Episode 8 A1: Britain's Longest Road


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Episode 8

Documentary series following the people who work on the A1. A lorry breakdown causes rush hour traffic chaos, and emergency response teams are called after power lines collapse.


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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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The cars are coming close.

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It is a 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 we've got the road closed 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...

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Get out!

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..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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..a rush-hour breakdown puts lives on the line...

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The effect of hitting a wagon at 40, 50, 60mph can be fatal.

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..a deadly disruption

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as a collapsed power line closes the A1...

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The pole's either been struck by lightning

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or it's been hit and it's collapsed.

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Are police attending, I presume?

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..and after a 240-mile journey north...

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..will bad weather sabotage Sunderland's seafront spectacular?

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I've rigged in some pretty bad conditions

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but I think this is the worst I've ever seen.

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In the north-east of England, the A1 road connects Gateshead, Sunderland,

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Durham and Newcastle,

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making it a vital arterial route for tens of thousands of commuters.

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Rush hour is always busy and any hold-up can become a major incident

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within minutes.

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It's six o'clock, and just outside Newcastle,

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patrol officer PC Alan Keenleyside is racing to the scene of the latest

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incident on the southbound section of the motorway.

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We've had a report of an articulated wagon broken down

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in the middle lane of three.

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It's looking like the brakes have locked on, on the trailer, which

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is actually a common occurrence.

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It's a fail-safe that HGVs have,

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that if you have any issues with the braking system,

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the brakes will lock on.

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The priority in cases like this is to get there,

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illuminate the scene as best as possible, to give advanced warning

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to members of the public to slow down.

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We're making our way down the A1 now.

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Probably a couple of minutes away from the incident.

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The truck is stranded in the middle of this busy motorway.

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Traffic is travelling up to 70mph.

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Alan's concerned there could be a major pile-up

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and lives could be put at risk.

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There may not be hazard lights at the top of the wagon so the truck

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could be, to all intents and purposes, stationary,

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but invisible to members of the public.

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The effect of hitting a wagon at 40, 50, 60mph,

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if it's stationary, can be fatal.

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I'm going to have to start fighting through the traffic, here.

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Members of the public, they've had a long day in the office

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and this is a major inconvenience to them getting home.

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Traffic officers are already on the scene,

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warning drivers of the blockage.

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Get some cones out and just cone it off.

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The priority now is to make the area safe by sealing off the inside lane

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so a recovery vehicle can gain access.

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What we're hoping to happen by doing this,

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we're going to be able to get up the near side of the wagon,

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do some remedial repairs and get the vehicle moving,

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so it might look like we're being a bit extreme but by doing this,

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hopefully, the vehicle will be moving in the next few minutes.

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If it doesn't work, it's going to be a big recovery.

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Two lanes are now closed and hundreds of vehicles are caught up

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in the tailbacks. It's frustrating for commuters, but a necessity.

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Unfortunately, what we can't have is

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a stranded vehicle in the middle lane

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and have two lanes of vehicles moving either side of it.

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I know people will think this is probably crazy.

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We just can't have it, all right?

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So people will be driving past going,

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"What's wrong with the left-hand lane?"

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People are going to be moving around this wagon to affect the repairs to

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try and get the vehicle going.

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We can't have cars driving past.

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All it takes is one person, because naturally,

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when people look to the right, the car goes to the right.

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When people look to the left, the car goes to the left.

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We can't afford that to be happening both sides of the wagon.

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In this case, we've closed the slow lane and we're now going to be

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working to try and get this wagon repaired.

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Within just five minutes, the area is secure,

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but the recovery vehicle is still half an hour away.

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What we've got now is five, six miles of traffic building up behind.

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What we need to do now is link in with the recovery firm and get that

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wagon here as quickly as we possibly can to get this wagon moved,

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because I used to like my rugby and I used to play at a reasonable level

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but I couldn't push that! Definitely not.

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Alan has done all he can to make the area safe.

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-It couldn't happen at a worse place, worse time, could it?

-No, it's terrible.

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Mechanical breakdown with a vehicle, best will in the world,

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you just can't do anything with it.

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But with stop-start traffic, the risk of a major accident

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further north is growing with every second that passes.

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Highways England and Transport Scotland deal with over

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4,000 breakdowns every year and each one brings its own challenges.

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Head south of Newcastle and the A1 takes drivers through the farming

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fields of North Yorkshire to the coalfields of South Yorkshire,

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where traffic officers Paul Day and Rob Larkin are on duty.

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Got one on the hard shoulder, up here.

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They're following up a report about

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a broken-down car just past Doncaster.

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It's an incident first dealt with by the night shift.

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He's had a blowout. He's been given a reasonable time to get it sorted,

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so we're going back to make sure that what he's said is right.

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-And happens.

-And he's left.

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Paul and Rob are hoping the car has long gone by now.

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If he's still there, obviously we have to take

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another course of action.

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In the reasonable time that we've given him,

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we expect him to have dealt with it and have gone.

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And that reasonable time is sort of a standardised time limit

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and it's two hours.

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But the car hasn't moved and there's no sign of its driver.

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HE TALKS INTO RADIO

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Until suddenly, he appears from across the fields.

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Ah!

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I'll come and talk to you in a minute. Just give me a minute.

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13, apologies, at 16 over six Bravo A1M.

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We've got the vehicle that should've been removed.

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Yeah, I'll just have a word with the driver but it is still in situ.

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-Over.

-They got it at 5:50.

-So it's had a good 3.5 hours.

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He's had a long enough time to shift it, so he needs to be moving

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or we need to know why it's still here.

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Around 50 people are killed or severely injured in hard shoulder

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accidents each year. This car is parked on a bend,

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leaving other motorists less time to react.

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It is particularly narrow, this bit.

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It's known for getting a lot of accidents.

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I'm not happy about being here myself, to be honest.

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The driver, Bogdan,

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explains he struggled to change the tyre himself.

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He doesn't have breakdown cover but he has called a friend to come and help.

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I wait for a friend to bring me a key to change the wheel.

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I appreciate that, but you've been here 3.5 hours.

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-Where's your friend?

-Now?

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-Yes.

-Coming here.

-Where?

-Where? From where?

-Where?

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From Royston to here.

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-Royston at Barnsley?

-Yes.

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While Paul tries to trace Bogdan's friend, Rob needs to ensure

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other drivers are aware of the hazard on the hard shoulder.

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Where are you exactly?

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You're eight miles from here?

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Right, bye.

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-He's still at home.

-Still at home?

-Yeah.

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The fact his friend hasn't even left home is not good news for Bogdan.

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He saying it's 15 minutes, but he's still at home.

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Why is he still at home three hours after he should've been here?

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I don't know, because don't find me.

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So, has he come to here and gone back again?

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-Yes.

-Right.

-You can ask.

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Yeah, I have but he's still at home. That's what I'm saying.

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You're saying he's in Doncaster, and he's not.

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No, because he's going in Doncaster,

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don't find me, and I think he's going home.

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It's not illegal to drive without breakdown cover, but Bogdan's

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stranded car is posing a risk.

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If he doesn't move it soon, Paul will call the recovery truck

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and Bogdan will be landed with a hefty bill.

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As the only road to link London and Edinburgh,

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the A1 is key for UK industry,

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allowing the transport of freight across 18 different counties.

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Tens of thousands of trucks use the A1 every day to move goods around

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the country, and now, 30 miles north of the road's starting point,

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a firework display team is preparing for an explosive weekend.

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Right. Big boys.

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Matt Matthews and Fraser McFarlane

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are preparing to head 240 miles north on the A1 to Sunderland

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with over a tonne of fireworks in transit.

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I want to see what flavour it is. It's a lemon strobe.

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Yes, they're quite nice. They are nice effects.

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These aren't for public purchase.

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The bigger the sound, the bigger the boom, the bigger the bang,

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the bigger the smile on my face.

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And big ones that do go bang and do hold in the sky

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definitely get a whoop from the crowd.

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The fireworks will be used in the city's Bonfire Night display.

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Just wedge those so they don't roll away.

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And ferrying this precious cargo smoothly up the A1

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means safety always comes first.

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When we're transporting the fireworks,

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the vehicles that we use have to be to a certain standard.

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The fireworks are kept secure so, one, they can't be

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damaged in transit, and, two, they can't be stolen.

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They are volatile, so anything explosive is volatile.

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Before their journey,

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every single firework must be checked and waterproofed.

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This is where we get our practising for Christmas, wrapping presents.

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I can never find the end.

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Waterproofing is very important.

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We cannot guarantee it's going to be a nice, shiny day.

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From a weather perspective, high winds can push fireworks

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in the totally wrong direction that we want them to go in.

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That is probably one of the highest factors that will stop the display.

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But the weather isn't their only concern.

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Matt and Fraser need to know exactly what they are carrying

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at any given moment.

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This is one of the things you take with you

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if you have to evacuate the vehicle.

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What is down here, isn't it? Explosive mass.

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Mass weight is about a tonne.

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That's a lot.

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With all of the checks complete...

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-That is it.

-..Matt and Fraser can finally hit the road.

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Sunderland, here we come.

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After 20 minutes, the pair join the A1, just north of Stevenage.

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Their job means they're well used to driving along this road,

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so it's a good job they like it.

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North of Newcastle, there's some stunning scenery.

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The sea is so close to the edge of the A1

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and it's absolutely fantastic.

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Really nice up there.

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It is a good, ideal road.

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That if you're going to come from Scotland all the way down to London,

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you just have one road.

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You couldn't ask for a better route, anyway.

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With the final destination Sunderland,

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the great north road will take Matt and Fraser through nine different

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counties - plenty of time to think about what awaits them.

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You know you're going to see, probably, some of the best firework

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displays that are going to go up over this weekend, or any weekend.

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There is a bit of anticipation, as well.

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Cos it's such a big, public one, as well.

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Until we actually get there, there's a bit of the unknown.

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But the forecast for the north-east is strong winds and storms.

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After hours on the road, could bad weather scupper their plans

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for the fireworks to go off with a bang?

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Just ten miles west of Sunderland,

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the A1 hits a busy three-lane stretch on the edge of

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the north-east's biggest city, Newcastle.

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And now, traffic is at a standstill.

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A lorry's brakes have seized up on the southbound side,

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meaning two lanes have been closed.

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A1 patrol officer PC Alan Keenleyside

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is battling to get the motorway open as quickly as possible.

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We've tried to reset the systems on this wagon.

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Unfortunately, it's been unsuccessful.

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We're going to have to arrange a recovery.

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For 30 minutes, two lanes of the motorway have been closed.

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There's already more than six miles of standing traffic.

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The truck's driver is Joe Steele.

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So, what's the crack, Joe? What's happened?

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Stuck in traffic, coming up the hill.

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And, obviously, it was moving slowly.

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Next thing I know, the brakes lock on.

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And, obviously, I just checked it over and it's not...

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Great. Brakes on the trailer?

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Brakes on the trailer. So it's just not ...

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There's no pressure. You can hear the hissing coming from the front.

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-Yeah.

-So there's a leak somewhere.

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And that's a fail-safe of the trailer, isn't it?

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-Yeah.

-So if you've got an issue,

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they'll lock on, rather than not work.

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-Yeah, yeah.

-So the pressure actually keeps the brakes...

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It locks it on when you start it up,

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the pressure takes it off and when the pressure fails,

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it actually locks the brakes on, doesn't it?

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Yeah. Safety features.

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Joe uses the A1 regularly,

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transporting freight between the north-east and Yorkshire.

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So he can sympathise with his fellow road users.

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I'm frustrated for everyone else, so I find it very frustrating.

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It's just causing... Causing chaos, you know.

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I couldn't foresee it, otherwise I would've chosen lane one to be in,

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so I wouldn't have caused so much trouble for everyone else.

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The brakes have decided they don't want to play ball today.

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So, you know, just unlucky.

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Unlucky day. Unlucky day.

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Finally though, after 45 minutes, the truck mechanic is on the scene.

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-Hello, mate, you all right?

-Yeah.

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Just go on, you've got lane one to work in, as well,

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so fill your boots, all right?

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He can hear the engine revving.

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He's trying to get the air in the system to build up pressure to

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release the brakes. So by revving that engine,

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it's going to get the air pressure up as quick as he can,

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so this is the mechanic just triaging the wagon.

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This is like what a doctor does in resus with a patient.

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And this is what the mechanic's doing.

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And you can hear the air coming out the front of the wagon, here,

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so there's clearly an issue that may still require...

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Even though the mechanic's here, it may still require recovery.

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You can hear the air coming out of there.

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That shouldn't be sounding like that.

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It's not looking good...

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..and tailbacks are growing with every second that passes.

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But in situations like this,

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light relief can be found in the most unlikely of places.

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Terry the turtle.

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Does it...? Does he get some smiles from kids and things?

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Yeah, he does, yeah. Puts smiles on people's faces.

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That's what it's all about, isn't it?

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-What it's about.

-Bit of cheekiness.

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But, today, it's the mechanic who's putting smiles on faces.

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He's managed to patch up the brakes, meaning the truck can leave the A1.

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Happy with that, all right? No worries, at all. I'll follow you up.

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Yeah, I'll follow you up, all right? Just in case there's an issue.

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But get into this lane straightaway, all right? Right, lads!

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And Alan and the other traffic officers can reopen the road.

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A1's back open, my colleagues in the Highways Agency have just lifted

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that now, so cars should be starting to come past here.

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Again, it will be getting up to around 40, 50mph.

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I would imagine, however,

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we're going to be looking at the best part of 40 minutes, 45 minutes,

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until the backlog starts to work its way through.

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This is where it gets quite frustrating for members of the

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public because they're sitting in a traffic jam and all of a sudden,

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they get there and there's nothing apparent.

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It's just that residual traffic that we need to start moving

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through the scene to get going again.

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Alan escorts the lorry to some local services for further checks.

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This is actually a truck stop,

0:17:440:17:46

so the driver will spend the night here.

0:17:460:17:48

He's actually gone out of hours as a result of this breakdown.

0:17:480:17:52

And he's now due a 15-hour lay down overnight.

0:17:520:17:56

So this is him parking up.

0:17:560:17:58

This will be his bedroom for the next 15 hours.

0:17:580:18:01

Despite rush-hour delays for commuters,

0:18:010:18:03

Alan has helped get this stretch of the A1 moving again

0:18:030:18:07

without any serious incidents.

0:18:070:18:09

It is pretty rare for a vehicle to stop in a live lane at rush-hour.

0:18:090:18:15

It's pretty rare. So when it happens, it does test us.

0:18:150:18:18

We've got to get there quickly, we've got to make it safe.

0:18:180:18:21

We've also got to think outside the box a little bit

0:18:210:18:24

to get the issue rectified.

0:18:240:18:25

The A1 near Washington is a three-lane stretch of motorway

0:18:300:18:34

and as the stranded HGV proved, just one incident can cause chaos.

0:18:340:18:39

But between Newcastle and Edinburgh,

0:18:410:18:43

the road alternates between dual and single carriageway.

0:18:430:18:47

It takes motorists through some of

0:18:470:18:49

the UK's most spectacular landscapes,

0:18:490:18:52

but when there's a problem, there is literally nowhere to turn.

0:18:520:18:55

In the Newcastle CCTV control room, Ian Lee is the man responsible for

0:18:570:19:01

keeping the traffic flowing in one of the busiest sections of the A1.

0:19:010:19:06

Adam, can you drop that camera for us?

0:19:060:19:10

It's now October and it's the Friday before half-term,

0:19:100:19:14

so the A1 will soon be busy with people heading out on holiday.

0:19:140:19:17

Yeah, we have in excess of 60, 70 cameras that cover the A1,

0:19:190:19:25

predominantly around the A1 western bypass.

0:19:250:19:27

You know, there's a nice one with the Angel Of The North

0:19:270:19:29

in the background. That's an accident blackspot.

0:19:290:19:32

Blaydon Bridge, that crosses the Tyne.

0:19:320:19:34

There's no hard shoulder on the bridge.

0:19:340:19:36

So when something does break down,

0:19:360:19:38

traffic does start coming to a standstill really quickly.

0:19:380:19:41

So far, apart from the odd breakdown, it's been a quiet shift.

0:19:410:19:45

I'll get two to go to the other one.

0:19:450:19:47

And then we'll sort it out from there, mate.

0:19:470:19:50

It's a bit of an average day.

0:19:500:19:52

We're not having anything overstretched.

0:19:520:19:55

But, to be honest, within five minutes, that could soon change.

0:19:560:19:59

And just minutes later, Ian's prediction comes true.

0:20:020:20:05

NCC, you're speaking to Adam.

0:20:070:20:09

Reports are coming in that live electricity cables have fallen onto

0:20:090:20:13

the carriageway, blocking the road.

0:20:130:20:15

It's a ScottishPower cable.

0:20:170:20:19

It's attached to a pole going across the A1.

0:20:190:20:22

And the pole's either been struck by lightning or it's been hit

0:20:220:20:25

and it's collapsed and the cables are across the floor.

0:20:250:20:28

Are police attending, I presume?

0:20:280:20:29

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

0:20:290:20:32

We don't know what's happened.

0:20:320:20:34

It's potentially a very dangerous situation,

0:20:340:20:36

and it could hardly have happened in a worse location.

0:20:360:20:39

The actual incident is within this section.

0:20:400:20:44

It's single carriageway up at Berwick.

0:20:440:20:46

There's very little dual carriageway up there.

0:20:460:20:48

So it does have potential to cause disruption to a lot of traffic.

0:20:480:20:52

The timing's also going to cause issues.

0:20:520:20:55

It's Friday, before the half-term, so we are getting the...

0:20:550:20:59

It's historically the last week of caravanning,

0:20:590:21:04

so we will have a lot of people travelling for long weekends.

0:21:040:21:08

Probably in the next two hours,

0:21:080:21:10

the traffic will be picking up in that area.

0:21:100:21:13

So we'll hopefully be looking to resolve this

0:21:130:21:15

in the next couple of hours.

0:21:150:21:16

With one of the major roads between England and Scotland closed,

0:21:180:21:21

it's a serious accident and Ian needs to head to the scene.

0:21:210:21:25

Kelvin, is ScottishPower at scene at the minute, over?

0:21:270:21:30

In Berwick, the road is closed in both directions.

0:21:310:21:35

Traffic is being sent on a five-mile diversion.

0:21:350:21:38

1-1, I'm now at scene, I'm going to be liaising with contractors, over.

0:21:380:21:43

-RADIO:

-I'll await your update.

0:21:430:21:44

Right, John,

0:21:480:21:49

I understand the cables have gone down, is that right?

0:21:490:21:52

-This is what's happened.

-Right.

-Pole's snapped right at the top.

0:21:520:21:55

There's obviously been a problem up here with one of these dishes.

0:21:550:21:58

-It's burnt away.

-Right.

0:21:580:21:59

And it's been trying to track down the pole.

0:21:590:22:01

What it's done is it's hit the weakest point

0:22:010:22:03

and the pole's snapped.

0:22:030:22:04

Right, got you.

0:22:040:22:06

But with the cables suspended,

0:22:060:22:08

Ian's struggling to grasp why the A1 cannot be reopened.

0:22:080:22:12

Sorry, just for my ignorance, I suppose,

0:22:120:22:14

this vehicle's doing what at the minute?

0:22:140:22:16

It's holding up this line.

0:22:160:22:17

-Right.

-Once we release the tension on these conductors...

0:22:170:22:20

-Yeah.

-..there's nothing holding that line up.

0:22:200:22:22

-Oh, sorry, that way.

-That way.

-Got you. Right.

0:22:220:22:25

So from post, that way. Right.

0:22:250:22:28

There's no way the road can open until the work is complete.

0:22:290:22:33

The question's been asked just from my hierarchy down south,

0:22:330:22:37

is can we get this open in the near future?

0:22:370:22:40

Right. I've already discussed it with the guys in the bottom, there.

0:22:400:22:43

I would be reluctant to let traffic come through here.

0:22:430:22:46

Right.

0:22:470:22:48

The road has already been closed for three and a half hours

0:22:500:22:53

and it's now approaching tea-time on a half term weekend.

0:22:530:22:56

But there's nothing Ian can do but wait.

0:22:560:22:59

Six counties away near Doncaster,

0:23:040:23:06

two traffic officers also have a problem to deal with.

0:23:060:23:09

A car has been sat on the hard shoulder of this busy stretch for

0:23:120:23:16

three hours and Paul Day and Rob Larkin need it shifting.

0:23:160:23:19

I've phoned your friend, he says he's 15 minutes away, which is fine.

0:23:210:23:25

But because you've had over the time that they've given you...

0:23:250:23:28

-Yeah.

-..what I'm going to do,

0:23:280:23:30

is I'm going to start our removal process going.

0:23:300:23:33

It won't matter to you, it just means that they're running

0:23:330:23:36

and if he can't find you or something else goes wrong,

0:23:360:23:39

this can't stay here any longer.

0:23:390:23:41

-OK?

-OK.

-So what they'll do,

0:23:410:23:43

they'll come and they'll remove the car from the side of the motorway.

0:23:430:23:47

Safest place, which is the next junction.

0:23:470:23:49

And that will be the cost. OK?

0:23:500:23:52

The driver, Bogdan, has been waiting for his friend to come and rescue

0:23:520:23:56

him ever since his tyre blew out. But his friend hasn't shown up.

0:23:560:24:00

He's called somebody. He's saying that they can't find him.

0:24:020:24:05

So he's gone to a house up here

0:24:050:24:07

to then use their phone to call him again.

0:24:070:24:10

I've rung him again and he's saying he's eight miles away.

0:24:100:24:13

This lad's saying he's in Royston, which is eight miles away.

0:24:130:24:17

-Barnsley?

-Yeah.

0:24:170:24:18

So what I think we do, is we get start rolling, regardless...

0:24:180:24:24

..and we give it 15 minutes.

0:24:250:24:27

I think that's the safest way.

0:24:270:24:29

Yeah. Well, he's had his time, hasn't he?

0:24:290:24:31

-He's had three hours. He's had three and a half hours.

-Yeah.

0:24:310:24:34

Though hard shoulders can be used for emergencies,

0:24:370:24:39

they are not the safest place to stop.

0:24:390:24:43

Now Paul has spotted something that makes this incident

0:24:430:24:46

even more dangerous. Bogdan's wife is still in the car.

0:24:460:24:50

Has your wife got a warm coat?

0:24:520:24:54

Yes, blanket from her sister.

0:24:540:24:56

Right, she needs to get out of the car,

0:24:560:24:59

because if any of these come across here and hit that car,

0:24:590:25:03

-there will be trouble, all right?

-OK.

-All right.

0:25:030:25:06

Highways England's advice is always to stand away from your vehicle

0:25:060:25:10

in event of a breakdown, whatever the weather.

0:25:100:25:13

Keep watching traffic, because it's dangerous, all right?

0:25:140:25:17

Stay here.

0:25:170:25:18

Doreen was on her way to an interview,

0:25:180:25:20

an interview she will now miss.

0:25:200:25:22

I'm OK. I'm a little disappointed

0:25:240:25:26

because I didn't get to the interview.

0:25:260:25:29

I will send them an e-mail when I get home.

0:25:310:25:33

It was for team manager, the interview.

0:25:330:25:37

Yes, I am pretty sad about it because it was a good job.

0:25:380:25:41

We will see.

0:25:440:25:45

If the couple don't shift the car soon,

0:25:460:25:49

a removal truck will move it for them and it will cost £150.

0:25:490:25:54

But just as Bogdan is starting to give up hope about his friend showing up...

0:25:540:25:59

This could be him. The guy on the bridge.

0:25:590:26:02

You need to tell this fella how to get here.

0:26:020:26:04

..he appears, albeit in the wrong place.

0:26:040:26:08

Luckily, Rob knows a quick route down and soon the elusive friend

0:26:080:26:12

can get to work, with a bit of help from Paul.

0:26:120:26:14

Don't lift it any higher than that.

0:26:160:26:18

Take them nuts out, and then hit it.

0:26:180:26:21

Because I don't think that wheel will come off.

0:26:210:26:23

I think the wheel will be stuck on, because it's absolutely solid, that.

0:26:230:26:26

Because them wheel nuts were so tight, the alloy's fused to the hub.

0:26:260:26:31

It oxidises and it causes a really tight seal.

0:26:310:26:35

It happens a lot.

0:26:350:26:37

I don't want it too high, because he's got to get that wheel off.

0:26:370:26:39

The wheel is fixed, and all's well that, after three and a half hours,

0:26:410:26:45

finally ends well.

0:26:450:26:47

I'm now happy because everything is OK.

0:26:490:26:54

And there's just some time for some friendly advice from Paul.

0:26:540:26:58

If you ever need it again,

0:26:580:26:59

you need to use the emergency phones at the side of the road.

0:26:590:27:02

They tell you, tell us, exactly where you are,

0:27:020:27:06

and you can talk to us.

0:27:060:27:08

Then our control room could have put you through to your friend

0:27:080:27:11

and patched you in, and it would have been resolved on the phone.

0:27:110:27:14

Yeah? All right?

0:27:140:27:16

So just keep that in mind when you are travelling up and down.

0:27:160:27:19

Thank you, thank you.

0:27:190:27:21

OK, hope your job goes OK.

0:27:210:27:23

And thanks to the traffic officers,

0:27:230:27:26

Bogdan and his wife, Doreen, are back on the road.

0:27:260:27:29

100 miles north of Doncaster,

0:27:310:27:33

the A1 nears the Tyne and Wear city of Sunderland.

0:27:330:27:36

Today, plans are underway for a huge fireworks display.

0:27:380:27:42

But heavy storms are battering the seafront.

0:27:420:27:45

Organiser Steve Hobbs has travelled up the A1

0:27:470:27:50

directly from a rather sunnier south of England.

0:27:500:27:53

I set out this morning, and I was feeling quite optimistic.

0:27:540:27:57

I was looking at the blue sky and no clouds.

0:27:570:28:00

Probably about Wetherby, I think it was, or something,

0:28:000:28:03

the clouds started to close in.

0:28:030:28:05

Unfortunately, the old cliche of it being cold and wet in the North

0:28:070:28:12

seemed to be coming to light.

0:28:120:28:13

Certainly when I came round the corner here to get to the first

0:28:130:28:17

sight of the pier and saw the waves crashing over it,

0:28:170:28:19

I thought I was going to have a challenging day.

0:28:190:28:21

Meanwhile, Matt and Fraser have also arrived with their fireworks

0:28:240:28:27

for tonight's event.

0:28:270:28:29

I was expecting it to be nice sunshine and calm winds.

0:28:310:28:38

Unfortunately, we've got high winds, rain, and we've had sleet as well.

0:28:380:28:42

Not what I was anticipating.

0:28:420:28:44

My car felt like it was going to blow over.

0:28:440:28:46

I've just got my boots on.

0:28:460:28:47

The wind caught the van.

0:28:490:28:50

If it turns, we'll just have to pull the plug.

0:28:500:28:53

With such rough conditions, Steve must brief the team.

0:28:550:28:59

Welcome to Sunderland.

0:28:590:29:01

This is our firing site.

0:29:010:29:03

We are not going right out to the end, because, as you can see,

0:29:040:29:08

the water is breaking over it.

0:29:080:29:10

Obviously, please be very careful.

0:29:100:29:11

Tarpaulins, bags, tool boxes, cars, may blow over the side.

0:29:110:29:18

We've got to compensate for the wind, so we need to angle this way,

0:29:180:29:21

I think, to spread the show a bit.

0:29:210:29:23

They've just told me the forecast for this evening is 37 knots.

0:29:230:29:28

If it's going to be that strong, I'm not at all sure

0:29:280:29:33

whether it's going to be worth doing the show.

0:29:330:29:35

But what I'll probably do is call the organisers

0:29:350:29:37

-to see what they think. All right?

-Can I go get an ice cream?

0:29:370:29:41

Of course!

0:29:410:29:42

After ferrying one tonne of fireworks on the A1 for hours,

0:29:440:29:48

Matt and Fraser are keen to put on a display, rain or shine.

0:29:480:29:52

But organiser Steve is still worried that tonight

0:29:540:29:57

could be a wash-out.

0:29:570:29:58

The biggest fear I've got is that

0:29:580:30:00

if we get the water breaking over the side of the breakwater -

0:30:000:30:04

you can see it is pretty high on the side, there -

0:30:040:30:07

we really don't want the electrics of the show to be doused

0:30:070:30:11

in salt water, because that would cause us problems.

0:30:110:30:14

I'm extremely cold, but I'm still dry.

0:30:140:30:18

-Still dry.

-Me, I'm drenched.

0:30:180:30:20

I can feel it. I'm soaked.

0:30:200:30:22

But then the bad weather closes in.

0:30:250:30:28

Steve's concerns are growing,

0:30:280:30:30

so he calls head office for a second opinion.

0:30:300:30:32

-PHONE:

-As it stands, as a show, worst case, we can't fire,

0:30:320:30:36

-we don't even think we can set it up.

-Yeah.

0:30:360:30:38

Best-case scenario, we have to pull the big ones out,

0:30:380:30:41

but we'll also need to knock time off the show.

0:30:410:30:44

That's helpful, thanks.

0:30:440:30:45

What Reno suggested, which is a good compromise,

0:30:470:30:51

is the possibility that we cut the show back, take the shells out,

0:30:510:30:55

because they're the high-flying effects which will take off most

0:30:550:30:58

in the wind. That would allow us to come closer in shore,

0:30:580:31:01

because of the smaller effects.

0:31:010:31:03

I've never had to pull a show before.

0:31:030:31:05

I've rigged in some pretty bad conditions,

0:31:080:31:10

but I think this is the worst I've ever seen.

0:31:100:31:13

There's no point doing an unsatisfactory show to two guys

0:31:130:31:16

and a dog standing on the beach at nine o'clock at night.

0:31:160:31:19

If conditions don't improve, Steve could be forced to pull the plug.

0:31:190:31:23

Could Matt and Fraser's great journey have been for nothing?

0:31:240:31:27

Keeping the A1 moving is a priority for any traffic incident manager.

0:31:300:31:34

80 miles north of Sunderland in Berwick, though,

0:31:360:31:39

Ian Lee has a huge problem.

0:31:390:31:41

On this stretch of single-lane road, the A1 has been completely closed

0:31:420:31:47

for four hours after a power cable fell onto the carriageway.

0:31:470:31:51

-RADIO:

-Problems currently on the A1 at Berwick,

0:31:510:31:53

they've closed the A1 there.

0:31:530:31:55

All traffic is having to divert through Berwick.

0:31:550:31:58

Ian is battling to get the road reopened,

0:31:580:32:01

because busy half-term traffic is mounting up.

0:32:010:32:03

-PHONE:

-In terms of the incident, I know you're at the scene,

0:32:050:32:08

have you got any other update?

0:32:080:32:10

I can give you an update. I've been here literally ten minutes.

0:32:100:32:13

I've spoke to SP Energy, who are the contractors for this area.

0:32:130:32:16

There's now no cables at all on the A1,

0:32:160:32:19

but what we do have is a four-wheel drive vehicle keeping the tension on

0:32:190:32:26

the existing three cables that are crossing,

0:32:260:32:30

that go to things like customers' houses, etc, etc.

0:32:300:32:34

This tension can't be released.

0:32:340:32:37

Is that work planned to take the next eight hours, Ian,

0:32:380:32:42

in terms of getting those works done?

0:32:420:32:44

At the minute all he's given us is that original time slot.

0:32:440:32:48

I suspect he gave me one of them looks as if to say,

0:32:480:32:50

"If you stop talking to us,

0:32:500:32:52

"I'll get it done quicker as well," but, erm...

0:32:520:32:54

There's nothing more Ian can do

0:32:560:32:58

than wait while the engineers try to fix the lines.

0:32:580:33:01

Over the top far side now.

0:33:040:33:07

So the road has been shut for quite some time now.

0:33:150:33:18

The original incident came in around 12.40 this afternoon.

0:33:200:33:24

It's now 6.35, so we're still looking at probably about 10.30,

0:33:240:33:30

11 o'clock reopening time.

0:33:300:33:34

With a damaged pole and cables already being replaced,

0:33:390:33:42

the engineers are making better progress than expected.

0:33:420:33:46

Contractor John finally has some encouraging news for Ian.

0:33:460:33:50

If all is good, I don't want to...

0:33:500:33:52

Oh, go on, excite us, mate.

0:33:520:33:54

If all is good...

0:33:540:33:55

-..eight o'clock?

-That will do for us.

0:33:570:34:00

Might get back for the last gin and tonic.

0:34:000:34:02

Two hours on, John has proved as good as his word.

0:34:050:34:09

Champion. Right.

0:34:090:34:10

The repairs are now complete.

0:34:100:34:13

Now Ian needs to get the road moving once more.

0:34:130:34:15

The incident support, they will go down to the bottom closure now.

0:34:170:34:19

As soon as we make sure that the southbound is clear,

0:34:190:34:23

they will open that and we will also strip back the northbound

0:34:230:34:26

and then the road will be fully open.

0:34:260:34:28

You know, three hours ahead of schedule

0:34:300:34:32

is an absolute bonus for us.

0:34:320:34:33

For Ian, it's been a successful end to a tough day...

0:34:360:34:38

..and he might even get home for that drink after all.

0:34:410:34:43

Happy days?

0:34:470:34:49

Nearly 200 miles south, the A1 cuts through the heart of Yorkshire.

0:34:540:34:59

It's rush hour and just west of Doncaster, traffic officers

0:35:000:35:04

Paul Day and Rob Larkin are trying to reach

0:35:040:35:07

a couple with a baby who have broken down on the hard shoulder.

0:35:070:35:12

We have driven past a breakdown. Unfortunately we are in the wrong

0:35:120:35:15

lane to get behind it so we have driven round to attend it.

0:35:150:35:19

The lady is out of the car but she's carrying a young kid with her

0:35:190:35:23

so we will go and welfare this, make sure she's all right.

0:35:230:35:27

This stretch of the A1 is unlit, so anybody stranded

0:35:280:35:32

by the side of the road is particularly vulnerable.

0:35:320:35:35

But if they are trying to look after children,

0:35:360:35:38

the risks are even greater.

0:35:380:35:40

-Evening.

-How are you doing?

-You all right?

-Yeah.

0:35:400:35:43

-What's the problem?

-Broke down.

0:35:440:35:46

-Literally coming down there.

-Yeah?

-Just conked out on me.

0:35:460:35:49

-Right.

-Luckily I was on the side of the lane, so...

0:35:490:35:54

Yeah. I've phoned a recovery truck anyway, they're on their way out.

0:35:540:35:57

They said they will be here in about 20 minutes.

0:35:570:35:59

-Fantastic. What's your name, boss?

-Miles.

0:35:590:36:02

Standing away from the car and with recovery en route,

0:36:030:36:07

they are doing everything they should,

0:36:070:36:08

but Paul is still keen to make sure they are safe and warm.

0:36:080:36:12

Hello, beautiful.

0:36:120:36:13

Do you want a foil blanket for him?

0:36:140:36:16

-Yes, please.

-We'll sort it out.

0:36:160:36:19

I'll nip back and get you a foil blanket then.

0:36:190:36:21

Do you want one? Are you warm enough?

0:36:210:36:23

-I'm all right.

-Sure? Yeah.

0:36:230:36:25

While Paul gets the blankets, Rob assesses the traffic.

0:36:250:36:30

We are between junctions 36 and 37 on the northbound.

0:36:300:36:35

For me, in particular, this is a horrible stretch of road.

0:36:350:36:38

The hard shoulder is no thinner than normal but it just seems to be that

0:36:380:36:42

here, it feels a lot more unsafe than anywhere else.

0:36:420:36:47

I mean this traffic, we've had nearly a couple of bumper scuffs

0:36:470:36:51

because it's moving slowly,

0:36:510:36:53

but it's just a horrible stretch of road, it really is.

0:36:530:36:56

It's one of the most uncomfortable bits that I work on.

0:36:560:36:59

Checking up on stranded drivers offering reassurance and assistance

0:37:010:37:05

is an important part of a traffic officer's work.

0:37:050:37:07

All good? There you go.

0:37:070:37:09

-Then you go like that, you go like that.

-Cheers.

0:37:100:37:13

And it's a welcome presence for Miles and Heather.

0:37:130:37:17

The first time I've ever broke down in my car, this,

0:37:170:37:21

so it's pretty... Mayhem, really. Scary.

0:37:210:37:24

So there's not much places you can go, just keep yourself safe.

0:37:250:37:28

You are doing the right thing. Keep your eye on traffic behind you.

0:37:280:37:31

Right, boss, I'll pass your details onto our control room and they'll

0:37:310:37:34

-give you a ring, just make sure you're on your way.

-Yeah, yeah.

0:37:340:37:37

It looks like it's oil or something because it looks like

0:37:370:37:39

it's all mucky at the back, but it could be anything,

0:37:390:37:42

so, everything is good from our point of view.

0:37:420:37:44

As long as you're warm enough, we're all right.

0:37:440:37:46

-All right?

-Thanks very much.

-Not a problem, mate. See you later.

0:37:460:37:49

Paul and Rob are satisfied the young family is out of harm's way,

0:37:490:37:53

but checking on motorists with children

0:37:530:37:55

is always a top priority for traffic officers on the A1.

0:37:550:37:59

Wherever there's kids involved, we do stop straight away, don't we?

0:37:590:38:02

Yes. They get cold really quickly.

0:38:020:38:04

They don't seem to be able to maintain their body heat.

0:38:040:38:07

Well, you've got a heightened vigilance with kids.

0:38:070:38:10

Rob and Paul's swift action has helped yet more motorists stay safe

0:38:110:38:15

on the A1, and this family will soon be heading home in time for supper.

0:38:150:38:19

100 miles north of Doncaster in Sunderland,

0:38:230:38:26

the city's annual firework display is in jeopardy.

0:38:260:38:29

Following a 240-mile trip up the A1 from Luton to Sunderland,

0:38:340:38:38

Steve Hobbs and his team of experts are battling torrential rain to

0:38:380:38:43

stage one of the biggest firework shows in the north of England.

0:38:430:38:46

But the weather could mean the whole event is called off.

0:38:510:38:54

These are the hardest conditions I've ever done a show in.

0:38:550:38:58

The waves are crashing over, the wind...

0:38:580:39:01

It's been a challenge.

0:39:010:39:03

But despite the conditions,

0:39:050:39:06

the organisers have now told Steve they want to carry on regardless.

0:39:060:39:10

I'm not really surprised they want to push ahead.

0:39:120:39:14

I mean, they've invested in a big event.

0:39:140:39:16

It's a big deal to suddenly say, "Hey, we can't go ahead."

0:39:160:39:19

I mean, it's pretty rare for people to pull the plug on something

0:39:190:39:22

at such short notice.

0:39:220:39:24

I mean a bit of me almost wishes they did

0:39:240:39:26

because we are stuck out here in the pouring rain

0:39:260:39:28

but hopefully it will all go off as intended.

0:39:280:39:31

And finally, despite the high winds and lashing rain,

0:39:330:39:37

the team have done it, and there's even time to spare for a quick brew.

0:39:370:39:42

Sante. Cheers, everyone.

0:39:420:39:46

When this is made into a film, I want to be played by Russell Crowe.

0:39:460:39:50

LAUGHTER

0:39:500:39:52

All they need now are some spectators.

0:39:530:39:56

I have absolutely no idea how many people might turn up.

0:39:570:40:01

So far, my sample of one person in the cafe

0:40:010:40:04

said she wasn't going to stay to watch us!

0:40:040:40:07

It's quarter past nine, and despite the rain,

0:40:110:40:13

the crowds begin to gather.

0:40:130:40:15

And Steve has new concerns.

0:40:170:40:20

I don't know what's going to happen when we push the buttons.

0:40:200:40:23

We've had sea water breaking over some of the positions

0:40:230:40:26

we have rigged, so there's a risk that some stuff won't fire.

0:40:260:40:29

I think for all of us, it's a challenging exercise, so let's hope

0:40:290:40:33

we can bring it to a close successfully.

0:40:330:40:35

With the crowds expecting to be blown away,

0:40:360:40:39

it's the moment of truth.

0:40:390:40:41

Box on, let's have the box armed.

0:40:410:40:45

Let's go in three, two, one...

0:40:450:40:50

Go.

0:40:500:40:52

MUSIC PLAYS

0:40:520:40:55

Cue two, go!

0:41:030:41:05

After a long journey north and facing the worst possible weather,

0:41:070:41:11

it's a great outcome as the skies over Sunderland are on fire.

0:41:110:41:15

Everybody has worked really, really hard today

0:41:170:41:20

and we are one happy bunch.

0:41:200:41:22

Stand by cue three, and go.

0:41:220:41:25

MUSIC PLAYS

0:41:250:41:28

I heard some cheering -

0:41:460:41:47

I'm not sure if that was the crew or the audience!

0:41:470:41:50

For how much effort we've had to put in,

0:41:500:41:52

for what we've had to tolerate today, that was spot on.

0:41:520:41:55

That was teamwork and it was absolutely perfect.

0:41:550:41:58

Tomorrow the team will head back on the A1 again to the south.

0:42:010:42:05

For now, the work is done.

0:42:050:42:07

Once we've packed up, we're off down to a hotel

0:42:070:42:10

and we will get showered,

0:42:100:42:12

we will get dried, and if the bar is open,

0:42:120:42:14

we may have a little celebration, who knows?

0:42:140:42:17

The family who broke down on the A1

0:42:230:42:25

were recovered just a short time later and transported home.

0:42:250:42:28

The lorry's brakes were fixed at the services,

0:42:300:42:32

allowing the driver to continue his deliveries.

0:42:320:42:35

And the day after the display,

0:42:360:42:38

the fireworks team headed back down the A1 and on to France.

0:42:380:42:42

Next time: Police pull a suspected stolen car...

0:42:460:42:49

We've had a report this car is stolen.

0:42:490:42:51

..and its driver lands in double trouble.

0:42:510:42:53

Have you been drinking, mate? I can smell drink on you.

0:42:530:42:56

A truck breakdown...

0:42:580:43:00

We have got a live lane coming out here,

0:43:000:43:01

just watch traffic coming there.

0:43:010:43:03

..puts lives on the line.

0:43:030:43:05

Keep going. Steady.

0:43:050:43:07

And after a six-hour journey on the A1,

0:43:070:43:09

will this pampered pooch bring home the big prize?

0:43:090:43:12

Pretty stiff competition, so if we do well, we've done really well.

0:43:120:43:16

A lorry breakdown causes rush hour traffic chaos, emergency response teams are called after power lines collapse, and a fireworks display team faces having to abandon a seafront spectacular due to bad weather.