Leaked documents reveal that the response to a tragic accident which left the M6 being closed for a whole day last month was beset with errors.
Thousands of drivers were stuck in traffic hell after a collision on the motorway on February 4 which was exacerbated by crews stuck in traffic, fuel spills not being communicated, a lack of signs and delays in resurfacing.
A Highways England debrief lists more than a dozen failings which hindered the response when police had to close off lanes to investigate after a fatality involving two HGVs and one car.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said the “outrageous” response came as the incident cost the region tens of millions of pounds.
The document reveals:
- Crews did not take the correct routes to the scene – and were held up in the queues.
- A fuel spill was not reported until five and a half hours after incident, during rush hour.
- There was a discussion around the fuel spillage on scene – but it was not fed back to the Regional Control Centre.
- Uncertainty about how far the fuel had seeped into the carriageway.
- At 7am the control centre was advised there were no crews from Kier to remove the spillage. This was down to shift changes between 6am and 8am – although there was a crew available at the Doxey depot at junction 14.
- There were no signs available which had four lanes on.
- Wider impacts on roads outside Highways England control “did not seem to be addressed”.
- Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG) was not included in teleconferences – which “may have been benefitted decision-making”.
- The option to run on a planed surface “wasn’t fully explored”.
- There was a “delay in decision to resurface” due to a focus on mitigating the spillage.
- There was no decision log set up.
- There was no indication of a fuel spillage when the scene was handed over from the CMPG.
- While it was accepted it was a common incident, it was not treated as such. The document states: “This incident should have been Routine Operations.”
Transport in many parts of Birmingham ground to a halt after the M6 was closed between junctions 5 and 6 as a result of the collision.
The incident occurred at 1.50am on February 4 and the fuel spillage was first reported at 7.20am.
- 04/02/2016 1000’s trapped on M6
- 08/03/2016 Coventry Telegraph
- 18/03/2016 Police chief attacks Highways England over M6 closure debacle – “Crime Commissioner David Jamieson told a public inquiry that the organisation had “quite a lot of learning to do” after claims it did not want to release documents outlining what had happened”. … “Highways England’s attitude was to keep quiet and keep low”.
- 22/03/2016 Highways England’s written submission to the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner’s questions – click here
- 23/03/2016 Police and partners “plan to plan for unplanned motorway closures” after M6 crash chaos – Coventry Telegraph