Press release

Clear-up initiative saving economy millions by reopening roads quicker

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Incident clear-up times improvement initiative saves the economy tens of millions of pounds.

Motorway accident

Motorists and the economy are seeing huge benefits from a government-led initiative to reopen motorways and roads quickly following major incidents, Roads Minister Stephen Hammond announced today (26 December 2012).

The ‘CLEAR’ (collision, lead, evaluate, act and reopen) initiative - launched by the Department for Transport (DfT) last year to improve incident clear-up times – is helping to save the economy tens of millions of pounds annually, with even more savings to follow.

A key achievement has been the success of 38 DfT/police-funded 3D laser scanners which allow police forces to capture evidence quickly following collisions - helping to reopen major roads and motorways more quickly.

The latest figures show an average time saving of 44 minutes per investigation – a 5 minute improvement on test estimates.

Other initiatives include the launch of a new hands-free smart phone app that notifies users of incidents and congestion, as well as the planned roll out of incident screens to shield collisions and prevent rubber necking. Time savings associated with screens alone can be up to several hundred thousand pounds per incident.

The government is confident these measures will help reduce the estimated £750 million cost to the economy that incidents cause on the strategic road network in England annually.

Road Minister Stephen Hammond said:

There is nothing more frustrating than being stuck in a traffic jam for hours on end. There is also the shocking cost of those lost hours for our economy. That is why we are improving the clear-up of incidents so we can get our motorways and major roads re-opened as quickly as possible.

We are now witnessing even greater than expected time savings as a result of the roll out of laser scanning programme. This and other elements of the initiative, such as the use of incident screens, will help to keep traffic moving and save the economy tens of millions of pounds a year.

I am very encouraged by the cooperation shown by the Highways Agency, VOSA, the Police and other emergency services, and fully expect these initiatives to result in further time and cost savings in the future.

Assistant Chief Constable Sean White, lead on collision investigations for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), said:

This equipment allows police to manage critical events in a more efficient way and present the most accurate and detailed evidence to criminal, civil and coroners’ courts.

The time saved by using this technology is more economically friendly and reduces disruption on the roads, while allowing for thorough investigations to take place.

It is encouraging to see the success of this equipment, which has reduced delays for road users and proved extremely important in police investigations.

Other benefits of CLEAR include:

  • VOSA and the Highways Agency signing a memorandum of understanding to facilitate data sharing about heavy goods vehicles. Studies have shown this type of vehicle is involved in a high proportion of the longest incidents. VOSA is working closely with operators to make sure problems are addressed.
  • the roll out by the Highways Agency of new towing equipment (load cells) to remove heavier vehicles obstructing live lanes and spill kits to clear spillages from motorway lanes. Time savings associated with the use of load cells have been estimated at several million pounds
  • the production and distribution of a CLEAR booklet to emergency responders outlining the roles and responsibilities of key organisations involved in managing incidents on the strategic road network. The Highways Agency has also produced a film reinforcing the booklet’s messages
  • the revision of emergency response guidance, training and learning to take on board CLEAR principles
  • the revision of the 2007 Road Death Investigation Manual (RDIM) – the guiding doctrine of ACPO and the 43 police forces of England and Wales to investigate and report on collisions that have resulted in a death. This is expected to be published in early 2013

A report which sets out the next steps of CLEAR is currently being finalised for publication next year.

Notes to editors

Laser scanners

Laser Scanning Technology (LST) saves time by quickly making a 3D image of the whole incident scene, rather than investigators painstakingly surveying multiple sections of a scene. This digital image of the site can then be viewed on a computer screen remotely allowing investigators to take measurements of where vehicles are in relation to each other and examine other important evidence.

In 2009, the Highways Agency carried out an independent trial of 3D laser scanning technology using results from separate trials conducted by the Metropolitan Police Service and Humberside Police. The trials found that on average using laser scanners saved a total of 39 minutes on investigation time per incident.

38 laser scanners were funded by DfT and the Police for use by 27 police authorities at a cost of £4 million.

Latest figures relate to information compiled from incidents over 4 months from forces using them on the strategic road network.

CLEAR

In 2010 the Police, Highways Agency, Ambulance and Fire Services, VOSA, and related sponsoring departments came together to review evidence and knowledge about the handling of motorway incidents, and to make recommendations for improvement.

The resultant report, published in May 2011 as the ‘Review of investigation and closure procedures for motorways incidents’ (PDF, 345KB), made 10 recommendations and came together as the CLEAR initiative. The recommendations included further analytical work and some more immediate actions around, for example, supporting the wider roll out of laser scanning technology for the police to assist in speeding up incident investigation.

Congestion on the strategic road network is estimated to cost the economy £3 billion each year, 25% of which is caused by incidents.

A single incident that closes a 3 lane motorway for 4 hours can cost several million pounds in lost time, and there are some 80,000 incidents that impact at least one motorway lane each year.

If CLEAR makes just 5% difference to the cost of congestion on the SRN it could save over £30 million.

Incident screens

There are 105 sets of incident screens which will be made available for use by the Highways Agency next year.

Each set has 30 screens which are loaded onto purpose-built trailers and can screen up to 75 metres if used end-to-end (the individual screens are approximately 2.1 by two metres high).

They cost £2.3 million with each set costing £22,000.

Smart phone app

The Highways Agency app received 5,000 hits within the first 2 months of its launch. Further information is available.

Spill kits

HA traffic officers will be equipped with spill kits to clear up small spillages such as fuel or other fluids which leak onto the carriageways from vehicles. The spill kits will absorb small spills and will allow the road to be safely re-opened while reducing damage to the carriageway.

Load Cells

Load cells will be fitted to the tow straps used by traffic officers and will allow them to clear live lanes - moving heavier or damaged vehicles to the nearest place of safety. The load cell acts as a strain gauge and will ensure that the safe towing load is not exceeded.

Roads media enquiries

Published 26 December 2012