Birmingham & Black Country

M6 toll should be dropped earlier after crashes, says West Midlands PCC

M6
Image caption There were lengthy delays following the accident

The M6 toll road should be made free of charge more quickly after serious crashes, the West Midlands police and crime commissioner (PCC) has said.

Current plans were examined after lengthy delays followed a crash between junctions five and six on 4 February, in which a 26-year-old driver died.

PCC David Jamieson presented 11 recommendations to Transport Minister Andrew Jones.

He said he was convinced co-ordination "must improve across the board".

Highways England previously apologised.

Repair lorries stuck in traffic and poor decision-making led to delays in dealing with the fatal accident, a leaked debrief revealed.

A hearing, called by Mr Jamieson, to examine the multi-agency response in the aftermath of the incident was later held at Birmingham's Council House on Friday.

Highways England said it did not take it seriously enough, early enough.

'Not a major incident'

Mr Jamieson said ahead of Tuesday's meeting he was convinced co-ordination must improve "across the board, so that Highways England are working as closely as possible with local authorities and the police".

The PCC also said out-of-hours provision "needs to be reviewed" and there "needs to be clarity on who is in charge of managing incidents at all times".

Mr Jamieson, who is standing for re-election as the Labour candidate in the PCC elections on 5 May, said he believed a grading system for crashes needed to be introduced so agencies "do not just wait for a major incident to be declared, but can respond proportionately".

West Midlands Police Chief Constable David Thompson said on Friday: "I am satisfied it was probably on balance the right decision not to declare it a major incident, but I think actually it could... easily have become one."

A spokesman for the force said it would look at the recommendations "in detail", adding: "It's our aim to keep the Midland motorways running well and safely for all drivers and passengers."

The leaked report found lorries with resurfacing materials coming from Leicestershire were stuck in congestion worsened by the incident, with vehicles carrying tarmac needing a police escort along the hard shoulder to arrive.

Andrew Butterfield, from Highways England, said on Friday: "(I) understand that tarmac has a certain shelf life in the vehicles and therefore we wanted to make sure it arrived at site and was useable and that's why we took the approach that we did."

Highways England, police and councils were at Friday's hearing.

Les Jones, Conservative candidate for this year's PCC elections, was unavailable for comment.

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