Extremely powerful magnets, extendable 360-degree cameras, massive crash pads and a PA system to ask motorists to move are all part of new plans to get response teams to Auckland crashes faster.

The Central Motorway Incident Response crew gave the Herald on Sunday an exclusive first look at its new centre on Union St. It has shifted from its former base just north of the Harbour Bridge so it can get to scenes quickly and keep traffic moving.

Time is imperative when a crash or breakdown is phoned in from Auckland Transport Operations Centre (Atoc), which has eyes on the region's roads around the clock. A crash on a major road can bring the Auckland network to a grinding halt, especially at rush hour.

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The Central Motorway Incident Response crew gets a new base

From Atoc's office in Smales Farm, it can switch the Union St response team's monitor to display one of the 200 cameras on the highway network so the crew can work out exactly where it is.


They jump in the three response vehicles, the Incident Response Unit Truck which has the gadgets and two Truck Mounted Attenuators which have giant cushion devices on the back in case they get rammed, and head to the scene.

The vehicles will be fitted with the same sirens as fire trucks and will have PA systems with pre-recorded messages politely telling motorists to clear a path.

On the back of the two attenuator trucks are reflective blue arrows that can be spun in the direction they want traffic to flow, LED lights to create flashing pointers, two strobe lights and an LED board that can display messages like "incident ahead" - another weapon in the unit's artillery to convince drivers they're not doing roadworks.

The response truck is now also equipped with a camera that can be extended almost five metres above the scene and swivel 360 degrees so when the team is at a scene blocked by the highway cameras, images can be streamed back to the centre.

It has a pretty powerful zoom, too, says department manager Jason Morgan.

"Once they zoomed right down on me and said, 'You need to trim your nose hairs'."

Once the wreckage has been cleared, the four-man team is then in charge of the vital clean-up and that's when the giant magnet comes into play.

It can be lowered to 10cm above the road surface to pick up metal debris that can pierce motorists' tyres.

And during their down-time, the team looks after the region's motorways and keeps them clean and tidy.

There is even a special seat for the designated litter collector about halfway back on the right-hand side of the Incident Response Unit.

The crew works in a similar shift pattern as the emergency services: four people work four 12-hour shifts then have four days off.

Their busiest months are the times when there's the most traffic on the roads and long weekends are particularly hectic.