RAC Cars News


What Does The Highways Agency Do?

By raccars Published

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The Highways Agency was designed to work as a liaison service between road network information services, emergency services and the public on Britain's core road network, mainly motorways. It is responsible for the National Traffic Information Service, (NITS), providing real time data on the condition of the road network, including traffic and incident information. The Agency also deploys uniformed officers as incident support staff, to maintain infrastructure and as emergency traffic management. Specialist workers deal with surveying, engineering, administration and accounting duties.

There are 1,700 motorway miles in the UK, managed by nearly 1,300 Highways Agency staff - 906 on the road and about 360 in regional control centres. In the last decade, the Agency has attended 2.3 million incidents, which include over 2.2 million breakdowns, 485,000 dangerous debris incidents, 266,000 collisions, 49,000 roaming animals and 33,000 fires.

The Highways Agency fleet includes 200 vehicles - mostly liveried Land Rover Discoveries and Mitsubishi Shoguns. Their standard equipment list includes a first aid kit, a shovel, equipment to deal with spillages, nine flashing lights, 20 traffic cones, six direction arrows, two 'Incident' signs, a 'No Entry' sign, a couple of brooms, a dog control pole, a crowbar, a giant privacy screen to shield accident scenes from passers by and a towing kit, capable of shifting a 44 tonne lorry. There are also electronic displays in the rear of vehicles which can display a variety of information.

On a daily basis work is routine. A regular duty is to assist motorists whose cars have taken a slap from left hand drive lorries, which tends to cause quite a few bits of the car to fall off, which then need collecting. Debris in the road is probably the second most common job. Officers receive six weeks of basic training after which they don a blue uniform and earn about £20,000 per year. They are not empowered to stop cars and arrest offending motorists but they can report them to the police. Along with more prosaic duties, the presence of a uniformed officer tends to be reassuring to those suffering from a breakdown on a motorway or at the scene of an accident.

If a team is called to an incident, its duties might include securing the scene, checking on accident victims, liaising with the control centre to report the correct information to be displayed upon overhead gantry signage, controlling other traffic on the roads and dealing with witnesses, while the emergency services perform more immediate tasks. They are then on hand to help clear the scene and reopen roads to traffic.

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