting or not concentrating

0:23:340:23:39

and they come too far over

0:23:390:23:43

and that's it.

0:23:430:23:46

That's it.

0:23:500:23:52

Excellent. I'll get your cones for you.

0:23:520:23:55

-Time to get back to business.

-Crack on.

0:23:550:23:57

Paul has got just over three hours to get to York,

0:23:590:24:02

so he can't afford another delay.

0:24:020:24:04

If we get any more hold-ups,

0:24:050:24:07

we're going to struggle to get this in the water before dark tonight.

0:24:070:24:10

The marina won't want to lift in the dark, which is fair dues.

0:24:100:24:14

That will mean doing the job on Monday,

0:24:140:24:16

which will have a knock-on effect of next week,

0:24:160:24:19

because all the jobs next week will need replanning and putting back.

0:24:190:24:23

And consequently, the possibility of losing a job

0:24:230:24:27

at the end of next week.

0:24:270:24:29

Until Paul makes it to York Marina,

0:24:290:24:32

patient owners Malcolm and Celia are marooned.

0:24:320:24:36

Bit of a problem.

0:24:360:24:38

It's five minutes past one.

0:24:410:24:43

Five minutes past one.

0:24:430:24:44

So, you're talking about a couple of hours now,

0:24:440:24:46

possibly before he is here.

0:24:460:24:48

-Yes.

-Do want to go for a walk?

0:24:480:24:52

Right, yeah. I'll just get my coat.

0:24:520:24:54

-So it could be Monday now, then, love.

-Quite likely.

0:24:590:25:03

Back on the A1, Paul's progress is painfully slow.

0:25:060:25:10

Just approaching Doncaster.

0:25:130:25:15

There is always a bit of a queue here.

0:25:150:25:17

There is quite often a queue all the way to the M62,

0:25:180:25:20

but let's just hope it is not as bad as that today.

0:25:200:25:23

It's looking as though it is starting to move again ahead.

0:25:240:25:27

Hopefully it's just the amount of traffic that's coming off the M18

0:25:270:25:31

here that is snarling everything up.

0:25:310:25:34

At last, Paul's luck changes.

0:25:360:25:39

Hi, Gemma. It is Paul at Beverley Transport.

0:25:400:25:43

I'm just coming off the A1 onto the 64,

0:25:430:25:45

so I should be with you in about 30 minutes.

0:25:450:25:47

With the light fading fast, Paul finally makes it...

0:25:500:25:53

..much to Malcolm and Celia's delight.

0:25:560:25:59

He's arrived!

0:25:590:26:01

Fine.

0:26:010:26:02

Happy and relieved that he has made it here in daylight

0:26:050:26:08

and they're launching it.

0:26:080:26:09

Yeah, very pleased.

0:26:090:26:11

Named after a Greek goddess,

0:26:110:26:13

Athena's A1 odyssey has left her looking a little worse for wear.

0:26:130:26:18

I must apologise for the colour of it.

0:26:180:26:20

It wasn't this colour when I left,

0:26:200:26:21

but it is a bit unavoidable at this time of the year, I'm afraid.

0:26:210:26:26

A quick dip in the water will soon restore her sparkle

0:26:260:26:30

and the pressures of the day also start to float away.

0:26:300:26:34

-Thank you very much.

-Thank you very much.

0:26:370:26:38

Appreciate that. Enjoy your boat. Safe trip tomorrow. Take care.

0:26:380:26:41

-Have a good trip.

-Thank you. Bye.

0:26:410:26:45

With things back on an even keel, Paul can reflect on a job well done.

0:26:450:26:49

All the customers are happy.

0:26:490:26:52

And that's the main thing.

0:26:520:26:54

Ready for home.

0:26:570:26:59

The A1 near Newcastle carries more than 90,000 vehicles every day.

0:27:050:27:10

The sheer volume means there is rarely a dull moment for the police

0:27:110:27:15

officers who patrol this stretch.

0:27:150:27:17

PC Darren Lant is beginning another shift on a dark midwinter morning.

0:27:190:27:23

The A1 is already heaving

0:27:260:27:29

and it's not long before he's responding to an emergency call.

0:27:290:27:32

I've already been dispatched to a live lane broken down

0:27:400:27:43

in the middle of the A1.

0:27:430:27:46

The car is stranded on the edge of the carriageway,

0:27:480:27:50

where there's no hard shoulder.

0:27:500:27:52

With vehicles rushing past at 70mph,

0:27:520:27:55

for the motorist it's an extremely dangerous situation.

0:27:550:27:58

Firstly, make sure that they are all right.

0:27:580:28:00

And then secondly, try and get them off the live lane

0:28:000:28:04

as quick as we can for their safety

0:28:040:28:06

and then the safety of the other road users.

0:28:060:28:09

What's happened?

0:28:160:28:18

How long is your son going to be?

0:28:310:28:34

Where is he coming from?

0:28:360:28:39

With no hard shoulder,

0:28:400:28:41

Darren is using his patrol car to protect the stranded motorists from

0:28:410:28:45

oncoming vehicles.

0:28:450:28:47

But as rush-hour traffic builds,

0:28:470:28:49

their situation is only going to become more hazardous.

0:28:490:28:53

We're just looking for the gentleman's towline

0:28:530:28:55

for the front of his vehicle, so that when his son turns up,

0:28:550:28:58

we are in a position to tow it straight off the A1

0:28:580:29:01

and get him out of harm's way.

0:29:010:29:03

People are just trying to get to work,

0:29:050:29:07

so they're not really concentrating and I'm just...

0:29:070:29:09

HORN HONKS

0:29:090:29:11

Good morning.

0:29:110:29:13

Busy start to the shift, eh?

0:29:150:29:18

Passenger Ray Bonner wasn't expecting his early morning commute

0:29:180:29:21

to leave him in danger.

0:29:210:29:23

We were just driving along. My vehicle was taking us to work.

0:29:230:29:27

And the engine just started making a noise,

0:29:270:29:29

and next thing we knew everything just cut out.

0:29:290:29:33

No power, no ignition, no nothing.

0:29:330:29:36

Ended up stranded here.

0:29:360:29:38

It's horrendous, it's not nice.

0:29:380:29:40

When you've got traffic at this volume, it's dangerous, as well.

0:29:400:29:43

With congestion mounting,

0:29:450:29:47

Darren needs to get the car out of harm's way quickly.

0:29:470:29:51

You want to be off the A1.

0:29:510:29:53

As much as I like my job,

0:29:530:29:54

I don't want to be sitting here as long as I have to. Right.

0:29:540:29:58

And, for Ray, this is Groundhog Day.

0:29:580:30:01

A week and a half ago, my car broke down

0:30:010:30:04

but I just managed to get off the A1.

0:30:040:30:07

I was on West Road going home so my mate has been taking us to work,

0:30:070:30:11

like, until I can get back on the road.

0:30:110:30:13

I must be a bad luck charm.

0:30:130:30:15

Every time I touch a car, it seems to break down.

0:30:150:30:17

Well you are definitely not getting a lift in my car to work,

0:30:170:30:20

that's for sure. all right?

0:30:200:30:23

Thankfully for Darren, there's no chance of that today.

0:30:230:30:26

-Is this your son?

-Aye.

0:30:260:30:29

Yeah, happy days.

0:30:290:30:32

Tow rope attached,

0:30:320:30:33

the stranded vehicle can be removed from its hazardous position.

0:30:330:30:37

Handbrake off. In neutral.

0:30:370:30:39

I'll pull out first, secure this lane, right?

0:30:400:30:43

I'll give you a flash of the lights

0:30:430:30:44

and then you can pull away, all right?

0:30:440:30:46

I'll stay behind you. We're going to go to the lay-by, all right?

0:30:460:30:50

Watch what you're doing.

0:30:500:30:51

It's taken Darren less than 20 minutes

0:30:530:30:55

to help the lads head to a place of safety.

0:30:550:30:58

And for this patrol officer, it's another crisis averted.

0:30:590:31:03

Working on a car at the side of the road.

0:31:050:31:08

It's almost pitch-black, isn't it? Still really early in the morning.

0:31:080:31:11

Some people are half asleep.

0:31:110:31:13

You know, they are getting up and they're rushing to work,

0:31:130:31:15

which is why we have to work as quick as we can, as safely as we can

0:31:150:31:19

to get the carriageway open and get the hazards of the road.

0:31:190:31:23

Here we go, we're off now. Excellent.

0:31:240:31:27

Go and say goodbye to them and get them on their way.

0:31:270:31:29

-Thanks very much, Officer.

-No problem. Everybody done?

0:31:310:31:34

-Yep, thanks very much.

-Excellent, great, take care, gents.

0:31:340:31:37

With the recovery vehicle en route,

0:31:370:31:39

Ray and his mates will soon be on their way to work.

0:31:390:31:42

As Britain's longest road, the A1 sees its fair share of broken down

0:31:450:31:50

vehicles and, as this footage shows,

0:31:500:31:53

being stranded next to fast-moving motorway traffic...

0:31:530:31:56

..is an extremely perilous place to be.

0:31:580:32:01

On the Western bypass near Newcastle,

0:32:060:32:08

there's no hard shoulder for stricken vehicles to pull into

0:32:080:32:11

so they are especially vulnerable.

0:32:110:32:13

Fortunately, there is help at hand.

0:32:180:32:20

Motorbike rider, Peter Dodds.

0:32:200:32:22

Breaking down is a traumatic experience for everybody.

0:32:250:32:29

It has a knock-on effect for everybody,

0:32:290:32:31

kids going to school and so on,

0:32:310:32:32

so you need to get those people out of there as quick as possible

0:32:320:32:35

to let everybody else do their thing through life.

0:32:350:32:37

When vehicles break down,

0:32:400:32:41

it's Peter's mission to get them off the road fast.

0:32:410:32:44

-I'm going to put you on the back of the bike.

-Right.

0:32:470:32:49

We'll pick your car up, you in the car,

0:32:490:32:52

take you off to a place of safety.

0:32:520:32:54

But how does one man and his motorbike move a car

0:32:540:32:57

weighing just over a tonne?

0:32:570:32:59

This is no ordinary bike.

0:33:010:33:03

It's been specially adapted with a hydraulic trailer.

0:33:030:33:06

It unfolds allowing Peter to carry cars and small vans off the A1

0:33:080:33:12

all in a matter of minutes.

0:33:120:33:14

Which is why round these parts he is known as the minute man.

0:33:190:33:23

Just driving up the road and the car just came up with a fault

0:33:240:33:27

on my dashboard.

0:33:270:33:29

It totally cut out. Just wouldn't restart.

0:33:290:33:32

In next to no time, the Polo is hitched up on Peter's trailer.

0:33:330:33:38

It's awesome technology.

0:33:380:33:40

Gets us off the road and safe quick.

0:33:420:33:45

In just ten minutes, Peter and his incredible bike are back on the road

0:33:450:33:50

with driver and car in tow...

0:33:500:33:53

..leaving the traffic on the A1 to flow freely again.

0:33:590:34:02

Peter's one of a small band of minute-men patrolling the A1.

0:34:110:34:15

They deal with more than 900 incidents every year

0:34:150:34:19

and their powers really come into their own

0:34:190:34:21

when dealing with emergencies.

0:34:210:34:24

There's been a three-car pile-up outside Newcastle at rush-hour.

0:34:260:34:29

With traffic mounting, it looks like there's no way through.

0:34:310:34:35

This is clearly a job for the minute man.

0:34:350:34:38

Peter makes short work of cutting through the cars.

0:34:430:34:46

He's one of the first recovery services on the scene.

0:34:470:34:50

Where a three-vehicle shunt on the outside lane

0:34:520:34:55

has led to traffic chaos.

0:34:550:34:57

We've got a Mondeo estate and then a Skoda Yeti four-wheel drive.

0:34:580:35:02

The lightest one there is going to be the Astra at the front, actually.

0:35:020:35:05

Let's have a look.

0:35:050:35:07

Fortunately, no-one is hurt,

0:35:070:35:09

but Peter knows the longer the cars stay in the lane,

0:35:090:35:12

the greater the chance of another collision and there are vulnerable

0:35:120:35:15

drivers stranded in the central reservation.

0:35:150:35:19

The lad on the back just didn't stop.

0:35:190:35:21

Ploughed into the back of him and then he hit the back of me

0:35:210:35:24

and I hit a lass that was in front of me

0:35:240:35:26

but obviously her car was not that much damaged.

0:35:260:35:29

Mine is mostly superficial.

0:35:290:35:31

Popped my radiator, as well.

0:35:310:35:33

But his luck is about to change.

0:35:360:35:38

His car is a perfect fit for Peter's bike

0:35:400:35:43

and he'll be off the road in no time.

0:35:430:35:45

Ready?

0:35:450:35:47

Are you ready to go?

0:35:560:35:57

We'll take you around to the Angel Of The North out the way.

0:35:570:36:00

-Jump in your driver's seat, there. Don't touch anything.

-Yeah.

0:36:000:36:03

-Put your seat belt on.

-Yeah.

0:36:030:36:05

This lad will put you on the front seat of the car.

0:36:050:36:07

Put him in the passenger seat, please.

0:36:070:36:09

Peter's ready to roll just as the recovery truck turns up

0:36:110:36:15

to deal with the other two vehicles.

0:36:150:36:18

For this hi-vis hero, it's just another day on the job

0:36:190:36:24

and for the drivers desperate to get on their way,

0:36:240:36:27

Peter and his hi-tech bike have saved the day.

0:36:270:36:30

Obviously when the bike turned up, I was wondering what it was.

0:36:350:36:38

When I seen it getting put into its positions and stuff,

0:36:380:36:41

it's a good bit of kit.

0:36:410:36:44

Love the bikes, absolutely love them

0:36:460:36:50

and, most of all, I love helping people.

0:36:500:36:53

With more than 60% of us commuting by car,

0:37:010:37:03

it's no surprise Britain's major roads feel the strain.

0:37:030:37:07

It's Friday night rush-hour.

0:37:110:37:12

The A1's busiest time of the week.

0:37:120:37:15

PC Alan Keenlyside is battling through traffic to another incident

0:37:180:37:22

near Newcastle.

0:37:220:37:25

So we're travelling to a report of a live lane breakdown on the A1,

0:37:280:37:32

so we're in rush-hour traffic now.

0:37:320:37:34

It's dark.

0:37:340:37:36

It's potentially going to be on an unlit or poorly lit section of

0:37:360:37:39

the A1, so we've got a real risk here of a stationary car

0:37:390:37:43

in the slow lane of the A1 and it's vulnerable

0:37:430:37:47

and we need to get really quickly.

0:37:470:37:49

Worst case scenario is a car travelling at 70mph

0:37:510:37:56

crashes into that vehicle.

0:37:560:37:57

There's always injuries and it's quite often loss of life so,

0:37:570:38:01

yeah, we treat it really, really seriously.

0:38:010:38:04

The vehicle is going to be around this bend.

0:38:040:38:07

There it is.

0:38:070:38:10

It's actually sticking well out into lane one.

0:38:100:38:12

Alan has called in help from colleagues

0:38:120:38:14

in an unmarked police car.

0:38:140:38:16

Do you want to come ahead of me in the unmarked?

0:38:160:38:18

What I've done, then, is that's an unmarked motor patrol vehicle.

0:38:180:38:23

It's safer to have a fully marked vehicle at the back

0:38:230:38:26

using all our reflective equipment.

0:38:260:38:29

With traffic building fast,

0:38:290:38:30

Alan needs to make sure the driver is out of harm's way.

0:38:300:38:34

It's backed up as far as you can see backwards in lane two.

0:38:370:38:41

I would normally go down but they've actually just pushed it.

0:38:410:38:46

They've been able to push the vehicle down hill.

0:38:460:38:48

That will get the two police vehicles off the road

0:38:480:38:50

and now we can deal with this broken down with all lanes open.

0:38:500:38:53

-You all right?

-I'm all right.

0:38:570:38:59

Aye, all right.

0:39:010:39:03

Driver, Alistair, has had a blow out on the main carriageway and Alan's

0:39:050:39:10

not prepared to let him change the tyre in such a dangerous spot.

0:39:100:39:14

We could temporarily stop the slip road.

0:39:140:39:16

-Do you want me to put closure on just before the junction?

-Yes, mate.

0:39:160:39:20

Alan has no choice but to shepherd the car back onto the A1.

0:39:220:39:25

While the other team closes the slip road,

0:39:290:39:31

driver Alistair reverses the car the wrong way up it...

0:39:310:39:35

..and he finally finds a place of safety.

0:39:360:39:40

I was going home for my tea, so my tea's in the oven!

0:39:460:39:49

-Tea's in the dog.

-No, no, tea's in the oven.

0:39:490:39:52

I phoned the wife. "I'll be a bit late."

0:39:520:39:54

"Why?" "I've had a blow out."

0:39:540:39:57

"Oh, right, I'll put your tea in the oven."

0:39:570:39:59

She didn't even ask if I was OK!

0:39:590:40:02

Blown there, right the way round.

0:40:060:40:09

There you are, try that.

0:40:110:40:14

But changing the wheel is proving a much tougher job

0:40:140:40:17

than they both expected.

0:40:170:40:19

Is it going in at all, is it?

0:40:190:40:22

-It seems to be a fair bit still to go on that.

-Yeah, there is.

0:40:240:40:27

On all four of them.

0:40:270:40:29

The only thing I can think of is you are putting a steel wheel on

0:40:290:40:31

and it's an alloy wheel nut.

0:40:310:40:34

The pair are baffled as to why the bolts are failing to fully tighten.

0:40:350:40:39

Alan's determined to get Alistair on his way and hopes someone at the

0:40:410:40:45

local services can shed some light.

0:40:450:40:47

The gentleman has got the best part of 35 miles to go,

0:40:490:40:52

so I'll be happy if he went to the service station,

0:40:520:40:54

got into the garage and see if they've got anything in there.

0:40:540:40:57

Kind of hoping, if I've got to be honest,

0:41:010:41:03

that this service station that we're heading to

0:41:030:41:05

might have some repair parts.

0:41:050:41:08

It's always nice to be able to help someone to a resolution

0:41:080:41:10

whereby they're on their way and they are on their way home.

0:41:100:41:14

At the service station, it looks like help might be at hand.

0:41:140:41:18

Sometimes in these places you get people from the AA and the RAC

0:41:180:41:21

who might be taking a break and cue the right....

0:41:210:41:26

It's the RAC!

0:41:260:41:28

Seen who it is?

0:41:280:41:31

It's the fourth emergency service!

0:41:310:41:33

Or is that the AA? It's the fifth emergency service.

0:41:330:41:36

-I'll ask them, anyway.

-But the driver doesn't have the parts...

0:41:360:41:40

This lad is just a recovery lad so unfortunately he can't help me.

0:41:400:41:43

..so Alistair finally calls his own recovery provider

0:41:430:41:47

hoping they can get to grips with the tricky wheel bolts.

0:41:470:41:51

We've got a canny gap and that's as tight as we can get them.

0:41:510:41:54

-But that's right.

-Is it?

-Aye, there's a sticker there, tells you.

0:41:560:42:00

-It's telling you that's all right.

-Who reads instruction manuals?

0:42:000:42:03

Why didn't we see that?

0:42:030:42:06

So pointing to that there which clearly shows that there's a gap

0:42:060:42:10

between the nut and the casing of the wheel which we've got.

0:42:100:42:13

If there was something wrong, at least he's going to check it

0:42:130:42:16

and you're going to get the professional looking at it.

0:42:160:42:18

You've already looked at it!

0:42:180:42:21

If you lads haven't been there and I'd done that myself,

0:42:230:42:25

I'd have been like, "No way."

0:42:250:42:27

-It's not very obvious, is it?

-It's only yellow and black.

0:42:270:42:29

They could have made it stand out a bit more, couldn't they?

0:42:290:42:32

The motorcyclist left badly injured after crashing on the A1

0:42:370:42:40

has undergone multiple operations but is now on the road to recovery.

0:42:400:42:46

And, after their boat made it up the A1 on time,

0:42:460:42:49

Malcolm and Celia set sail the very next morning for their

0:42:490:42:52

two-day cruise along the River Ouse.

0:42:520:42:55

Next time, the careless drivers putting lives at risk.

0:42:560:43:00

Worst case scenario is that it's a fatality.

0:43:000:43:03

-Officers race to the scene...

-This is high priority.

0:43:030:43:06

..of a treacherous tyre blowout.

0:43:060:43:09

Traffic is just too busy.

0:43:090:43:11

The chances of somebody getting struck on that offside

0:43:110:43:13

is really high.

0:43:130:43:15

And Santa's reindeer heads south.

0:43:150:43:19

You often get this expression of pure delight when people see

0:43:190:43:22

the reindeer for the first time.

0:43:220:43:24

They really are the spirit of Christmas.

0:43:240:43:26

An A1 patrol officer gets called to help a biker fighting for his life. Traffic officers come face to face with a lorry driver flouting the law, and a boat transporter is marooned after a puncture halts the journey.