Jamie's cool head helps keep the traffic moving


29 Sep 2022

As we witnessed souring temperatures over the summer, at National Highways we need cool heads to keep our customers on the move. All around the country, our control room colleagues are making sure that our network is operating smoothly and safely, whatever the weather.

Jamie Tomlin, a Senior Network Planner based at our East Midlands Regional Operations Centre in Nottingham, shares some insights.

Jamie and his colleagues look after some 1800 miles of our network. Their patch includes the M1 - and as hundreds of thousands of drivers notch up more than 21 million miles on the M1 every day, accounting for one in seven of all motorway journeys - they have to be ready for anything.

“It’s important that we plan for all eventualities and close collaboration with the emergency services is vital, especially when there could be increased demand on things like ambulances and the fire service using our motorways," Jamie said.

"My colleague Phil Shaw and I also make sure that we’re bringing together a variety of teams from across the company to understand the risks and co-ordinate our preparations and response.

“For example, most of our repair teams work overnight because the roads are much quieter - but quite often, we need the road surface to cool and cure adequately before reopening.

“Naturally, if the temperatures don’t drop much at night for the road surface to cool down before traffic can run on it again, we need to consider whether we need to start the repair work earlier. The knock-on effect of that means we need to think about what impact that might have on drivers and the emergency services who rely on our road network.

“We’re also aware that sitting in a traffic jam amid soaring temperatures isn’t a pleasant experience for anyone, so that’s always at the forefront of our minds.”

As a former teacher, Jamie understands the value of thorough preparation. “When you’re a teacher, you spend most of the weekend looking ahead to the coming weeks so you’re planning different lessons for the various classes and year groups, considering details such as equipment for experiments and adaptations for individual student’s needs,” he said.

“But in amongst all of that, you must make sure that you are looking and planning for the medium and long term. That means considering if you can fit the syllabus into the term time. It’s all about intricate planning and those skills stood me in good stead for this role.

“We always have planned events in the calendar that we know are coming such as the Grand Prix at Silverstone and Download Festival which attract people from all over the country and the world. They’re huge global events and that means we’ll have even more people using our network than a normal working day.

“Quite often we start planning work for those events several months in advance to make sure we can deal with anything which might arise in a safe manner with as little disruption as possible. Our aim is always to keep people moving.

“The other side of my role means that we have unplanned events such as the weather which we’re experiencing this week.

“We always work very closely with our severe weather colleagues who monitor weather patterns to make sure we have resilience plans in place to cope with the heat of the summer and the impacts of winter. That forward planning is crucial because it means we can plan our work much more effectively.”

Jamie also has some advice for those of us who may be travelling over the next few days.

“We know that it’s going to be hot so it’s always a good idea to make sure your vehicle’s cooling system is operating correctly, check your tyres and take plenty of water with you on your journey for you and your passengers,” added Jamie. “Nobody wants to be sat the side of the road because of a breakdown especially during a heatwave".