57 Years Policing the UK Motorways
There are a number of articles written by members of Police Car UK and we hope that you will find this page both informative and interesting! It is quite long, so make yourself a cup of tea and settle down to...
50th Anniversary Of Policing The Motorway
The Preston Bypass
The M6 Experiment
West Yorkshire Motorways
Part 1 - The 50th Anniversary of Policing the Motorway
In 2009 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the opening of the first section of the M1 motorway. OK, before we start there is an argument that the first motorway was opened a year earlier in 1958 and was called the Preston by-pass. However it wasn’t designated as a motorway (part of the M6) until several years later and so the other side of the coin will argue that the first ‘official’ motorway, the M1 was opened on 2nd November 1959. But the fact remains that from 1958/9 Britain’s motorway network expanded across the country and is now an integral part of our transport system and our everyday lives. And for obvious reasons it needs policing and so we find ourselves here in particular celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Policing the Motorway. Those Police officers who have worked on ‘the strip’ over the years will have an affinity towards it that is hard to describe. It can be an extremely dangerous place to work but it can also be an exhilarating one. Dealing with everything from major incidents involving multiple deaths to the often humorous side of human failure behind the wheel and everything else in between, working the motorway beat is anything but dull.
Here on this special motorway page we hope to bring you several things. Firstly a potted history of the types of cars used to patrol the motorways over the years from 1958/9 to 2009 with a large number of photos taken from PC-UK’s extensive archives. We have chosen not just the obvious Traffic patrol cars but the crash tenders and some of the more bizarre vehicles that have been tried and tested. There is a link to a page that also shows you some of the everyday incidents and accidents that Traffic cops have to deal with on the motorway, from plane crashes to abnormal loads, from adverse weather conditions to stray animals. Another link will transfer you to priceless anecdotes written by the officers that have patrolled the motorways from the very early day’s right through to the 21st century.
This page is dedicated to those Police officers who have died or been seriously injured as a result of an incident whilst working on the motorway. link to the National Police Memorial Day Page
From the very beginning Britain’s Police service was going to be at the forefront of this new breed of road and it was going to require a completely new type of policing. The first section of the M1 ran from Bedfordshire (19 miles), north towards Hertfordshire (16 miles), Buckinghamshire (9 miles) Northamptonshire (26 miles) and Warwickshire (3 miles), a total of 73 miles. The initial plan was that the road would eventually stretch from London to Birmingham. All five Chief Constables concerned tackled the project with great enthusiasm and foresight. They had profited from the experiences gained by the Lancashire County Constabulary on the Preston by-pass and also studied conditions on European motorways in Germany and Holland. They wisely adopted a common type of equipment and a common ‘drill’ for dealing with accidents. The Lancashire force had used the MK2 Ford Zephyr Farnham bodied estate together with the MGA 1600 open top sports car, both finished in white to patrol the 8 miles of the Preston by-pass.
Lancashire’s first motorway patrol cars included the Zephyr estate and MGA.
A decision was made that all five forces policing the M1 would also use identical MK2 Ford Zephyr Farnham bodied estate cars, also finished in white instead of the more familiar black and fitted with a flashing blue light. A small illuminated ‘stop’ sign was placed in the rear windscreen and a full width mud flap was placed across the rear valance. The cars carried a large number of metal accident signs and other equipment. An official photo was taken with the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire cars placed side by side (Bedfordshire and Northants cars were distinguished with ‘Police’ lettering across the leading edge of the bonnet) but no photos of the Buckinghamshire or Warwickshire cars seem to have survived.
The Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Zephyr estates get ready for action.
Hertfordshire’s Zephyr shows off it’s new kit.
Bedfordshire Constabulary Ford Zephyr estate gets ready to patrol the new M1
Northamptonshire’s Zephyr estate deals with a broken down HGV on the M1
It didn’t take long for those officer’s assigned to motorway duties to understand just how dangerous it can be when attending the scene of an incident and for them to suddenly become part of the incident themselves, after being hit by another vehicle.
One of the Hertfordshire cars written off on the M1.
By 1961 the Bedfordshire Constabulary added motorcycles to their motorway fleet. They used a number of BSA A10’s with Avon Streamliner fairings. The photo below not only shows the bikes but gives us a fantastic look at the almost deserted M1 which has no central barriers, no cats eyes, wooden fencing on its borders and a Ford Anglia in lane 3.
PC’s Alec Gregg and Stuart Blythe patrol the M1 on their BSA’s
Close up of the Bedfordshire BSA
By now another motorway had arrived, this time in Kent. The M2 was also patrolled for a while by motorcycle officers using Triumph Thunderbirds.
Kent Police Triumph Thunderbird.
Kent County Constabulary favoured the Humber Super Snipe estate as their motorway patrol car with its big 3 litre, six cylinder engine it was ideal for carrying the extra equipment needed to police the new road.
Kent County Constabulary Humber Super Snipe estate
Kent shows off the equipment it needs on board its Humbers
PC Ron Gamage stands proudly beside his Humber close to the M2
Meanwhile back up in Lancashire that force had started to replace its aging MGA fleet with MGB Roadsters, whilst the West Midlands Constabulary used the new Mini Cooper to patrol its new section of the M5.
Lancashire County Constabulary MGB Roadster patrols a deserted M6 south towards Birmingham
West Midlands Constabulary chose the Mini Cooper as part of its new motorway fleet
Carrying lots of extra emergency kit was a priority for the Police and large estate cars were ideal for this and so the popularity of the Humber Super Snipe grew, with forces like the Metropolitan Police (who had used the cars prior to the introduction of the motorway as SETAC units (Specially Equipped Traffic Accident Cars)) Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire taking them on to replace the now ageing MK2 Ford Zephyrs.
Hertfordshire Constabulary Humber Super Snipe
Metropolitan Police Humber finished in white as opposed to the earlier SETAC units that were finished in black
Other forces started to add vans to their motorway fleets specifically to carry the extra equipment, leaving the cars to do all the emergency response work with the van being brought in if required. Leicestershire and Rutland Constabulary who now had the next section of the M1 running through their county opted for the Morris Minor van!
Leicestershire and Rutland Constabulary Morris Minor van shows off its kit carrying capability.
By the mid 1960s there was a new faster patrol car to play with; the Jaguar 3.8 MK2. What Traffic officer wouldn’t have wanted one at the time? Leicestershire were one of several forces that opted to use them as motorway patrol cars.
One of Leicestershire’s MK2 Jags attends an RTA on the M1.
A selection of the M6 Experiment cars together with the BEA helicopter
One of the forces involved with the M6 Experiment was Cheshire and here we see one of their MK3 Ford Zephyr 6 estate cars together with its happy crew!
The Met Police started to replace the Humber Super Snipe estate with the Landrover as its latest SETAC unit. It had a greater payload and its four wheel drive capability came in useful in towing disabled vehicles from live lanes onto the hard shoulder. Over the coming years various Landrover models would prove to be popular motorway patrol cars.
The Mets early SETAC Landrovers had a wealth of extra equipment.
Not all forces utilised the very latest vehicles for motorway use. The West Midlands Police for example used a number of white Austin A110 Westminsters whilst the Nottinghamshire Constabulary opted for the Wolseley 6/110 on its section of the M1.
West Midlands Police Austin A110 Westminster
Nottinghamshire Constabulary Wolseley 6/110
By 1967 the MK2 Jaguar and the later Jaguar 340 were really starting to prove popular with a number of forces that needed a fast response car for their particular stretch of motorway.
Gloucestershire Constabulary MK2 Jaguar poses on the M4 close to the Severn Bridge.
Kent County Constabulary Jaguar 340 on the M2.
Staffordshire Police started using MK2 Jaguars in 1965 as the M6 weaved its way through the county. As with most other motorway patrol cars of the period they were finished in plain white to help make them stand out on the fast new roads. However in 1967 it is believed an accident occurred on the M6 where an officer died after his patrol car was rear ended as he stopped at the scene of another incident. In the subsequent enquiry it was felt that officers were not being offered sufficient protection whilst engaged in motorway duties. One of the lessons learned appears to be that Staffordshire Police then started to paint the boot of its motorway cars in fluorescent red. It also added red paint to the rear of the roof mounted light box and high intensity red fog lamps were also set into the box, whilst a large white sign with the word ‘POLICE’ in red was attached to the rear bumper. Large ‘POLICE’ lettering was also placed along the sides of the car. These new safety features helped distinguish the cars still further and as we will see other forces then started to adapt their cars with officer safety very much in mind.
Staffordshire Police MK2 Jags in plain white circa 1965.
Staffordshire’s later Jaguar 340’s complete with safety systems applied.
A couple of years prior to this tragic accident the Sussex Constabulary are credited with applying the first orange/red reflective stripes to the sides of some of their patrol cars. It didn’t take long for other forces to adopt the idea and the ‘jam sandwich’ livery then became synonymous with Police Traffic cars. Other forces went even further, in particular the Lancashire County Constabulary who started to paint just about every surface of their motorway cars in a bright fluorescent orange. They looked superb and certainly stood out, even from a great distance.
West Yorkshire Constabulary Vauxhall Cresta PB estate, complete with red and blue side stripes.
Lancashire County Constabulary MK3 Ford Zephyr 6 estate.
Believe it or not but Lancashire even employed a couple of Mini vans, painted orange like the Zephyr, as motorway crash tenders, loaded to the gunnels with extra kit. They must have taken forever to get the scene!
Not all forces added fancy graphics though, as this Cumbria Police MK4 Ford Zephyr being driven on their new section of their new section of the M6 demonstrates.
In late 1969 Landrover introduced a car that was almost born to be a Police motorway car; the Range Rover. With a 3500 litre V8, four wheel drive capability, bags of torque and plenty of internal room for all that extra equipment, it wasn’t too long before the Police started to take a serious look at it. And it’s been using them ever since.
Cheshire Constabulary were one of the first forces to employ the use of Range Rovers and as you can see here big new roof mounted signs and lots of equipment could be carried.
Britain’s network of motorways continued to spread throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s. The M3 linked London via Surrey and ended on the outskirts of Southampton and the Hampshire County Constabulary became the latest force to gear itself up to police its stretch of motorway. They chose to use MK2 Triumph 2500 TC’s and a long wheel base MK1 Ford Transit van as its Motorway Accident tender.
Hampshire’s new motorway fleet consisted of Triumph saloons and the MK1 Transit van.
Also in the early 1970s Jaguar replaced its ageing MK2/340 model with the sleek new XJ6. The 4.2 litre model in particular seemed perfectly well suited towards motorway patrol work although the economy and the 1970s oil crisis meant that some opted to look at cheaper alternatives. One of those was the Austin 1800S (often referred to as the Landcrab) which actually proved to be a popular choice of vehicle for the Police. It had a fair turn of speed combined with excellent comfort and loads of interior space.
Thames Valley Police used a large number of Jaguar XJ6 saloons to work the M4.
Staffordshire Constabulary were amongst several forces to utilise the Austin 1800S model.
Meanwhile the Lancashire County Constabulary painted anything that moved in bright orange to aid safety for its officers and so that the public could easily identify the car as being a Traffic patrol vehicle.
Lancashire’s Range Rovers looked fabulous in this orange livery and they started to use the short wheel base MK1 Ford Transit van as it’s Accident Unit.
One of West Mercia’s Range Rovers seen on the M5 on a heavy vehicle stop.
The West Midlands Police now had a large amount of motorway running through its force area and of course were one of the first forces to use the Solihull built Rover 3500 V8 as its new age motorway car. Many will argue that this car was one of the best patrol cars of all time. The West Midlands also started to use vans as accident tenders and unusually they opted for the Bedford CF, complete with elevating stem light which helps illuminate a darkened scene and warns on-coming traffic much earlier.
West Midlands all new Rover V8 patrol cars and the Bedford CF accident tender.
By the mid 1970s the Rover was king of the Traffic fleets with a host of forces using the powerful V8 to power its crew at speeds of 120 mph.
Kent County Constabulary Rover 3500 V8 and Hampshire’s updated fleet for the M3 (seen here at Fleet services) included the Rover saloon.
The Transit van was starting to prove its worth as a big load carrier and several forces started to use them to transport ever more equipment to the scene of a motorway incident. The idea was good in principal, but in reality they were a burden on the officers tasked with crewing them. They were slow, cumbersome and restricted in the duties they could perform. Consequently most ended up being left in the yard and only brought out as and when required.
Thames Valley Police Transit was finished in orange, similar to the Lancashire units whilst Nottinghamshire opted to use the red side stripe livery instead.
By the early 1970s some forces were daring to use foreign made cars due to the unreliability of the British product. One of the cars that was looked at for motorway use was BMW. The Thames Valley Police started it all by using the BMW 3.0Si and West Mercia Police, followed by Derbyshire Constabulary used the same model.
West Mercia Police BMW 3.0Si was finished in a rather strange livery called ‘truck yellow’ which was a sort of pale orange.
Some home grown products continued to find favour though and non more so than the revised Jaguar XJ6 saloon, now in series 2 guise. It was a big, powerful car that commanded respect. If you saw one of these in your view mirror as you sped down lane 3, you knew you were in big trouble!
Avon and Somerset Police S2 Jaguar XJ6 certainly looked the part.
The sheer variety of vehicles now available for Police use was now becoming apparent and forces were rather spoilt for choice.
This photo shows a good variety of cars being used by the Greater Manchester Police, from a MK1 Ford Transit, Range Rover and a MK1 Ford Consul GT estate.
In 1975 Rover replaced the 3500 saloon with a radical 5 door hatchback, the SD1. It was a striking looking car and another that seemed destined for Police use on the motorway as soon as it left the drawing board. Another V8 powered car with ample interior space it again became an iconic Police car of its time, let down only by its chronic build quality.
West Yorkshire Constabulary Rover 3500 SD1, resplendent in its unusual graphics.
Rover had a serious rival to its Police crown at this time in the shape of the Consul GT and the later MK1 Ford Granada, especially in 3.0S format. History now tells us that it was honours even with forces either opting to use the Rover or the Ford, rarely using both.
MK1 Ford Granada 3.0S from Essex Police on the M11 and a 3.0S from the Avon and Somerset Constabulary.
Meanwhile the Range Rover continued to excel at motorway duties and its pulling powers became the stuff of legend with stories of them towing stranded articulated lorries and fully laden petrol tankers off the motorway with ease.
A later model Range Rover from the Cheshire Constabulary. Note the full length yellow coats that the officers are now wearing to help make them more visible whilst working the hazardous motorway environment.
Mind you not every force got to try out the latest cars from an ever growing list of manufacturers. West Midlands Police were still using brand new Triumph 2.5’s as late as 1976.
Last of the big Triumph saloons was issued to West Midlands Police for motorway duties in 1976.
Foreign cars were starting to creep in though and none more so than in Hampshire, who had been using Volvos since 1965. But it was BMW that made the big impression as a motorway patrol car with the introduction of the 525 and later the 528i. On both performance and reliability they were hard to beat.
A BMW 525 of the Hampshire Constabulary in 1978 with its driver PC Phil Jacob in the rear yard at Aldershot Police Station. This car would have patrolled the busy M3.
Big load carriers, crash tenders, accident units, call them what you will, continued to be used by Britain’s motorway Police and two more types were called into service towards the latter half of the 1970s. Ford revamped its Transit range and introduced the new MK2 which went onto even greater use by the Police, not just as a crash tender but in many other roles. Perhaps a more unusual choice was that of the South Yorkshire Police Traffic Division to deploy the Leyland Sherpa 200 as its crash tender!
This Leicestershire Constabulary MK2 Transit Accident Unit really looks the business whilst the South Yorkshire Sherpas were a very unusual choice. Both types of vehicle were fitted with huge stem light systems.
Ford also updated its Granada range in 1977/8 and the new MK2 Granada was another car that was destined for the motorway patrols, especially the estate variant. Plenty of forces used both saloon and estate and this is another car that gained iconic status.
Two splendid looking MK2 Ford Granada estates in use with Surrey Police and Essex Police as motorway cars. The Surrey unit was so top heavy with its stem light and rear spoiler set up that it gained the rather unfortunate nick-name of the General Belgrano!
The series 2 Rover 3500SE SD1 was also launched shortly after the new Ford was introduced. It was faster and better equipped than before and above all it was a whole lot more reliable. There was still a 50/50 split on which force used which car though.
Rover 3.5 V8 SD1 series 2 of the West Mercia Constabulary used to patrol the M5 area.
The Greater Manchester Police loved their Range Rovers and became the biggest fleet users in the UK. GMP had a large amount of motorway to patrol including the M60, M61, M62 and the M66 and the Range Rover suited the purpose.
Unusual Range Rover van sits beside standard model, both from the Greater Manchester Police.
It has to be said that the Metropolitan Police, in comparison with many county forces didn’t have that much motorway area to patrol and as a consequence its motorway fleet was fairly sparse. However by the early 1980s things were starting to change and the Met had to increase its motorway capability. This included the use of MK2 Ford Transit Accident Units and the last of the Rover SD1 series, the awesome Vitesse models.
Met Police Transit Accident Unit and Rover Vitesse at Chigwell Traffic Base which served the M11 and M25.
By the mid 1980s it was still neck and neck between the Rover SD1 and the MK2 Ford Granada, but things were about to change once more.
Splendid photo of a West Yorkshire Police Rover 3500 SD1 in the snow on the M1 and a Kent County Constabulary MK2 Ford Granada 2.8i used to patrol the M2.
Jaguar revamped the XJ6 again to give us the series 3 saloon and the Police made great use of the 4.2 model. It was a great motorway patrol car but was plagued with reliability issues which tainted many officer’s memories of it. You can’t argue with its good looks though!
Hampshire Constabulary Jaguar XJ6 S3 with its driver PC Phil Jacob beside the M3 and a Sussex Police XJ6 S3 used to patrol the M23 between Gatwick Airport and Brighton.
The big motorway accident units continued to be used right through the decade and the following three examples show how each force utilised the products from Ford in a big way.
Essex Police called on the services of a Ford Transit 4x4 County Conversion to help patrol the M11 and M25, whilst the Greater Manchester Police had this superb looking 3.0 litre V6 as its Incident Unit. By 1987 Ford had released the MK3 Transit and Lancashire Police were one of the forces to adopt it as an Accident Unit.
The livery and lighting units on some motorway patrol cars were now getting even bigger and bolder. Forces and manufacturers were now experimenting with new products all the time, all of it designed to make the vehicle even more conspicuous than before.
Essex Police Range Rover with lots of graphics to enhance its looks and more lights than Blackpool seafront.
Two new cars arrived in the late 1980s, the MK1 Vauxhall Senator and the Jaguar XJ40, later re-badged as the XJ6. Both cars were used by a large number of forces, but sadly this was the last of the Jaguars to reach large volume sales with the Police as their products started to be aimed at the more expensive end of the market. However, for Vauxhall the story was only just beginning.
MK1 Vauxhall Senator was used by Leicestershire Constabulary on the M1 whilst this Sussex Police Jaguar XJ40 would have cruised the M23.
By the turn of the decade the MK1 Senator had morphed into the MK2. It got a 3.0 litre, straight six engine with fuel injection and 24 valves. It was quick enough to hit 140 mph and although there were some serious reliability and handling issues it was quickly hailed as the new king of Traffic patrol. It looked pretty good to.
Hampshire Constabulary MK2 Vauxhall Senator poses on the soon to be finished M3 extension through the Twyford cutting near Winchester.
West Yorkshire Police MK2 Vauxhall Senator sits high above the M62.
Fabulous looking Senator belongs to the Greater Manchester Police.
Gloucestershire Constabulary MK2 Vauxhall Senator overlooks the M5.
But Vauxhall didn’t have it all its own way, there were several rivals during the early 1990s, from the likes of BMW, Ford and Rover.
BMW 525i from the Hampshire Constabulary was one of the best patrol cars of all time. This one is at an RTA on the A3M.
Ford introduced the Sierra XR4x4 with a 2.9i V6 and permanent four wheel drive. More suited to urban Traffic patrol work but it also spent a lot of time working on the motorway. This Surrey Police example would have been seen on the M25.
Rover introduced the 827i and this series 2 saloon from Thames Valley Police would have been seen on the M4.
Ford also gave us the MK3 Granada Scorpio 4x4 saloon and this was the last of the big Fords. In truth it wasn’t as popular as it had been in previous years. This Hampshire Constabulary version is seen at an incident on the M275.
Whilst the Granada was in the twilight of its years Ford gave us an instant legend; the Cosworth Sierra. What a beast. It was a big sales success for Ford and a huge hit with the Police. Several forces opted to use them including Bedfordshire, Sussex, Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, Northumbria and Cumbria all of whom had plenty of motorway now running through their areas. There weren’t many vehicles that could outrun a Police Cossie.
Sussex Police ran a fleet of Cosworth Sierra Sapphires.
Meanwhile the Range Rover continued to receive various updates and continued to give outstanding service as a motorway patrol vehicle.
Lancashire Constabulary Range Rover attends a motorway incident whilst this Cheshire Constabulary version gets striking new graphics.
Vivid graphics and extremely efficient light bars helped make the motorway patrol car easy to see from a distance, thus aiding officer safety and helping reduce speed and improve driver behaviour at the same time.
Jaguar XJ6 from the West Midlands Police looks great but the fancy graphics don’t seem to set off this Lothian and Borders Police Ford Scorpio in quite the same way.
The following two photos have been included to show how things have changed in many ways over the years. Both photos are from South Yorkshire Police and appear to be taken from the same bridge. Note the difference in traffic flow for a start and then look at the Police car graphics and lighting, even the high visibility clothing the officers themselves are wearing. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the pose!
South Yorkshire Police Rover SD1 circa 1978 and Vauxhall Omega MV6 circa 2001.
The Range Rover was completely revamped in the early 1990s and continued to serve the Police as the number one motorway car, there simply wasn’t anything else on the market to compare with its overall ability at this time.
Greater Manchester Police Motorway Unit loved their Range Rovers as this photo shows. Both old and new models are seen in this transition period.
By the mid 1990s Britain’s motorway expansion was just about complete. More than ever it needed policing and two new cars were about to be introduced and they would be become the standard motorway patrol cars for more than a decade. Vauxhall introduced the Omega to replace its Senator model and Volvo introduced the 850 T5. This car gained overnight cult status and the numerals ‘T5’ became synonymous with Police motorway patrols the country over. In 1997 Volvo revamped the car and it became the V70 T5 in estate form.
Vauxhall Omega MV6 of the Thames Valley Police sits on a Police ramp on the M40, whilst this great night time shot of a Hampshire Constabulary Volvo V70 T5 was taken on the M3.
Also in the mid 1990s a fresh look at the way the Police organised themselves on the motorway was introduced, along similar lines of the M6 Experiment from the mid 1960s. The West Midlands, West Mercia and Staffordshire Police formed the Central Motorway Police Group whose sole job description was to police the motorway network of the midlands using identical vehicles and equipment in a much more coordinated manner. It’s largely worked and continues to this day.
The CMPG even gets its own unique crest to adorn its patrol cars with. They included the Volvo 850 T5 and a new type of crash tender. The Mercedes Benz Sprinter Incident Command Unit seen here was one of the first of its type and not only carried huge amounts of kit but was also a mobile office and communications centre to be used at the scene of any large RTA.
The mid 1990s also saw the start of a revolution in Police vehicle graphics with the introduction of the Home Office inspired battenburg livery. The original idea was that this was to become the national motorway Police livery, the argument being that the yellow and blue blocks provided a greater visual impact on the motorway environment and that no matter where you went in the UK a motorway patrol car could be recognised by the public. However after more than 15 years in existence it seems that just about every Police car on the road now has battenburg on it together with the ambulance service, fire and rescue units, blood donor vehicles, various security firms, breakdown recovery agents and of course the latest Government inspired initiative the Highways Agency Traffic Officers (HATO’S).
Greater Manchester Police Volvo V70 T5 and a Strathclyde Police BMW 528i are both adorned in battenburg.
By the turn of the century the Range Rover, now on its latest incarnation got a serious rival to its crown. BMW introduced the X5, a four wheel drive SUV that did all the things the Range Rover could but with added reliability and supreme road holding. And the Mercedes Sprinter van took over from the Ford Transit as the number one crash tender in a large number of forces. Like the CMPG unit these vans were now tasked with becoming a mobile office, complete with toilet and refreshment facilities due mainly to the length of time officers now had to spend at the scene of a fatality to facilitate the needs, under Statute, of the Road Deaths Manual (average time spent at these incidents is now 6 hours).
Hampshire Constabulary were the first force in the world to use the BMW X5 3.0d as a Traffic Police car and this photo shows the car on the hard shoulder of the A3M underneath Bedhampton Bridge. The Mercedes Sprinter is also from the Hampshire Constabulary Roads Policing Unit and was their Support Tender.
Our last group of photos shows some of the current crop of motorway patrol cars. But are they the last we shall see? Is this the only big anniversary we shall celebrate? As the Police presence on our motorways declines in favour of the HATO’S it is unlikely that we will see another 50 years of Police motorway cars. The future seems to be that the HATO’S will ‘patrol’ the motorway network to do the everyday tasks that until recently were the domain of the Traffic Police and that the only time you will see a patrol car on the ‘Mike-Whisky’ is when it all goes wrong.
The Ford Mondeo of the Wiltshire Constabulary sits and watches traffic above the M4 whilst this Cambridgeshire Constabulary Volvo V70 T5 performs VASCAR speed enforcement, both being a good deterrent towards bad driving on our motorways.
What better way to finish off our montage of motorway Police vehicles than with these two examples. A Greater Manchester Police Range Rover, one of dozens that have graced our motorways for more than 35 years and a Hertfordshire Constabulary BMW 530d at an incident on the M1 where it all started.
Part 2 - THE TRUTH ABOUT BRITAIN’S FIRST MOTORWAY - The Preston Bypass
by Brian White
There seems to be an increasing reluctance in the media to accept that Britain’s first motorway was opened in Lancashire in 1958 by the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.
This modern misrepresentation is in danger of changing the course of history regarding the development of motorways in Britain.
The tendency is to portray the first motorway as the M1. The M1 was not opened until 2nd November 1959, almost one year later. The M1 opening ceremony had been downgraded from Prime Minister to the Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples.
The confusion may surround the expression M1. This in some people’s minds may indicate the first. The simple and correct explanation is that the M1 was designed to run parallel with the A1 trunk road. The M6 parallel with the A6, The M2 with the A2 and so on. All following the English precedent like spokes of a wheel radiating from London.
The Preston By Pass was part of the planned M6 north/south motorway system (running alongside the main A6 London to Carlisle). This planning took place as early as the 1930’s. It was the first leg of the overall Government plan for motorways in Britain.
It was built to the motorway standards and specifications of the day. It was controlled by new motorway regulations and had a specially trained and dedicated team of Police officers assigned to patrol. They had liveried vehicles, and carried emergency equipment; signs etc, more sophisticated than ‘ordinary’ Police patrol vehicles. There was even a motorway Police station (later renamed Motorway Police Post) purpose built at Samlesbury, right alongside the motorway.
When the Prime Minister officially opened the M6 Preston By Pass he referred to the “new motorway” in his inaugural speech. He also unveiled a large granite plinth alongside the motorway with the words.
“PRESTON BY-PASS BRITAINS FIRST MOTORWAY OPENED 5 DEC 1958 BY THE PRIME MINISTER THE RT HON HAROLD MACMILLAN M.P.”
RULES OF THE DAY
The opening of the Preston By-Pass marks the beginning of a new era of motoring in Britain. It is the first link in the network of motorways, which, progressively completed, will contribute to an increasing extent to the health of the community and to the national economy.
The national motorways in general and the Preston By-pass in particular are designed to enable traffic to travel safely at high speeds, and to minimise the chance of accidents arising from bad driving.
These objectives are achieved principally by: -
- The prohibition of pedestrians, cyclists and animals.
- The prohibition of access from adjacent land and the elimination of all cross traffic by the bridging of all roads and footpaths, etc… encountered on the route.
- Dual carriageways separated by a central reservation.
- The provision at junctions of acceleration and deceleration lanes which enable traffic to enter or leave the stream of traffic on the Motorway in safety.
- The adoption of easy gradients and very large radius curves.
- The absence of raised kerbs and the provision of hard shoulders on the nearside of the carriageway for use in emergency halts.
- Sign posts of a size which can be read both by day and by night without the need for a driver to slow down.
- The provision of road surfaces with the highest possible resistance to skidding.