|This Regional Control Centre in Wakefield (at the side of the M1 - junction 39) is headquarters to one of the seven regions in the UK, and this is from where the motorway cameras are monitored and the Traffic Officers are directed to incidents.
We were firstly given an insight into the way the Highways Agency came about and how the role of the Highways Officers have changed since inception.
Then we were enlightened as to the increased safety of the regions motorways with the 'managed motorway' system and the numerous cameras watching over us. This includes special loops embedded into the motorways to detect the speed of vehicles, or not as the case may be, whereby the overhead information boards will spring into life to warn motorists to slow down or move out of lanes which may be blocked ahead. This system too is due to be updated to the use of radar to detect slowing or stationary vehicles.
Have you ever seen warning signs that there is 'something' in the carriageway ahead? Or a reduced speed limit is in force? Or even a lane ahead is blocked? I am sure we have all seen at least one of these, and scratched our heads when the subsequent 'all clear' signs are reached as nothing had been visible to have caused the warnings. Easily explained .... there may have been an animal in the carriageway, or queueing traffic had cleared, or a broken down vehicle had since been moved. The moral of this story is; don't assume that these are always historic pieces of information and ignore them, one will still be relevant.
Traffic Officers no longer crawl up and down the motorways at 60mph, they park up in strategic places and wait for a call to attend an incident. This has proved to be far more efficient in arrival times, not to mention the vast cost saving on fuel.
After a question and answer session, deftly batted off by Steve and Peter, we were then shown into the control room to see the control room operators at work, all with an array of screens on their desks and in front of huge big screens on the wall keeping an eye on proceedings.
.....and why do the control room staff wear uniforms? Because, as traffic officers in the Highways Agency, they are granted the power the close roads and they could not do this without being in uniform!
And finally, rumour has it that after Janice sneaked into the drivers seat of the Shogun and had a play with all it's tech and flashing lights, that she has signed up, look out motorists of Yorkshire!
Thank you to Peter Sheldon and Steve Oxtoby for an entertaining afternoon. I know a few of us left with a heightened insight into the just how our best interests are being looked after and how much safer the regions motorways actually are in the 21st century.