National Highways teams are gearing up to make sure motorists heading home for Christmas in the South West don’t end up “top to toe in tailbacks, with red lights all around” this festive season.
While festive songs, Christmas jumpers and loading presents into the car will be the order of day for many of us, frontline teams from the organisation responsible for running England’s major A-road and motorway network will be working around the clock over the festive period to help make sure any disruption is kept to a minimum.
Last year National Highways traffic officers attended almost 400 incidents on Christmas Day according to organisational data.
This year, traffic officer colleagues in the South West will be supported by National Highways Duty Operations Manager, Ray Morwood, who will be working in the South West Operations Centre in Aztec West.
Ray has worked at National Highways for the past two years and says working Christmas Day can be interested and varied.
He said, “No two days are ever the same and the job is unpredictable by nature, but even more so on Christmas Day.
“In previous years when I’ve worked over Christmas it’s actually been very busy for various reasons. We’re always acutely aware that people don’t like being caught in congestion, especially on Christmas day, so we work hard behind-the-scenes to get people moving as safely and as quickly as possible.
“We will never willingly close a road because we understand the significance of people using our network.
“However, we still have a role to play in keeping people safe and if the emergency services require a closure to deal with an incident, we’re there to make sure that happens safely with as little disruption as possible for drivers.
“You never know what to expect and our staff, both out on-road and in control rooms, will be on hand 24/7 and ready to respond to all eventualities to ensure everyone using our network gets to where they need to safe and well.”
And to make sure any incidents on England’s major A-road and motorway network don’t cause widespread gridlock across the country, a hidden army of staff will also be working throughout the festive period at the National Traffic Operations Centre (NTOC) near Birmingham.
The teams working at NTOC have a strategic overview of the network – sort of like air traffic control for England’s major A-roads and motorways – and can see everything at a glance.
National Incident Liaison Officer Megan Cartwright from Old Hill will be on shift Christmas morning from 6am to 2pm.
Megan joined the company three years ago and this year will be the second time she has worked on 25th December.
She will be responsible for working with the seven regional control centres to ensure they have a strategic picture of the road network to help inform decision-making as well as keeping motorists informed of incidents on social media channels.
Megan said, “I will start my shift at around 5.45am and finish around 2pm which is a key part of the day because will be up and about to make journeys to see friends and family. Our social media channels play a key part in helping people to plan their journeys and we update them constantly to make sure everyone has the very latest information from us.
“I enjoy working on Christmas morning because there’s a real sense of teamwork here and people will often bring in food to make a breakfast. The sense of comradery is really great, and you feel part of an extended family.
“I’ll be home in the afternoon so I can spend time with my family and that’s when I’ll see my mother because she is also working on Christmas Day. As a family, we’ve become accustomed to people working shift patterns, but we always make sure we spend time to mark the occasion.”