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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 December, 2004, 12:00 GMT
Toll motorway holds up ambulance
One of Staffordshire Ambulance Service's response vehicles - pic by Staffordshire Ambulance Service
Mr Lee said the vehicle had a blue light and ambulance service badges
An emergency vehicle was delayed from responding to a 999 call when its paramedic driver was told to pay for using the M6 Toll motorway.

Staffordshire Ambulance Service said it would be meeting toll road bosses after the incident, at Weeford near Lichfield on Wednesday night.

An ambulance spokesman said such delays could put lives at risk.

The road's operators say the car was not "clearly liveried" and no warning was given.

Bob Lee, for the ambulance service, said the driver, wearing a paramedic uniform, was only allowed through the toll after turning on the car's blue lights.

He was driving the Vauxhall estate from Cannock to Lichfield to provide emergency cover, when he was stopped at the exit of the M6 Toll and the booth operator refused to raise the barrier.

That potentially puts lives at risk and we're at a loss what to do - enough is enough
Bob Lee, Staffordshire Ambulance Service

The white emergency response vehicle was marked with green chequered stripes with a blue light bar on top and blue lights on the grill.

It was displaying a large "star of life" emblem on its bonnet and had the ambulance service's crown badge on the two front doors.

Mr Lee said all the above had been agreed with the operator of the M6 Toll, Midland Expressway Limited, as being sufficient for recognition as an ambulance vehicle.

He said the paramedic called his control centre and a senior officer telephoned the toll booth operator to explain the situation.

Mr Lee said while this was happening, the paramedic received the emergency call, but he still had to wait with his blue lights flashing before he was allowed to exit.

"It was clearly marked, clearly an ambulance vehicle, clearly going on an emergency call and yet still despite all the assurances from the toll operator this vehicle was delayed," Mr Lee said.

Free access

"Now that potentially puts lives at risk and we're at a loss what to do.

"This is not the first time this has happened and enough is enough."

Tom Fanning managing director of the operators of the M6 Toll, Midland Expressway Limited, denied the vehicle was a clearly marked ambulance.

"Ambulances that are not clearly liveried are allowed through providing the agreed procedures are followed, in that the ambulance service control room telephones ahead to give us advance warning so that we can give them free and unhindered access," he said.

"No advance notice was given, however, after a brief discussion the vehicle, a Vauxhall Vectra estate, was given free passage."

He said a meeting had been arranged for some time between himself and the ambulance service's chief executive.

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