A34 Closure Northbound, Oxfordshire. Friday 29 September 2017

The A34 in Oxford­shire was closed north­bound dur­ing the course of Fri­day after­noon and early evening due to a multi-vehicle col­li­sion inci­dent near Abing­don. The col­li­sion hap­pened dur­ing the early after­noon and involved a 7.5 tonne truck col­lid­ing with a car and over­turn­ing with the rear of the vehi­cle becom­ing detached and spilling its load of raw pack­aged meat on to the car­riage­way. The car involved was sub­stan­tially dam­aged and a fur­ther HGV vehi­cle involved came to rest on the near­side embank­ment of the carriageway.

High­ways Eng­land became aware of events on Fri­day at 14:08 when col­leagues from Thames Val­ley Police alerted our staff at High­ways England’s East Regional Con­trol Cen­tre at South Mimms of a seri­ous road traf­fic col­li­sion on the A34 that their offi­cers were in atten­dance at. Dur­ing the pre­vi­ous 30mins, data from road­side mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems detected con­ges­tion build­ing and now with con­fir­ma­tion of an acci­dent, Vari­able Mes­sage Signs (VMS) were imme­di­ately set wider afield to warn road users of the inci­dent. With Thames Val­ley Police, Oxford­shire Fire & Res­cue and South Cen­tral Ambu­lance Ser­vice work­ing at the scene, High­ways Eng­land con­trac­tors were called to assist with clo­sures where Police units had traf­fic held.

The scene of the col­li­sion was estab­lished as being just north of the A4183 junc­tion (Abing­don North). This was sig­nif­i­cant as this junc­tion has no north­bound exit slip road and this would affect how diver­sions and clo­sures would be managed.

Dur­ing early stages of the clo­sure, staff at our Regional Con­trol Cen­tre con­tacted our con­trac­tors to action get­ting resources to the scene to assist the police with clo­sures, Also our National Traf­fic Oper­a­tions Cen­tre (NTOC) in Birm­ing­ham were also being made aware of unfold­ing events and our High­ways Eng­land National Inci­dent Liai­son Offi­cers (NILO) team utilised our social media chan­nels tweet­ing infor­ma­tion on our @HighwaysEAST and @HighwaysSEAST regional twit­ter feeds. This com­mu­ni­cated to cus­tomers that this was a sig­nif­i­cant inci­dent and to expect dis­rup­tion to jour­neys. In addi­tion to this, media reports were issued to the travel media and the inci­dent and diver­sion route was broad­cast as a break­ing news mes­sage on High­ways Eng­land websites.

Inter­est­ingly, some 61 vari­able mes­sage signs on the strate­gic road net­work: namely the A303, A34, M3 and M4 routes where traf­fic would be head­ing from had details of this inci­dent dis­played and rel­e­vant timed delay data being illu­mi­nated to inform our cus­tomers out on road.

Dur­ing the course of the first hour, the full extent of the col­li­sion was becom­ing appar­ent and some images from the scene had started to appear on-line. There was 1 seri­ous injury with the casu­alty taken to hos­pi­tal and with the extent of the inves­ti­ga­tions and recov­ery oper­a­tions; it was clearly evi­dent that the A34 north­bound was going to be closed for a sig­nif­i­cant period. There was also the mat­ter of some 20 metres of cen­tral reser­va­tion bar­rier being dam­aged. There­fore with all of these fac­tors to con­sider the Regional Oper­a­tions Cen­tre Emer­gency Plan­ners and Duty Oper­a­tions man­agers declared an esca­la­tion in response lev­els and work­ing together with the police, a multi-agency tele­phone con­fer­ence was sched­uled. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Oxford­shire County Coun­cil and con­trac­tors were also present.

One of the key issues which had to be addressed was man­ag­ing diver­sions and the prob­lem that the A415 (Mar­cham) to A4183 (Abing­don North) diver­sion was not suit­able in this instance. Police had already sent a unit back to the A415 (Mar­cham) junc­tion to close it. How­ever, this diver­sion would not get traf­fic ahead of the acci­dent loca­tion due to restric­tions on the Abing­don north junc­tion. Traf­fic was essen­tially leav­ing the A415 and head­ing in the oppo­site west­erly direc­tion, here it could then join the wider diver­sion route which is from the A4130 (Mil­ton) to A420 (Oxford) route. There was also a con­cern that traf­fic leav­ing at the A415 would head into Abing­don cre­at­ing grid­lock, there­fore after 16:30 the clo­sure was extended rear­ward with Police and High­ways Eng­land con­trac­tors putting a full clo­sure of the A34 north at the A4130 Mil­ton junc­tion. This essen­tially pro­vided a bet­ter and suit­able route for A34 north­bound traf­fic and also eased con­ges­tion with 2 streams of traf­fic leav­ing at the A415 and the A4130 junc­tions for the next hour.

Dur­ing this time oper­a­tions to clear trapped traf­fic had been con­tin­u­ing with traf­fic caught behind the inci­dent being turned rear­ward back to the Mar­cham junc­tion so they could leave the A34. With the car­riage­way being 2 lanes wide, this was a long process given dif­fi­cul­ties with turn­ing com­mer­cial vehi­cles 180 degrees on this car­rige­way width.

As the inci­dent pro­gressed to the late after­noon, approach­ing delays had been reg­is­ter­ing at about 45–60 mins of extra jour­ney time with approx­i­mately 2 miles of slow­ing traf­fic down to the Mil­ton junc­tion where traf­fic was leav­ing for the wider diver­sion route. At the scene the recov­ery work was pro­gress­ing and con­trac­tors were in place ready for the clean-up operation.

Impor­tantly, High­ways Eng­land con­trac­tors liais­ing at the scene with police were able to deter­mine that the bar­rier dam­age in the cen­tral reser­va­tion was not sig­nif­i­cant enough to keep lane 2 closed whilst a full replace­ment of the bar­ri­ers was under­taken. The area was ulti­mately tem­porar­ily close-coned off for a repair at a future date. This allowed efforts to focus on the clean-up of the car­riage­way and the shed load. Dur­ing the after­noon the tele-conferences at 16:00 and 17:15 ensured that all aspects of the clean-up oper­a­tion were being man­aged and that appro­pri­ate resources were deployed to avoid any delay in get­ting the car­riage­way fully re-opened.

By 18:30 the clean-up was draw­ing to a close and resources were deployed rear­ward through the full extent of the clo­sure to check for any vehi­cles or obstruc­tions and by 18:45 the scene of the inci­dent was offi­cially cleared.

Over the course of the next 30mins the clo­sures of north­bound entry slip roads and full clo­sures at Mar­cham and the full Chap­ter 8 emer­gency traf­fic man­age­ment clo­sure at Mil­ton was removed which effec­tively sig­nalled the end of this incident.

With this con­fir­ma­tion being received at 19:11 from Traf­fic Offi­cers at the Mil­ton junc­tion, staff at our National Traf­fic Oper­a­tions Cen­tre signed bespoke road NOW OPEN sig­nals on strate­gic approaches and this mes­sage was re-enforced with head­line news on High­ways Eng­land web­site and twit­ter feeds. By 20:00 all resid­ual con­ges­tion had fully cleared on the A34 approach­ing Mil­ton junction.

High­ways Eng­land and would like to thank our cus­tomers for their patience dur­ing this very chal­leng­ing and pro­tracted road closure.