It’s going to be a real family Christmas at Highways England this year for the frontline staff helping to keep motorists safe on their Christmas Day travels.
Spending Christmas Day with the family has a bit of a twist for one married couple, a father and son and a mother and son who are among the team of traffic officers that will be at work this year.
Christmas Day was the quietest day for incidents on the motorway network last year, but Highways England’s traffic officers still dealt with 611 incidents including 343 breakdowns, 24 collisions and 17 instances of animals on the motorway last year.
Highways England’s dedicated team of traffic officers work 24/7, 365 days a year to keep traffic flowing, which means adapting the Christmas celebrations for many families.
Based at the Pridhamsleigh Outstation in Devon, Angela and Greg have worked together for the more than 10 years at Highways England and will start their Christmas Day shift at 2pm.
Deputy Team Manager Angela said:
It’s better that we both work the Christmas Day shift. We’ll pop into see our daughter en route to work and although we won’t finish until some time after 10pm, we’ll get to enjoy our Christmas Day lunch with the family a few days later on our day off.
Clocking on at 2pm with his father, Nick, is Phil who said:
We asked to work the same shift. I have a two-year-old so the late shift works out quite well for me. I will be there to watch him open his presents. We will eat before the shift starts then Dad and I will go to work.
Nick, who has worked for Highways England since 2015, said:
I was in the police for 30 years so I am used to it and Phil has grown up knowing Dad was going to have to go to work. Christmas was not normal in the Shaw household but you adapt to it. We are going to celebrate on Christmas Eve, we won’t miss out.
South West Operations Manager Beverley said:
It’s the first time Tom and I will have worked the Christmas Day shift. We’ll be up at 4.30am for our shift, and we’ll get in a little earlier to ensure our night duty team can get back and get some sleep before enjoying their Christmas.
I usually prepare dinner for my family and parents, Tom included, but this year the preparations will be done a little earlier and the celebration will just be a little later – it’ll also mean an early night as we’re both back in for the Boxing Day shift.
It’s certainly going to be a family affair on Christmas Day as my husband, Andy, has promised to bring in bacon butties for all the control room operators.
The traffic officers are urging motorists to carry out simple checks to their vehicles – and to make sure they have plenty of fuel – to avoid spending Christmas Day on a motorway verge. Phil said:
Prevention is better than cure. By preparing for the journey, checking tyres, oil and so forth, it will make sure people don’t break down in the first place and everyone has a happy Christmas.
We’re here to help get things moving if there’s a problem but to avoid spending Christmas Day on a roadside verge or hard shoulder we do suggest making a few simple vehicle checks before setting off on your journey.
Last year, traffic officers responded to 310 collisions on England’s motorways during the four days before Christmas Day – almost half of the total number of collisions during the 12-day festive season as people made their way across the country to see friends and family.
The Friday and Saturday before Christmas were also the most common days for motorway breakdowns, with traffic officers helping 610 drivers whose vehicles experienced faults during the two days