MOTORWAYS – WEST YORKSHIRE
by Colin Jackson
The first motorway in Yorkshire was the A1(M) Doncaster Bypass, which opened in August 1961. This 15 mile stretch of road was a 2 lane dual carriageway with hard shoulders, from Blyth in Nottinghamshire to Red House north of Doncaster. It had two intermediate junctions. Although the first 2 miles were in Nottinghamshire, agreement had been reached that the whole of the road would be policed by the West Riding Constabulary, and this duty fell to the men and vehicles of Doncaster Traffic Section from their garage at Bentley. A specially prepared vehicle, a Ford Zephyr 6 Mark II estate was purchased for the purpose. This was a completely new concept, a new experience for all concerned, and a steep learning curve for all concerned. Those of us not directly involved in this policing operation, took the opportunity during night shifts to nip over to Doncaster and take a trip along the new road.
1961 to 1962 Ford Zephyr 6 Mk2 and Mk3, West Riding Constabulary.
Our turn came in October 1968, with the opening of the last 35 miles of the M1, from North Anston near Sheffield to the outskirts of Leeds. This also coincided with the amalgamation of police forces in the area, now to be known as West Yorkshire Constabulary. Three Traffic Sections were to police this piece of motorway, Rotherham, Barnsley and Wakefield. The government decreed that there should be a patrol for every 10 miles of motorway, 20 miles of carriageway, 24 hours of the day. Compared with today’s congested motorways, traffic was extremely light, and motorway patrol could be rather boring, particularly on night shift. Fortunately, as we were part of a general Traffic Section, motorway duty was not every day and so we could find ourselves on area patrol one day and back on the motorway the next.
Selection of vehicles found on the M1 in the mid to late 1960’s, West Yorks Constabulary.
I suppose our main duty at this stage was to educate the motoring public on how to use these new roads. Many drivers and their vehicles were just not up to sustained high speeds and breakdowns were a common feature. If a driver missed their exit it wasn’t unusual for them to simply make a ‘U’ turn across the central reservation, as barriers were not continuous at this stage. Parking on the hard shoulder was another occurrence, one night crew came upon a van parked a few miles south of Leeds and on investigation found the driver fast asleep with his alarm clock ticking away on the dashboard so as to wake him in time to make Leeds market when it opened early next morning. Pedestrians on the motorway were another problem, especially after the opening of the M18 link between the M1 and A1(M). Students and servicemen hitching lifts up the M1 from the south would suddenly find that the vehicle they were riding in was turning off their desired route and so they would be dropped off on the hard shoulder, some considerable distance from a junction, to hitch another lift. Here the patrol would find them put them in the back of the patrol car and take them off the motorway at the next junction and report them for being a pedestrian on the motorway, after checking their identity. One evening 2 students were picked up in this way and the patrol asked control for an address check. The address given immediately rang alarm bells with control room staff, the students were the sons of our own chief constable. What happened to the offence report I don’t know, but afterwards Traffic Admin were instructed to write to every college and military establishment in the country asking them to remind their personnel that it was an offence to be a pedestrian on the motorway and of the dangers.
1969 Austin 3 Litre seen on the M1. West Yorks Constabulary.
Vauxhall Victor 3.3 Litre and Cresta PC, West Yorks Constabulary.
Accidents, when they happened, were usually high speed and serious and it wasn’t uncommon for vehicles to travel considerable distances off the motorway across the fields before coming to rest, and if the driver wasn’t seriously injured, he would walk away, and we would then waste a great deal of time trying to find him and assure ourselves that he wasn’t lying nearby with serious injuries.
1968 & 1970 Land Rovers, Supplimentary patrol, M1, West Yorks Constabulary.
In July 1973 26 miles of the M62, from the M1 to the Lancashire boarder, opened. This Trans Pennine Route, the highest motorway in Britain at the time, had been constructed after considerable thought and experiment. Embankments were specially graded so as not to cause wind eddies and snow accumulations, boundary fences, instead of the usual post and rail, were open wire mesh, high enough to be sheep proof. In fact it was said the motorway was so designed that weather would not be a problem and cause its closure. How wrong they were to be proved in the winter of 1979. By this time I was in the control room, in the warm, so did not experience the problems at first hand, but many of my old colleagues did, and by all accounts it was a frightening experience. Only Range Rovers and Land Rovers were of use for patrol in these conditions, checking that there were no stranded motorists out there. In the blizzard conditions, to move away from one’s vehicle more that a few yards could mean difficulty in finding it again. Even when it wasn’t snowing and the snow ploughs and gritters got through the road surface immediately froze over again and it was difficult to stand up. Police patrols were issued with survival suits in addition to their high visibility clothing.
1971 Jaguar XJ6 seen on the M1 and at the Wooley Services Police Post, West Yorks Constabulary.
Selection of photos showing the Range Rovers operated from the Wooley Edge Services Police Post, West Yorks Police.
The first Mark II Ford Zephyr was replaced by the Mark III and these were the first to get red and blue side striping. In 1967 a couple of Vauxhall Cresta PC estates were taken into service for motorway patrol, and these too had side striping and they were followed by Vauxhall Victor 3.3 litre estates. Two Austin 3 litre saloons were purchased in 1969, but these didn’t prove very successful as motorway vehicles and were replaced in 1971 by two Jaguar XJ6’s. When additional vehicles were required on the motorway these would be everyday area cars such as the Austin Westminster, initially, then Triumph PI Mark I and Mark II. From 1968 a long wheel based Land Rover was based at Wakefield Section. This vehicle had additional emergency equipment on board, signs and cones, lamps, heavy duty jack, brushes and shovels, portable generator and flood lighting, everything that might be required at a motorway incident. When this vehicle was deployed, during the daytime, its crew had a roving commission and was able to patrol the motorways anywhere in the Force area. It was replaced by a second Land Rover in 1970 and that was replaced in 1971 by the Force’s first Range Rover, but then it seems that a special vehicle was not required and Range Rovers were taken into general motorway use, although many of the crews weren’t too keen and didn’t like them. The early Ford Zephyr estates were fitted with a single blue lamp mounted centrally on the roof, but in 1968 most patrol cars acquired a large, full width, roof box that had internal “neon” lit police sign front and rear, the rear sign being able to flash “police” or “accident” steady or alternately, and surmounted by a blue lamp. By 1971 this roof box had been replaced by another style of large roof box, both of which had a severe detrimental effect on vehicle performance and fuel consumption.
1973 Triumph 2.5 Litre PI, West Yorks Constabulary.
The equipment carried in each car was pretty comprehensive from the beginning – 2 “Police Slow” signs; 2 “Accident” signs, these were rigid metal signs and lethal on fingers for the unwary; 12 traffic cones; 6 Pifco lamps with red domes, with flashing bulbs, and modified to fit on top of the traffic cones; first aid kit; 4 blankets; 6 road flares; broom; shovel; wheel brace (spider); heavy lift hydraulic jack; hacksaw; towrope; hammer; mole wrench; spanner; heavy duty crowbar; gas bottle with flood lamp; tape measure; waterproof chalk; plastic container of water; fire extinguisher; and 2 fluorescent waistcoats. This equipment was altered from time to time, as equipment changed, the metal signs, for example, were replaced by folding plastic ones and the number increased to six, and the gas bottle and flood lamp was replaced by a hand held re-chargeable lamp.
1974 Ford Consul 3000, M1, West Yorks Constabulary.
The other piece of equipment carried in each car was a “Motorway Manual”. As far as I am aware, this was unique to West Yorkshire, and produced internally. It began with a resume of the instructions to motorway drivers contained in the Highway Code, followed by a list of the most common offences that officers might encounter on the motorway. This was followed by advice on how to deal with a host of motorway incidents. The final part, and most useful, were plans and diagrams of the motorways of West Yorkshire, giving carriageway measurements, details of culverts, drains and under-passes, as well as overhead cables, wires and bridges, in fact everything about the motorway an officer might need to know when dealing with an incident.
Fog was something of a nightmare, not only did patrols have to activate the roadside warning lamps with their infra-red gun, and afterwards switch them off again, but if fog persisted and was dense, West Yorkshire operated a convoy system whereby every available patrol vehicle was directed onto the motorway and by driving in the centre lane, with warning lights flashing, and at a safe speed for the conditions, thus forcing traffic to follow in convoy. This proved quite effective and reduced the number of accidents, but for the patrol crews it was a devastating experience if kept up for long. More than one shift of that and you were ready to hand in your white cap cover for a helmet.
1974 Escorting a heavy transformer M1/M62. The vehicle was fitted with a skirt that was lowered and inflated like a hovercraft to spread the load on bridges.
West Yorks Constabualry.
In 1972 I move on to other duties but returned once more to motorway patrol supervision some 4 years later. On my return in 1976, there had been some changes, we were now West Yorkshire Metropolitan, the total Force area was much smaller but motorway mileage was probably about the same as before, with the addition of the M62 eastwards into Humberside and the M606 and M621 into Bradford and Leeds resepctively. The A1 Great North Road, being dual carriageway in our Force area had always been treated like a motorway for police patrol purposes, so there was that to consider as well. As far as the actual motorways were concerned, the road side fog lights had been replaced by matrix signs on the central reservation, which were now controlled from the Control Room. The system of convoys during fog had been done away with. There was now continuous barriers along the central reservation. The volume of traffic on the motorways had increased markedly, but otherwise the problems were still pretty much the same as before.
1980 Jaguar XJ6, West Yorks Metro Police.
1998 Jaguar XJ at Unit 41 Garage, Wakefield, West Yorks Police.
1999 Vauxhall Omega at Unit 41 Garage, Wakefield, West Yorks Police.
2001 Ford Explorer, at Hartshead Services Police Post, M62, West Yorks Police.
2001 Vauxhall Omega at Hartshead Services Police Post, M62, West Yorks Police.
2001 BMW 5 Series & Volvo V70 at Hartshead Services Police Post, M62, West Yorks Police.
2001 Jaguar “S” Type at Hartshead Services Police Post, M62, West Yorks Police.