M25 Closure Clockwise, Hertfordshire. Friday 18 December 2015
The M25 clockwise in Hertfordshire was closed between J20 and J21 due to a shed load from a heavy goods vehicle. The spillage required extensive clean-up before the road could be reopened.
At 10:35 on Friday 18 December 2015 Hertfordshire Police received an emergency call from a member of the public reporting a collision had occurred on the M25 between J20 (Hemel Hempstead, Aylesbury, A41) and J21 (the interchange with M1). Both Hertfordshire Police and Highways England’s Eastern Regional Control Centre at South Mimms dispatched units to scene and monitored the scene via CCTV. A Hertfordshire Police traffic unit arrived at 10:44 and reported back that the collision had resulted in a shed load of food waste from a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) that had collided with a car resulting in minor injuries.
CCTV of the scene showed that the spillage was quite substantial and a large section of the road was blocked with traffic slowly making its way past the scene using the hard shoulder. Pictures taken from the scene show the extent of the spillage.
It soon became clear that this was going to be a considerable amount of work to the clear the spillage and more resources were instructed to attend. An Incident Support Unit from Connect Plus (M25) Ltd (Highways England’s contractor for road maintenance and incident support for the M25) arrived on scene at just after 11:00 to assess the scale of the spillage, what resources would be required and to start initial attempts to clear some of the road.
Whilst this occurred, the ambulance service dealt with the minor injuries that arose from the collision and conveyed the casualties to hospital.
Throughout this time traffic was allowed to continue to filter past the scene on the hard shoulder but despite this delays continued to rise rapidly and by 12:00 there was several miles of slow moving traffic on the clockwise M25 with delays of 40 minutes above normal journey times being detected.
Additional resources arrived on scene to deal with the clean-up (including a lorry equipped with a grab device) by 12:00 but in order for all attending workers and equipment to have a safe space to work in the decision were taken to close the motorway between J20 and J21. This was in place by 12:20 and a diversion route was implemented.
The diversion route took traffic off at J20 to follow the route marked with a solid triangle symbol on local road signs. This route took the A41 towards London via the A41/A411 Hunton Bridge roundabout and on to the A405 Leavesden Green junction, continuing past M1 J6 and re-join the M25 at J21A.
When the closure was implemented there was a large amount of traffic “trapped” within the closure. This traffic was allowed to continue to pass the scene of the incident — this took some time and was not completed until approx 14:00 at which point our contractors and recovery agents could get to work in earnest to clear the road.
There was in total 30 tonnes of waste food product to clear-up. Our contractors worked tirelessly to pick up the load and place it on to a recovery vehicle. The road then required to be swept of smaller items from the load, and then jet washed to wash away the substantial amount of liquids from the load. Once complete the road need gritting of the road to ensure that there was no residual chemicals which could cause further incidents once the road reopened. Whilst this was happening the recovery of the lorry involved in the incident was also undertaken and this was completed by 17:00.
At 18:30 the road was fully cleared of debris and our contractors began packing away all the equipment they had used to deal with the clean-up and recovery and by 19:00 the scene was clear and the closure of the main carriageway and clockwise entry slip road at J20 began to be removed. The road was fully open by 19:20.
Throughout the incident Highways England provided regular updates to the media via our National Incident Liaison Officers (NILO) at the National Traffic Operations Centre (NTOC) in Birmingham. This was done via regular reports to both local and national traffic information providers (such as the BBC, Trafficmaster etc.) as well as using social media channels (such as Twitter). In addition when the road was closed and a diversion implemented our NILOs set a message on the Highways England website to advise road users of the route.
The incident also resulted in significant delays (traffic was taking up to an hour to get off the M25 at J20) which our NTOC monitored and using the electronic Variable Message Signs (VMS) around the M25 and South East region we endeavoured to inform road users of the delays so they could consider alternative routes and knew to allow additional time for their journeys. Our NILOs supported the use of the VMS by advising the public of delays on our @HighwaysEAST and @HighwaysSEAST accounts on Twitter. This was in addition to regular updates via our traffic information websites: Traffic England (a mobile version is here and we have a traffic app for Android and iPhone smartphones).
Following the reopening of the road delays began to dissipate fairly swiftly with normal traffic conditions returning by 20:30.
Highways England would like to thank road users for their patience and understanding during this closure and the extensive clean-up operation it required.
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