West Midlands Traffic Officers become stars of the small screen!
15 Sep 2023
Traffic Officers and Control Room Operators from across the West Midlands are to feature in the latest series of Channel 5’s documentary looking at the work of National Highways.
Share this article
The Motorway, which airs at 8pm from Monday 25 September, is the third series of the popular programme which goes behind the scenes at the company responsible for operating, maintaining and improving motorways and major A roads in England.
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 North West and West Midlands.
The new series, which is made up of 20 episodes, shows how traffic officers and the control room deal with incidents including a car fire on the M5, a taxi with a tyre blowout on Spaghetti Junction, collisions on the A500 near Stoke-on-Trent, and even loose sheep and a runaway dog called Ruby, both on the M6 in Staffordshire.
Traffic Officer Aries Banton can be seen in a number of episodes managing incidents and helping road users who have got into difficulty.
Aries, who is based at the Hilton Park outstation in Staffordshire has been with National Highways for nearly five years, originally working in the customer contact centre before becoming a Traffic Officer 18 months ago.
He said: “There’s no greater reward for me than seeing someone walk away happy after we’ve helped them. Very often when we come across someone in difficulty they can be upset, anxious or distressed, but they see our flashing beacons coming up behind them and there's instant relief that help is at hand. It’s a great feeling.
“I really enjoyed being part of the filming process. There was good rapport with the film crew and eventually you forget they’re there. Volunteering to be in the show was important for me as it’s a great way to show people the vital work we do to ensure the motorways are kept running and why we sometimes have to close lanes or reduce speed limits to keep everyone safe.”
The incident that really stood out for the aptly-named Aries was herding up runaway sheep on the M6 in Staffordshire. They had got loose from their field and were in danger of walking into the carriageway. “I’m not a big fan of dealing with animals on the road. They can be so unpredictable and pose a real risk to road users. You try to get them away from danger but they often have other ideas. Luckily in this incident we had help from a local farmer and there was a good outcome, plus I can now add shepherd to my CV!”
Regional Operations Centre Operator Drew Wilson features in two of the episodes, despatching crews and managing incidents including a group of students who break down on the hard shoulder of the M6, and a van that runs out of fuel.
Drew has worked in the West Midlands control room twice. He originally joined in 2007 but left in 2020 to live in New Zealand for two years before returning in 2022. He grew up in New Zealand after his parents emigrated there from Glasgow.
He said: “I love the job. Every day is different. Every day you’re helping someone new and that’s what makes it brilliant. I like that this documentary shows people what goes on behind the scenes in the control room. It’s the side people don’t see. They might see the traffic officers out on the road dealing with an incident, but they don’t see the control room staff juggling more than one incident, despatching crews, setting signals, liaising with the police and dealing with sometimes distressing calls from members of the public.
“I think it will be a real eye opener for people to see the highs and the lows, to experience the bigger picture and to hopefully bring a realisation that we don’t close roads without an exceptionally good reason. It’s all done to keep people safe.”
National Highways Customer Service Director Andy Butterfield said: “Our colleagues do an amazing job in keeping our motorways running and helping road users. They’re faced with major challenges, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and the new series of The Motorway demonstrates this perfectly, shining a light on the sterling work that goes on to keep our customers on the move.
“We received very positive feedback on the first two series from people who didn’t realise the complexities and dangers our staff face on the road, whether that be dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic incident or running the risk of being injured by drivers ignoring the Red X which has closed a lane for safety. It gave them a better understanding and appreciation of our role which is why we were delighted to welcome Fearless Television back for a third time. We hope people enjoy watching the new episodes.”
Executive Producer for Fearless Television Amanda Murray said: "It was great to get back on the road with the brilliant staff at National Highways, working on some of the busiest motorways in Britain.
“The Motorway sees how expert staff in control rooms, call centres and out on the road all work together to keep our motorways running smoothly - dealing with everything from swans and sheep that bring the motorway to a standstill, to multiple car pile ups, overnight roadworks, upturned trucks in treacherous weather, car fires and breakdowns. Packed with drama and stories of rescue, it’s the dedicated team at National Highways who approach their work with such vigour and care for the general public, that makes for such an illuminating, engaging and entertaining series with great characters at its heart."
Commissioning Editor, Channel 5 and Paramount +, Lucy Willis, said: 'We’re delighted that The Motorway is coming back for a third series on Channel 5. With privileged access to one of Britain’s most important organisations, I'm sure this observational series will continue to draw a wide audience as it takes us into the fascinating inner workings of National Highways to bring us heartwarming, dramatic and entertaining TV.”