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.
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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