HC Deb 22 March 2001 vol 365 cc285-6W
Mr. Redwood

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what the reason was for the time taken by(a) the Environment Agency to respond to the accident and spill on the A329M on 12 March and (b) the police to clear the road; and for what reason the police closed the road for most of that day;[154278]

(2) if he will make a statement on (a) the traffic delays caused by the closure of the A329M on 12 March and (b) the Environment Agency's role in the closure. [154277]

Mr. Meacher

I understand that due to the spillage of diesel fuel and a subsequent six-vehicle accident the Thames Valley police closed the A329M at 23.54 pm on 11 March and re-opened it approximately three hours later. During the intervening period. the Thames Valley police, assisted by the Environment Agency, were involved in mopping up the diesel fuel and removing the six vehicles involved in the accident, which was made more difficult at the time by severe weather conditions. At the scene of such an accident the police have a duty to ensure that the safety of the public the preservation of life, the rescue of the injured and the gathering of evidence to support the prosecution of serious traffic offences take precedence over any problems caused by traffic delay or congestion. The police are of course conscious of delays that can ensue from such accidents and they work with the Highways Agency and local radio stations to minimise disruption to traffic. Once the Thames Valley police were satisfied that it was safe to re-open the road, they did so at approximately 3.00 am on

12 March.

Following an initial telephone call from the Thames Valley police, Environmental Protection Officers from the Environment Agency arrived at the scene approximately 50 minutes from first notification of the incident, to find that diesel fuel was flowing from the road into the roadside drains. The Agency's officers isolated the surface drains using sawdust and soil from the verges and made a request to the local authority for gulley suckers to empty the roadside drains as soon as possible. The Agency's officers checked ditches on both sides of the M4, identifying areas where these drained to the Emm Brook. After a thorough examination, the Agency officers could find no evidence to suggest that any diesel fuel had entered either the ditches or the Emm Brook.