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Channel 5 show to focus on National Highways’ work as traffic officers celebrate 20th anniversary

A Land Rover breaks down on the M54 in Shropshire leaving a woman, her mum, three-year-old son, nine-month-old twins and a dog stranded on the verge as high speed traffic whizzes by.

It’s just one of many West Midlands incidents to feature in the new series of The Motorway – the behind the scenes look at the work of National Highways – which starts on Channel 5 on Wednesday, 1 May.

The series coincides with the 20th anniversary of National Highway’s traffic officer front-line service, which first went live in the West Midlands on 26 April 2004.

Traffic Officers Lee Henderson and Aries Banton were despatched to the breakdown on the M54 between junctions 2 and 3.

Lee, who has been with National Highways for five-and-a-half years and works out of the Bescot outstation, said:

“When we arrived we found the car on the hard shoulder and everyone but the dog on the verge. Although recovery was on the way we stayed with the family and put out cones and hazard signs to warn other motorists.”

When recovery arrived on scene it was found the truck didn’t have the necessary fittings to secure the children’s car seats so mum Joanna called her dad to come and help.

Lee, who helped Joanna get the seats out of her stricken vehicle while calming her black Labrador sitting in the passenger footwell, added:

“It was lucky he wasn’t far away as it meant he could take the grandchildren home while his wife and daughter went in the recovery truck. She had got a real balancing act on her hands so it was important we stayed with everyone to make sure they were safe.

Sometimes it’s not about the big jobs. It’s the little jobs that can make a big difference to someone in their moment of need.

“It’s what we do day in, day out and we are always happy to help.”

The incident can be seen in the fifth episode of series four of the popular documentary which runs for ten weeks. Other stories include a lorry which crashes through the central barrier on the M6 at junction 10 near Walsall, a five-vehicle crash at Spaghetti Junction, an intoxicated pedestrian spotted walking down a slip road who then lashes out at the traffic officer sent to help them, and a crew sent to retrieve the contents of a suitcase strewn across the M6.

Crews from production company Fearless Television spent four months filming with traffic officers, control room operators, maintenance crews, customer service teams, safety representatives and contractors across the West Midlands and North West for the show. It’s the second time the West Midlands has been the setting for the programme.

National Highways staff can be seen dealing with multi-vehicle collisions, car fires, breakdowns and debris. The programme also follows maintenance crews as they carry out grass cutting and litter picking and features the team responsible for taking calls from the public in the customer contact centre just off the M5 at junction 3 near Quinton.

National Highways Customer Service Director Andy Butterfield said:

“With an average of four million journeys taking place on our network every day it’s safe to say our traffic officers and regional operations centre staff have assisted a phenomenal amount of customers both at the roadside and behind the scenes over the last two decades.

“Safety is our number one priority; it underpins everything we do and as custodian of England’s motorways and major A-roads, National Highways wants  everyone using or working on our roads to get home reliably and safely. Our frontline teams play a vital role on our roads helping to make that happen and the latest series of The Motorway demonstrates perfectly how they do that, often in challenging circumstances. We hope people enjoy watching.”

Amanda Murray, Executive Producer and founder of Fearless TV, said:

"In the 20th year of the Traffic Officer service it’s a great privilege to be able to experience the incredible work that goes on day and night out on our motorways. We are constantly amazed and impressed by the care and extraordinary efforts the traffic officers go to to keep us safe and come to our rescue when things go wrong. Bringing the experience of what it's really like out on The Motorways to the Channel 5 audience, and the detail of what it takes to keep our motorways running safely, is a challenge that is only possible through the support of National Highways and the passion of the traffic officers."

Commissioning Editor, Channel 5 and Paramount +, Lucy Willis, said:

'We’re delighted that The Motorway continues to draw a wide audience and is coming back for a fourth run on Channel 5. With privileged access, this entertaining series takes us into the fascinating inner workings of National Highways, one of Britain’s most important organisations, to bring us dramatic, heart-warming and engaging TV."

The Motorway can be seen on Channel 5 at 8pm on Wednesdays from May 1 and is also available on My5.  

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