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Science
Shifting Load
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Kate Bellingham follows an oversized cargo along the country lanes of North Wales.
Friday 20 August 2004 11.00-11.30am 

Every year, dozens of gigantic objects are transported on Britain's roads. For motorists caught up in the traffic chaos behind it can be an incredibly frustrating and slow moving experience. In Shifting Load, Kate Bellingham tells the other side of the story as she joins the planners, the hauliers and police officers moving a 60-metre-long load down the narrow country roads of North Wales to Ellesmere Port.

The Team, infront of the Load
The Shifting Load team infront of the cargo

Earlier this year a huge distillation column - used for making gases such as oxygen - was finished at a factory in Acrefair, North Wales.

Destined for a steel works in Korea, the piece had to be moved from the factory to the nearest deep water port. Although Acrefair is just 28 miles from the docks, moving the machinery takes 2 days, a police escort and months of planning. 

In Shifting Load, Kate Bellingham gives up her weekend to follow the sedate progress of the 120-tonne column.

Along the way she meets all those involved, from the two drivers - one steering at the front and one steering at the back - who must negotiate their colossal cargo around roundabouts and even the wrong way down motorways, to the 'spotters' - the heavy haulage equivalent of train spotters - who travel the length and breadth of the country to catch a glimpse of the loads.

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The Load out in the country
The Load has to use narrow country lanes...

She also talks to the team involved in the planning. It is their job to figure out how to move the immense object - over 3 times the length of a normal lorry - through Britain's road network.

And it is not just a question of having a cursory glance at a map and choosing the nearest motorway. Low bridges mean most motorways are impassable.
The Load rounds a tight bend
... with some nasty bends along the way.

The only solution is to use narrow, windy roads, which creates its own problems. Apart from tricky driving manoeuvres and disgruntled drivers, 'street furniture' - traffic lights, bollards, fences and road signs - can make these roads impassable.

So how do the team cope? Shifting Load finds out...
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