How National Highways use their network of CCTV cameras to keep the Christmas traffic moving

National Highways screens with some of the cameras monitoring the road network
National Highways screens with some of the cameras monitoring the road network Credit: ITV News

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take to the roads this week in a bid to get to friends and family for the Christmas Holidays.

With rail unions due to take industrial action, experts are predicting that more people than ever will turn to the car to get them home.

The people responsible for ensuring that the road network runs as smoothly as possible falls to National Highways.

The group monitors the road network using around 4,000 CCTV cameras monitored from seven regional control centres, including one at South Mimms in Hertfordshire.

But the agency's operators are looking at the screens for snarl ups and accidents as Martin Fellows, Regional Director for National Highways Operations said.

"We don't monitor the screens to identify incidents, but we react when it is reported by the police, our own traffic officers or members of the public.

"We use the CCTV cameras to identify where the incident is and get people to deal with it as quickly as possible, be that police or unfortunately if someone is injured we can ensure that the other emergency services get there too."

The control rooms are also used to identify what maintenance teams are needed to respond to everything from damaged barriers or road surfaces to diesel spillages.

Around 98% of the UK's road 31,900 miles of major roads will be free from roadworks in a bid to keep traffic flowing over the holiday period.

A National Highways Operator at South Mimms

Mr Fellows added: "Our control rooms and our on-road resources are up to what they need to be for time of year.

"It is always difficult when Christmas falls at the end of the week because people tend to leave their journeys till the last minute.

"This Friday (23 December) we are expecting  the traffic to be one of the busiest days of the year so we will make sure that over the busy periods we'll have plenty of people available."

The picture on rail services is a completely different matter though- the key message from rail bosses is to check before you travel.

Strikes and engineering works mean that from around 16:00 on Christmas Eve onwards you can expect disruption across the rail network.

Normal services won't return until around 7th January after members of the drivers' union Aslef announced today that they walk out on Thursday January 5.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 14 train operators are planning to strike on January 3, 4, 6 and 7, so services are set to be crippled for a week.

Rail strikes have caused massive disruption across the UK Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

It is a better picture at some airports. London Stansted is bracing itself for 1.2million passengers to pass through its terminals heading everywhere from Dubai to Dublin.

Anita Harrison, customer operations officer, said they expected Friday to be their busiest day with 80,000 people scheduled to travel.

They are hopeful that they won't be impacted by planned action by Border Force.

"We are not one of the affected airports for strike action, but we have been working with Border Force to understand what resources will be here and we do not expect to have any issues." 

For those planning to travel to the airport by train though, she gave a different message.

"At the airport we've got high usage of train connectivity but what we're seeing across those strike days is either very reduced operations or on some particular days none at all.

"So what we are saying to customers is to prepare and plan your trip so look at other means of getting here and leave ample time to get to the airport."

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