M6 hard shoulder trials mark the countdown to scheme completion

Published date: 13 February 2014
Type:Press release
Region: West Midlands

HIGHWAYS AGENCY News Release issued 13 February 2014

The Highways Agency will be testing the newly-installed smart motorway systems on the hard shoulder of the M6 between J6 and J8 from Sunday 16 February. This marks the final stage before this section of the scheme fully opens as the scheme nears completion

During off-peak traffic conditions Traffic officers at the Highways Agency regional control centre in Quinton will open up the hard shoulder to traffic, setting overhead messages and variable mandatory speed limits to indicate when drivers can use the hard shoulder as an extra lane.

Testing of the systems off-peak allows the Agency to check the technology is working ahead of full operation on this section of the M6. Subject to the trials and tests being completed successfully the smart motorway systems will become fully operational during peak traffic conditions between J6 and J8 later this month.

The enforceable variable speed limits will be indicated on the overhead signs above each lane in a red ring and will be introduced to help ease congestion during busy periods or if an incident occurs. Lane closures will be displayed by a solid red cross with flashing beacons and instructions to move out of a lane will be displayed by a white arrow.

The final section of the scheme between junction 5 and 6 will follow with systems tested during March. If successful the scheme will be fully operational shortly after.

Highways Agency project manager, Rob Edwards, said:

“We urge road users to follow the overhead signs, and remind them that the hard shoulder can only be legally used by motorists as a running lane when a speed limit is displayed above it –otherwise it is for emergency purposes only.

“We are installing the final signs on the elevated motorway between Junction 5 and 6 and will be completing the last bit of the testing during March, ahead of fully completing the scheme.

“When fully open road users will experience real benefits from this scheme, specifically the southbound exit at J6, where we now have two dedicated lanes for traffic coming off into central Birmingham separated from the through traffic travelling further down the M6. This will reduce the queuing at this junction and resulting delays.”

Once completed, road users along the M6 will benefit from the longest section of smart motorway currently operating in the country, running from J4 through to J10, making journey times more reliable, through the use of variable mandatory speed limits, and easing congestion by opening the hard shoulder as an extra running lane during busy periods.

For further information on the M6 managed motorway scheme, visit http://​www​.highways​.gov​.uk/​r​o​a​d​s​/​r​o​a​d​-​p​r​o​j​e​c​t​s​/​M​6​-​B​i​r​m​i​n​g​h​a​m​-​B​o​x​-​P​h​a​s​e-3

For pictures of what you will see on a managed motorway, visit http://​www​.flickr​.com/​p​h​o​t​o​s​/​h​i​g​h​w​a​y​s​a​g​e​n​c​y​/​s​e​t​s​/​7​2​1​5​7​6​3​1​8​7​9​9​4​2​7​69/ Please credit the Highways Agency.

Notes to Editors:

The Highways Agency is an executive agency of
the Department for Transport. We manage, maintain and improve England’s
motorways and other strategic roads on behalf of the Secretary of State.

The M6 J5 to J8
smart motorway scheme represent the third phase of improvements planned to the
Birmingham motorway network, known as the “Birmingham Box”. It links to the
already completed smart motorway schemes on either side – between junctions 4
to 5 (completed in 2009), and junctions 8 to 10a (completed in 2011) - to
ensure consistency around the Birmingham motorway box. In 2009 there were also
operational changes to the M40 J16-3A and M42 J7-9 to introduce controlled
motorways: use of features such as variable speed limits but without using the
hard shoulder as a traffic lane.

The value of the M6 J5 to J8 scheme
contract awarded to Carillion is £104.9m. The estimated outturn cost of the M6
project is £126.4m (that includes the estimated £49m saving), which comprises
construction costs at £105.5m (including an allowance for project and programme
risk) and development costs.

Carillion was selected from four delivery partners that were awarded the managed
motorway national framework contract in February

The four delivery
partners are:

Balfour Beatty

Nuttall / Morgan Sindall Joint Venture (bmJV)


Costain/Serco Joint Venture

Smart motorways: As an Agency we have changed the name of managed
motorways to smart motorways. We are making smarter use of our motorway
network, smart motorways encompasses all sections of our network that
incorporate technology to manage congestion and improve journey time
reliability. This includes controlling speeds to improve traffic flow through
the use of variable mandatory speeds and providing driver information on
overhead signs. Most recognisably smart motorways can use technology to
open the hard shoulder at times of peak demand or the hard shoulder
is permanently converted to a traffic lane with additional emergency
refuge areas. This adds extra capacity on some of the busiest sections of
our motorway network.

It is important to the Agency that all road users understand the layout,
signs and signals used on our smart motorways sections. We have been working to
introduce a series of information products that can be easily identified and
understood as smart motorways. From November 2013 these will begin to be
promoted and shared with road users and our partners. More information and
background on smart motorways is available at:

3. Click here for the
Highways Agency’s roads programme, including where work on managed motorways
schemes are underway and planned:

Maintenance and
improvement projects
plan maintenance and improvement projects carefully to allow road works to be
completed safely, in a cost effective way while keeping disruption to road
users to a minimum. We do as much work as possible overnight and when roads are
less busy in order to keep more lanes open for road users at peak travel times.
Drivers are advised to check their route for road works and allow extra time
for their journeys where needed. We have a variety of journey planning tools
that road users can use to check travel conditions on the roads we manage, and
we will do all we can to keep road users informed.

Safety at roadworks: The Highways Agency is working with the industry and
road users to reduce the risks of working on the roads.
For the safety of
road workers and all road users, when you are approaching roadworks:

- Keep within the speed limit – it is there
for your safety.

- Get into the correct lane in good time –
don’t keep switching.

- Concentrate on the road ahead, not the

- Be alert for works’ traffic leaving or
entering roadworks.

- Keep a safe distance – there could be
queues in front.

- Observe all signs – they are there to help

- And be alert for
road workers, the roads are their workplace.

6. Real-time traffic information for England’s motorways and other strategic roads is available:

- From the web at www​.highways​.gov​.uk/​t​r​a​f​fic or from a phone or mobile device at m.highways.gov.uk

- By phone from the
Highways Agency Information Line on 0300 123 5000 at any time. (
Calls to 0300
numbers will cost no more than 5p per minute from a standard BT residential
landline. Call charges from other landlines and mobile networks may vary, but
will be no more than a standard geographic call and will be included in all
inclusive minutes and discount schemes).
Make sure it’s safe
and legal before you call. Before using any mobile, find a safe place to park.
Never stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway except in an emergency.

- On
iPhone app
which will automatically select the region you are in. Free to download from
the iTunes store or search for Highways Agency on your device.

From Twitter – there are eight feeds with live traffic
information provided by region. For the full index visit

7. Receive our national and regional press
releases by
RSS and get the latest headlines straight to your desktop the
moment we publish them to our website. Choose to receive a national press feed
or one of our regionalised feeds - go to
www​.highways​.gov​.uk/​r​s​s​n​ews for more information.

by Regional News Network Midlands on behalf of the Highways Agency.

further information please contact Dee Smith on 0115 872 4741. Media enquiries
out of hours should be made to the Highways Agency National Press Office
(24hrs) on
0844 693 1448.


RNN Midlands
Phone: 0115 872 4741