Ian Streets, managing director of About Access, catches up with Costain to help them ensure their motorway recovery services are accessible
Millions of motorists might never need them but for those whose vehicles break down in motorway roadwork zones, the recovery areas are a godsend.
They are out of bounds even to the “fourth emergency service” and stranded drivers and their passengers are left to rely on the contractor to get them out of harm’s way and to a place where they can resume their journey.
The role involves being able to look after all sorts of vehicles – and a variety of different people. It is encouraging, therefore, that we were commissioned to spend two days delivering access auditor training to one of the contractors, Costain, which clearly recognises the benefits of making its motorway recovery services accessible.
Costain called us in to provide the training in the compound they have set up near junction 15 of the M1, where they are delivering a Smart Motorway scheme for Highways England.
We’re familiar with Highways England and have noted that attention to accessibility is one area in which they are improving what they do. Their job is all about keeping vehicles moving and they don’t often come into contact face-to-face with people, so they are working harder to do that effectively and to make sure that the people working for them are operating to best practice standards and beyond.
A better understanding of access barriers
Costain’s aims were to give their staff a better understanding of the barriers people face in terms of access, not just wheelchair users but also poor manual dexterity, impaired vision or hearing and cognitive impairments and other impairments.
We delivered the session in one of the site’s temporary buildings and reviewed the accessibility of the recovery compound and building. The recovery area was nicely tarmacked with parking bays marked out. The building provides a loo, baby-changing facilities, a small kitchen for making drinks and reheating food and a TV.
Maximum waiting time at the side of the motorway is an hour – although much less in reality – but the amount of time a group can spend waiting at the compound comes down to the availability of whoever is picking them up. Costain provides some home comforts, with thought given to making the facilities accessible.
On average, they recover about 22 vehicles a week at this particular site and take them to the compound. One driver had a panic attack in three lanes of traffic. Costain’s recovery team took them to the compound and arranged for them to go to a nearby hotel overnight until a relative could collect them.
The Costain team in our session included someone from HR, the person responsible for the compound itself and who had helped to set it up, an engineer, the senior works superintendent, office manager, project director and group equality diversity and inclusion manager.
It was a two-day course and feedback indicated that all the delegates found it very informative. Initially there was some resistance from one of them on the first morning but by the end of the course they reported: “Totally opened my eyes about disability. I didn’t realise it was so vast and covers enormous areas.”
Changing Places facility on motorway recovery
Some responses were relevant to the motorway recovery scenario and others had much wider scope. One aspect of accessibility, which they had not given much thought to until we mentioned it, was a Changing Places facility, and the suggested solution was to find the nearest one to a compound and liaise with the operator to make sure it is available.
One delegate, who uses a wheelchair, added some real-life experience to the course by telling about their experience trying to buy petrol. He goes to a particular petrol station near his home but can’t use it after 10pm as staff are not allowed to leave the booth. His other concern is that to pay for his fuel he has to hand over his credit card and it is taken out of his sight. Little things like that are informative.
One of the electrical engineers has a visual impairment and her comments added to the mix. The group reinforced some of the information that we were telling them and it added value for all, giving us more experiences to draw on and to illustrate in future events, increasing awareness by providing details of real-life scenarios.
An event like this is a win-win. Costain can show it is pushing the boundaries and thinking about everybody, Highways England are getting a better service from their suppliers and the members of the public who have to use the compounds are getting more accessible accommodation.
About Access, 63 Wilson St, Anlaby, Hull, East Yorkshire, HU10 7AJ.
Tel: +44 (0)1482 651101
Please note: this is a commercial profile.