M56 Closure Both Directions, Cheshire. Monday 10 August 2015
The M56 in Cheshire was closed in both directions between J12 (Runcorn) and J14 (Ellesmere Port), due to a tanker vehicle fire. The tanker was carrying 8 tonnes of propane gas, leading to a 1500 meter exclusion zone also being implemented.
At approximately 14:55 Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service notified Highways England that they were receiving multiple calls regarding a vehicle fire on the eastbound carriageway of the M56. Cheshire Police arrived and confirmed that due to the load of the vehicle and the severity of the fire, both carriageways would need to be fully closed. The eastbound carriageway was stopped on their arrival and both sides were closed by 15:12.
Traffic Officers were promptly deployed by our North West Regional Control Centre to the area in order to assist with the closures of the motorway and our National Incident Liaison Officer’s (NILO) team began to update you of the closures and the diversion details via our Social Media Channels, local and national message signs and to the travel media, endeavoring to provide as much information, as early as possible to avoid more traffic heading into the closures.
Upon the Fire service arrival and quick assessment, it became apparent this incident was worse than first thought and the gas on board the tanker was quickly burning and likely to explode. The Police and Fire service then implemented a 1500 metre exclusion zone from the scene, making the safety of the traffic close by their top priority. Whilst the fire service began their long battle with the fire, police removed all occupants from their vehicles and moved them to a place of safety. As a further safety precaution, social media was utilized to advise local residents to stay in doors with all windows and doors closed, and at approximately 15:54 Helsby Railway station was advised to close the line between Helsby and Ellesmere Port.
Traffic Officers made releasing the trapped traffic as priority as Police and Fire continued to deal with the fire. Our units began turning and releasing traffic at J12 at around 16:00. Knowing this was going to take a long time to clear all the traffic, instructions were issued for our Service Providers to make arrangements to remove the central reservation barrier for us to use as a further measure to release traffic safely.Our service providers quickly responded and the barrier was removed with traffic being released from scene via a contra flow system by 17:26. All trapped traffic was cleared by around 18:40.
At around 18:00, due to congestion in the surrounding area, it became necessary to extend the closures to include the link roads from the M53 north and southbound onto the M56.
The Fire service continued to work through the evening and into the night, dealing with the tanker. They deployed to scene specialist engineers who are experts in dealing with these types of incidents . Following the dousing of fire, the vehicle had to be left to cool before it could be recovered, in order to prevent further damage and/or re-igniting. The fire service made regular checks on the vehicle using specialist equipment such as thermal imaging cameras to determine when the vehicle was safe.
The vehicle was declared safe and recovery was well underway by 20:45. Work than began to remove the closures in the surrounding area. The M53 link road closures and the eastbound main carriageway were both fully re-opened by 22:00. Recovery was completed and the westbound carriageway was fully re-opened under a rolling road block.
The damage to the carriageway, luckily did not extend passed the hard shoulder and despite resurfacing required to this section, all lanes fully open in both directions at 23:45.
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