On the recent discussion concerning road traffic collisions

I’m a big supporter of people in the industry coming up with ideas to solve problems that coach operators face. I’m a big fan of such people lobbying their elected representatives to inform them of problems they face and submitting suggestions for action that needs to be taken to make life easier.

However, I do think that when people come up with such ideas their proposals should be well thought out and credible. If not, then our elected representatives may not be inclined to take the industry seriously.

The recent discussion concerning the time it takes to reopen roads after serious road traffic collisions is a case in point. The suggestion that crash scene investigations be time limited received short shrift from the government. Given the thorough but time-consuming forensic examinations that are carried out by crash scene investigators, no change of policy appears to be forthcoming.

Further, I note that Dave Parry has suggested that in Germany things are different. In the original news story, published online on 27 October 2021, he says: “In Germany, accidents are cleared very quickly so traffic can move again”. In another letter he says: “In Germany, accidents are sorted and cleared in a very reasonable amount of time”.

Due to the lack of supporting evidence and the apparent inconsistency in these assertions, I decided to investigate a bit further. After all, if the Germans are doing things differently and do indeed get their roads open after serious accidents faster than we do, then given the consequences for this industry, we should find out what they’re doing and let our government know. So I sent a letter to the German Embassy in London to ask whether the Germans actually do manage to clear their roads faster than we do. With regard to the apparent speed with which the Germans act, the reply from the German Embassy says:

“Serious road traffic accidents in Germany are dealt with by the police force in the relevant Bundesland (federal state). Therefore, procedures and regulations for road closures and investigations of such accidents may differ slightly. Generally, following certain accidents, a complete road closure may indeed be necessary. If required, these closures can be kept in place for several hours.”

Now, this all may warrant further research to get to the bottom of who is right here: Mr Parry or the German Embassy. But I’m not persuaded that the UK government would think the Germans always do things any faster on the basis of this evidence.

We now have a further idea to keep the traffic moving. Mr Parry has suggested that we should be “arranging more emergency exits on motorways.”

So what’s the plan here then? Sounds great. Can’t wait to hear more. I do however have a few questions. What does he mean by “more” emergency exits? Having plied my trade as a professional driver throughout the UK, I wasn’t aware we had any. Or is he perhaps suggesting that some of the “back doors” to motorway service stations, for example, be put into use? I used some of these during a short spell as an AA Relay driver. In many cases, they lead into country lanes. Suddenly filling them with streams of heavy traffic could cause even more problems and delays. The staff required to manage such an operation might also be better deployed getting the motorway cleared.

Or is he suggesting that new emergency exits be built? If so, I hope supporters of this idea will let readers know how much this will cost. The figure I have seen suggest that a bog standard motorway junction costs, sometimes, well north of £10m. Then there must be the need for stretches of new road to link the emergency exit to the existing road network. How much will they cost? Where will the emergency exits be best placed? Are there accident blackspots on the motorway network? If not, and accidents occur in a totally
random manner, how far apart should the emergency exits be placed? Every 10 miles? Every mile? With a motorway network some 2,241 miles in length, that’s a lot of emergency exits and a lot of money. And, what happens if an accident happens just before an emergency exit? Before this idea gets anywhere near the corridors of power, we could do with a lot more detail here. Otherwise, I fear that the poor old taxpayer will think that lots of emergency exits and stretches of emergency link road that cost millions and millions of pounds that are rarely used is very poor value for money.

By way of an alternative for those heading to the West Country, should the M5 ever be closed, operators and drivers might want to note that when the M5 and the new A30 west of Exeter were built they were, largely, completely new roads. If you use the stretches of the A38 that run parallel to the M5 that avoid major cities, the old roads are still there and are still in good shape being good two and three lane ‘A’ roads. Using a map, or even better, Google Street View, can help you find them.

Alan Payling, Torquay

Editor’s note: This topic is now closed for discussion.