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Gritters not at fault in motorway chaos

CARILLION is likely to escape any financial penalty following the gridlock caused by snowfall on the M11 in Cambridgeshire last week.

There was chaos on the motorway as last Thursday's Arctic blast left drivers stranded overnight in freezing temperatures.

Carillion is responsible for looking after the road as part of its area 8 managing agent contractor contract worth about £125 million. Under the deal, the firm has to meet a number of key performance indicators set by the agency.

The firm has spent £2 million on 32 gritting machines which were sent out but became stuck in the traffic hold-up caused by jack-knifed lorries.

The Highways Agency's procurement director Steve Rowsell said: 'There is every reason to believe they got all the gritters out in accordance with the processes. Commercial issues are secondary. We need to make sure this doesn't happen again.'

The agency is drawing up a report into the fiasco, spearheaded by chief executive Tim Matthews. An initial briefing is due out in the next few weeks.

A Carillion spokesman said:

'As soon as we got the information about the weather we went out gritting but there were abnormally high levels of traffic.'