Meet the stars
Matt Taylor and Sioux Hine will be answering questions in our web chat on 30 September. Matt and Sioux will be joined by director of customer operations, Simon Sheldon-Wilson, regional divisional director Tim Harbot and our national winter specialist Darren Clark, straight after the final episode, No Such Thing as an Accident. The web chat will be hosted on our website and will last from 10pm to 11pm.
Traffic officers, duty managers and team leaders from the Highways Agency were featured in episodes of The Motorway: Life in the Fast Lane. Most of these staff are based in Birmingham.
You can read some “Day in the Life” features, and get more information about Highways Agency jobs and careers on our recruitment page.
Here, we speak to some of the stars of the show about their experience with the camera crew, and why they enjoy working for the Highways Agency.
Matthew Taylor, asset manager, Birmingham
Matt Taylor joined the Highways Agency in 2004 as one of the first Regional Control Centre operators in the West Midlands. In 2013, he moved into the Asset Manager role for Birmingham.
Matt was featured in episode one of The Motorway: Life in the Fast Lane, Weight of Traffic.
“I cover the M5, M6 and M42 around Birmingham,” Matt explained. “The role is very diverse – ranging from dealing with councils developing local plans, to promoting major new highway schemes, to dealing with flooded gardens as featured in The Motorway.
“We were delighted to be able to help the couple in the episode – and I’m pleased to say their garden is now fixed, and they’re very happy with it.”
Sioux Hine, team manager
In one of our favourite scenes from The Motorway:Life in the Fast Lane, team manager Sioux Hine is seen co-ordinating the Army to stop the M50 from flooding. The M50 was the only open road into south Wales at the time – and an emergency operation was needed to fend off flooding.
Sioux, a mum of four (and a grandma to boot), leapt into action at the scene to ensure the road stayed open.
“I do voluntary work for the fire service and other organisations,” Sioux said. “And I’m a team manager with 13 on-road officers, so I’m used to taking charge in difficult situations.”
Khalid Fazal, traffic officer
Khalid Fazal became a traffic officer a decade ago, shortly after the service was set up. He said it was always a distant dream to work on the M6.
“I went to school at Hodgehill secondary and I could see the M6 out my window in history class. I used to sit in my history class looking out at the motorway, and now here I am working on it, every day. I was always destined to be on the other side of the fence.”
Khalid said the filming experience was interesting – and that he hopes the documentary will help the public understand more about the role of a traffic officer.
“I think the public don’t always understand what we do,” he said. “It’s a bit of a mix, but some people, even after ten years, see us as recovery operators, some see us as being maintenance or repair guys. They don’t really understand the role.
“When the show goes out, I hope a lot of people will see what we really have to do. We deal with collisions, debris in the road, dead animals, vehicle breakdowns… it’s more than just being out and a visible presence.
“We’re active constantly, working to keep the roads flowing. When the programme is shown, people will probably understand our role a bit better. Hopefully, from my perspective, that should be a really good thing from the filming: helping people understand our job better.”
Paul Lawrence, traffic officer
Paul Lawrence, affectionately known as Pitbull by his colleagues, started work as a traffic officer ten years ago – shortly after losing his job at MG Rover at Longbridge. Paul said he enjoys his job and that it was often a case of dealing with tricky situations with humour. “We have a lot of banter here, but our shift is known to like to get stuck in,” he said. “Sometimes, you have to deal with difficult situations. I had a 20-year-old girl die in my lap, and she was eight months pregnant. That was really hard to deal with.”
Paul was involved in a particularly hairy incident during filming.
“We had a very close call,” Paul explained. “We’d set out an enclosure with cones and hi-vis signs, but a lorry just drove straight through them. It missed us by about four inches. It was a very close shave. Sometimes you do wonder if you might get hit.”
James Hawkes, Operations Manager, West Midlands Regional Control Centre
James Hawkes has been the on-road operations manager for Quinton Outstation since February 2014.
A graduate of Birmingham University with a degree in geography, James is a keen reader, film buff, gamer and armchair sports fan.
James has worked for the Highways Agency for almost eight years, having joined in 2006 as a control rooom operator.
“Since joining the Highways Agency, I’ve worked my way up to ops manager via team manager, service delivery manager for technology, incident and knowledge management portfolio manager and national control room technology co-ordinator.”
Steve Garbacz, traffic officer
Nina Young, Charging and Enforcement Policy Officer
|Steve Garbacz has been a traffic officer for the last five years. Originally working in the north east region, Steve moved to the Midlands in May 2013. “It’s interesting – we face the same kinds of issues here that we did in the north east,” Steve explained. “The real difference here is that everything is quite close together.” Steve enjoyed the experience of being followed by the film crew: “It was good, and we got on really well with the camera people,” he said. “One of the guys came over on a Saturday morning especially to take us for breakfast, which was nice.”||Nina Young joined the Highways Agency nearly nine years ago. She started as an operator in the West Midlands regional control room in 2006, working to spot problems and coordinate the response from our base in Quinton. Nina is now charging and enforcement policy officer for the Dart Charge scheme.“Working in our regional control centres gave me a great deal of experience and context around the vast range of work done by the Highways Agency,” she said. “Working there was by far the most interesting and challenging role I have ever had.”|
Stephen Bird, Regional Control Centre Team Manager
Phil Boffey, Project Resource Manager
|Stephen has been working in the West Midlands regional control centre for the past four-and-a-half years. A former professional driver, Stephen covered more than 40,000 miles a year on our motorways, before making the switch to the Highways Agency control centre. “I’m a keen driver with a deep interest in my work environment,” Stephen said. “My old job required me to travel 40,000 miles a year on our motorways, so I have a good idea of how frustrating the road can be at times.”Stephen said he enjoyed being a key part of the team tasked with keeping traffic moving on the M6.||Phil spent 23 years in the Army before joining the Highways Agency as a control room operator in 2007. He was made a team manager in 2008, before moving on to service development manager in 2012. This job involved ensuring that new builds (such as the new smart motorway modifications between junction 5 and junction 8 of the M6) could be brought into service with the minimum amount of disruption to the road network, and road users. Since filming for The Motorway: Life in the Fast Lane, Phil has moved departments and been promoted – he is now project resource manager in the Major Projects division.|
Amanda Mushing, Team Manager
Neil Taylor, Service Delivery Operations Manager
|A former West Midlands police officer and driver in the Army, Amanda Mushing is now a team manager at our regional control centre. Amanda joined the Highways Agency just over ten years ago, at the inception of the traffic officer service in April 2004. She started as an on-road traffic officer, before being promoted to on-road team manager – a role which involved working at all but one of our outstations across the West Midlands. Amanda transferred to the national traffic operations centre in 2011, then moved back to the regional control centre as a team manager in the middle of 2012.||Neil Taylor is a duty operations manager, and he joined the traffic management department of the Agency in 2010. His role is to help manage the regional control centre, based at Quinton, Birmingham. Neil was previously an on-road operations manager, acting as the ‘head’ of the control centre and ensuring everything runs smoothly on a day-to-day basis. His role is now in service delivery. Away from the regional control centre, Neil is a keen sportsman, and the secretary of a Derbyshire Premier Division amateur cricket club. He is also chair of governors at a local infants school.|
Andrew Wood, National Consistency Manager
Mick Phoenix, Traffic Officer
|Andy Wood is a seven-year veteran of the Highways Agency traffic officer service. He started out as a traffic officer working in the Midlands and has built up vast experience in a number of positions. He has been a team manager, a role which involves managing a team of on road traffic officers through their daily duties, and Andy has also been a lead coach in the control room. Andy’s vast experience gives him real insight into the workings of the traffic officer service. As a result, he is now the national consistency manager, and specialises in recruitment.||A former Army man with 22 years of service in the Royal Corps of Transport, Mick Phoenix joined the Highways Agency just over ten years ago. He is a long-serving traffic officer who works in the Midlands – but he has a very interesting background far from the asphalt-coated carriageways of the M6. In a previous life, Mick worked in the Sultanate of Oman as a traffic safety officer, where he faced very different challenges to those on the M6. Mick balances his work as a traffic officer with being a dad to three grown-up children, and a granddad to six.|
Caroline Roberts, Traffic Officer
Robert Gregory, Regional Technology Operational Liaison
|Caroline Roberts found love on the road while working for the Highways Agency. Caroline is a traffic officer operating in the East Midlands and has been with the Highways Agency for eight years. When she started, Caroline had no idea how much she’d grow to love the motorway. It eventually turned out that our strategic road network will always hold a special place in Caroline’s heart – she met her fiancé, Paul, on the M1, whilst he was working for Highways Agency contractor A1+. Caroline has a two-year-old son, Rhys.||During filming, Robert Gregory was in post as the control room team manager, based at Quinton, Birmingham. Since then, Robert has started a new role as regional technology operation liaison. Robert joined the Highways Agency in June 2009, starting as an operator, before becoming a team manager in 2011, with responsibility for managing several teams within the control room. “My role acts as a liaison between the technology maintainers and groups within the Agency, and the control rooms. I’m responsible for both the West Midlands and South West regional control centres,” he said.|
Working for the Highways Agency
For more information about what it’s like being at traffic officer, watch our YouTube video: