M25 police see no end to life in the slow lane

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The sergeant in charge of the shift at Surrey Police's motorway control centre has a God-like view of the busiest stretches of the M25.

At the touch of a button he can summon a view of the pounding or near-stationary traffic almost anywhere using 35 remote control cameras, swing them around, zoom in on individual vehicles.

He has known this motorway since its completion in 1986, watched it become busier, suffered the foul abuse of jam-delayed, infuriated motorists who ring the control room direct on mobile phones (the number is now ex-directory).

And, like millions, he wonders where it is all leading. He doubts that more road building and widening can be the answer, although he would rather his name were not linked to such opinions.

The sergeant is dazed by the idea of policing an M25 with two- lane link roads alongside the busiest five-lane sections, giving 14 lanes of motorway in all - a plan the Secretary of State confirmed yesterday. 'It's just going to draw more traffic onto it,' he said.

'The whole of the South-east is chock-a-block and that's it, really. They've got to do something, but what? Perhaps they should make public transport a little bit cheaper.'

The Surrey Constabulary controls nearly half the London orbital motorway, from Junction 2 in the east near Dartford to Junction 13, between the M4 and the M3 in the west. And there are parts of the M23, the M3 and the M26 giving 60 miles of motorway in all.

The sergeant says traffic soared in the M25's early years, but the growth slowed as the motorway clogged up and showed signs of ending during the recession. But now it is rising once more and with nine miles of road-widening under way to slow its progress this promises to be a long, hot summer on the M25.

He estimates that at any one place during the hours between 6am and 10pm, the traffic is grinding along bumper-to-bumper for one-third of the time.

(Photograph omitted)