M1 Closure J20 - J18 Southbound, Leicestershire / Northamptonshire. Monday 08 December 2014

The M1 was closed south­bound between junc­tions J20-J18 due to a HGV fire at J18. The link road from the M6 south­bound on to the M1 south­bound was also closed. The fire was so intense it caused sig­nif­i­cant dam­age with all 3 lanes  at J18 requir­ing resurfacing.

At around 19:30 on Mon­day 08 Decem­ber, Northamp­ton­shire Police informed our East Mid­lands Regional Con­trol Cen­tre they were receiv­ing calls regard­ing a HGV fire near the M1 at J18.  Our Con­trol Cen­tre Oper­a­tors quickly found the inci­dent on CCTV and set signs and sig­nals to warn motorists of the dan­ger ahead. A High­ways Agency Traf­fic Offi­cer patrol was dis­patched towards the inci­dent and at 19:44 imple­mented a rolling road block between junc­tions J20-J19 with the plan to close the road at J19. At this time our col­leagues at Northamp­ton­shire Police and Northamp­ton­shire Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice had arrived on scene. The fire ser­vice had started tack­ling the blaze and police has stopped traf­fic a safe dis­tance from the scene. The feroc­ity of the fire also meant that traf­fic was unable to pass the scene using the J18 south­bound exit slip road.

At 19:53 our Traf­fic Offi­cers had begun to close the M1 south­bound at J19 and by 20:04 the clo­sure was imple­mented. Due to the loca­tion of the inci­dent our West Mid­lands Traf­fic Offi­cers were asked to help by clos­ing the link road from the M6 south­bound on to the M1 south­bound which was done by 20:21. The fire ser­vice informed us that the HGV was laden with cheese which was very dif­fi­cult to extin­guish. They said it would take at least 2 hours before the fire was under con­trol enough to allow any traf­fic near it.  The deci­sion was then made to close the M1 at J20 to take advan­tage of a strate­gic diver­sion via the A426 and A5.

M1 HGV fire J18 map

M1 HGV fire J18 image

Given the com­plex­ity of J19 behind and the road works at Catthorpe, it was deemed safer to wait until the blaze was under full con­trol and to then release the large num­bers of trapped traf­fic via the J18 south­bound exit and entry slip roads. From 20:59 our Traf­fic Offi­cers were over­see­ing the release of traf­fic with this process com­pleted by 21:55. The fire ser­vice then con­tin­ued to make safe the scene and a sig­nif­i­cant damp­en­ing down time was required. Ulti­mately by 04:30 the burnt out truck car­cass was removed on a flatbed trailer. This then allowed our con­trac­tors and clean-up crews access to sur­vey the road sur­face and com­mence the clean-up oper­a­tion. Con­trac­tors worked hard to clear and sweep the area to ensure the road sur­face was not a skid risk.  Dur­ing this time the south­bound traf­fic was able to divert past the scene.

Cru­cially how­ever, by 04:30 it was estab­lished that the road sur­face was regret­tably unfit and there­fore an exten­sive oper­a­tion to plane the top sur­face and re-surface all 3 lanes was taken. Our crews deliv­ered in the region of 80 Tonnes of new tar­mac and oper­a­tions were then under­way to have this laid, set and the new sur­face white-lined as soon as possible.

By 05:30 it was noted that traf­fic was again begin­ning to build with queues extend­ing back to J19 with aver­age speeds as low as 7mph.  Dur­ing the early morn­ing from 06:30 our National Traf­fic Oper­a­tions Cen­tre set Vari­able Mes­sage Signs to inform approach­ing traf­fic on other routes to use the A42 and M40 and A1, as alter­na­tives, to avoid head­ing into the area where queues and delays were already well estab­lished.  Notably on the M1 itself,  south­bound queues extended back to J20 for most of the morn­ing and on the M6 south­bound from J1 to the M1 link road at J19.

Through­out the morn­ing numer­ous con­trac­tor vehi­cles and resources worked tire­lessly to open the road as soon as pos­si­ble. High­ways Agency Traf­fic Offi­cers worked to keep heav­ily con­gested routes clear by quickly engag­ing in any event which caused dis­rup­tion, such as clear­ing a num­ber of bro­ken down vehicles.

Finally after fur­ther sup­plies of tar­mac through­out the morn­ing, the new road sur­face was set and cured by 14:30. Con­trac­tor vehi­cles then removed the tem­po­rary traf­fic man­age­ment arrange­ments and all lanes we’re open by 15:00 that afternoon.

Dur­ing this inci­dent, High­ways Agency updated cus­tomers via our web­site www.highways.gov.uk/traffic-information/ and via our regional twit­ter feeds @HATraffic_emids @HATraffic_wmids.

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