M6 Birmingham Box Phase 3: Smart Motorway

Project status:   Current
Region:  Midlands

Start date:   April 2012
End date:  April 2014

Type:   Major Scheme
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Major Scheme

Part of our programme of improvements (value >10m)

Cost:  £115 million


August 2014

The scheme is now fully operational and the hardshoulder is opened to traffic at peak times between M6 junctions 5 and 8

You can read the full press release for the operational launch.

There are still some additional maintenance works to be completed and these will continue during night time lane closures until mid - August. The activities that will continue during these night-time closures are mainly replacement of bridge joints and installation of road markings.

Removal of traffic management

The traffic management has now been removed but some night time traffic management will continue where necessary for maintenance work on bridge joints and road markings

Free recovery

The free recovery service on the M6 between junction 8 and junction 5 and on the adjoining M5 links has finished following removal of the traffic management.

Variable speed limits

Variable speed limits are now in operation on the M6 between junction 8 and junction 5 as well as the previously completed adjacent schemes. These enforceable variable speed limits are indicated on the overhead signs above each lane in a red ring and are introduced to help ease congestion during busy periods or if an incident occurs.

To find out about the var­i­ous fea­tures of a smart motor­way – including how the variable speed system works – visit our Smart Motorways homepage.

What is happening?

We propose to improve the M6 by making it a "smart motorway" (previously known as managed motorways) between junctions 5 and 8, including M5 link roads. smart motorways help relieve congestion by using technology to vary speed limits. They also allow the hard shoulder to be used as a running lane at peak times to create additional capacity. They deliver these benefits at a significantly lower cost than conventional motorway widening and with less impact on the environment during construction. Find out more about Smart Motorways

When and where is this happening?

Work began in April 2012 and we are planning on opening the scheme to traffic in the first quarter (between April and June) of financial year 2014/15. The Birmingham Box Phase 3 Smart Motorway scheme is the link between junction 5 at Castle Bromwich and junction 8 M6/M5 interchange, serving Walsall, Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield.

Why is this happening and what will it cost?

This work is needed as the route currently suffers from:

  • heavy congestion
  • unpredictable journey times
  • higher than average accident rates

Research carried out on the M42 and M6 has proven smart motorways reduce accidents, and improve journey times. Similarly, journey times have improved between the M40 junction 16, near Lapworth, and M6 junction 5, near Birmingham, since the  introduction of two sections of hard shoulder running. Evidence also shows that roadusers say hard shoulder running has improved these sections of the ‘Birmingham Box’ motorways. Road users reported that when smart motorways are in operation there is an average daily saving of about 2 minutes per vehicle for a return journey in peak periods.

The estimated outturn cost for this scheme is £115 million.

How will the scheme be carried out?

A number of cameras, information signs and signals on gantries will be installed as part of the improvement scheme. Some of the existing vegetation within the highway boundary will need to be removed to make space for the new infrastructure. To comply with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, any works which could possibly affect bird nesting sites must be done outside of the breeding season.

The breeding season is March to August inclusive so removal of the existing vegetation was carried out in January and February 2012. Replacement planting will be provided, where possible, around the new infrastructure.

Average speed cameras will be used through the length of the works for the safety of both the road user (motorists) and also, the workforce. Also, temporary CCTV cameras will be installed to monitor for broken down vehicles and other incidents. These were installed in March 2012.

The main works are planned to be done Monday to Friday during normal working hours. However, there will be a significant amount of work done overnight including during weekend periods. During the day, the working space is limited and therefore, not all operations can be done safely. At night, when traffic flows are considerably lighter, lanes can be temporarily closed without causing huge queues on the motorway and the surrounding roads.

Night time working will be needed throughout the construction period for works such as; temporary safety fencing, temporary road markings, resurfacing, cutting MIDAS loops, erection of new gantries, fitting signs and signals to gantries and erection of lighting and CCTV columns. We will endeavour to do all works, whether during the day or at night, with the minimal amount of disruption and disturbance.

If we are planning to carry out works overnight near to people’s homes, we will communicate with them in advance. Also, we will operate a resident’s information line to help in answering questions and providing updates.

The Appraisal Summary Table, summarising the key consequences relating to the environmental, economic and social impacts of this project, has been produced and is available to be viewed under Publications.

What are the benefits?

This project will relieve congestion and smooth the flow of the traffic, improving safety and journey times. These benefits will also support economic development in the region.

We already have evidence of the benefits that a smart motorway scheme can bring. The first smart motorway scheme opened to traffic on the M42 motorway in 2006. Recent analysis of the data gathered since opening has found that journey time reliability improved by 22 per cent and reduced emissions by up to 10 per cent due to traffic flowing more smoothly.

In addition, personal injury accidents have reduced by more than half (55.7%) since hard shoulder running was introduced. There was also an overall reduction in the severity of accidents with zero fatalities and fewer seriously injured.

How do I find out more information ?

More information will be posted on this project page as it becomes available. You can subscribe to be alerted when updates are made.

If you have any queries about this project you should contact the Highways Agency Information Line by emailing ha_​info@​highways.​gsi.​gov.​uk or calling 0300 123 5000.

For more information on Smart Motorways in the Midlands, please view our facebook page.

Details of scheduled roadworks are provided to help you plan your journey. Please note that works are weather- and resource- dependent and may need to be cancelled at short notice. This information is not updated in real time so please check Traffic England for current traffic conditions. Diversion timings are approximate and act as a guide only.

Will there be roadworks?

Closures on Friday and Saturday nights will be implemented from as early as 22:00 hours, if traffic flows are low enough, through to 08:00 hours the following morning.Closures on Monday to Thursday nights will be implemented from as early as 22:00 hours, if traffic flows are low enough, through to 05:30 hours the following morning.

How will you manage traffic?

There will be night time lane closures of the M6 between junctions 5 and 3 while we carry out maintenance works to the carriageway joints and renew certain areas of the surfacing. These works are planned to be completed by mid-August.

Will there be diversions?

The works will be carried out under lane closures, meaning the Motorway will still remain open, therefore diversions will not be used.

Business Case

M6 Birmingham Box Phase 3 Managed Motorways - Business Case
M6 Birmingham Box Phase 3 Managed Motorways - Business Case - Information correct as at December 2010


M6 Birmingham Box Phase 3 Managed Motorways - Public Exhibition Material - June-July 2011
M6 Birmingham Box Phase 3 Managed Motorways - Public Exhibition Material


M6 Birmingham Box Phase 3 Managed Motorways - Summary of Consultation Responses
M6 Birmingham Box Phase 3 Managed Motorways - Summary of Consultation Responses


What we will be doing

  • Providing new overhead gantries and refurbishing existing gantries;
  • Providing new information signs, variable message signs and signals;
  • Installing CCTV traffic surveillance cameras;
  • Providing new emergency refuge areas;
  • Improving carriageway drainage;
  • Replacing the existing screen fencing;  and
  • Re-aligning the motorway locally north of junction 6.

These works are now completed