National Highways Traffic Officers celebrate 20 years of service

England’s roads saw the introduction of a new frontline service 20 years ago today with the deployment of traffic officers onto motorways, their role to specifically help road users.  

Traffic volume has increased over the years as have our traffic officer numbers, from around ninety traffic officers two decades ago to over a thousand traffic officer patrols helping to keep road users safe.

The front-line service started in the Midlands and was subsequently rolled out nationally. Frank Bird was one of the original traffic officers. Since 2004, Frank’s career has progressed and he is now a Senior Network Planner and widely known for being the National Highways ‘bank holiday getaway’ spokesperson for the media.

He said: “No two days are ever the same and look where the job has led me. This organisation has given me so many opportunities to gain experience and learn different things to enhance my career.

“At school I was painfully shy. Now when I talk to some of my old school friends who have seen me on telly they say I’m so confident and exude an air of authority.  Who knew that the little lad that used to sit at the back of the class would end up giving advice to millions of road users on the national news.”

Frank is very proud of his beginnings. He said: “We were what we like to call the vanguard and the front runners for this new service. On day one, I was on the afternoon shift, so the morning team got all the attention with the media. Although, together with some of the other new traffic officers, I did get the opportunity to meet the then Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie at Number 10.”

Talking about the traffic officer role Frank said: “It was unique. I couldn’t find anything anywhere in the world that was quite like our service whose primary role was to look after the welfare of the motorist. We weren’t there to repair roads or build new bridges but to make journeys safer and hopefully a more pleasant experience.”

Talking about the first time he stopped in his vehicle and stepped out to temporarily hold the traffic in a live lane, Frank said: “I have to say it was almost like the best laxative known to man it. It was quite a surreal but rewarding experience.

“Back when we started, the uniform was a white shirt and tie. When you’re crawling around under a vehicle, you know, getting your hands dirty and whatever. Totally impractical, but the organisation and wider authorities fully embraced our feedback and revamped the uniform.”

(Pic – National Highways Traffic Officer Frank Bird, far left, front row)


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