M6 Closure J13 - J12 Southbound, Staffordshire. Saturday 18th July 2015
The M6 in Staffordshire was closed southbound between J13 and J12 throughout Saturday 18th July 2015 due to a lorry fire. The road remained closed for vehicle recovery, extensive clean-up and extensive resurfacing work.
At approx 0140 our West Midlands Regional Control Centre in Birmingham observed on CCTV that a lorry was on fire within the major roadworks on the M6 southbound between J13 (Stafford) and J12 (Cannock) and the road was completely blocked:
As the blaze was clearly significant in nature Highways England officers were deployed immediately along with crews from Staffordshire Fire & Rescue and the police units from the Central Motorway Police Group. Based on CCTV observations of the scene it was immediately apparent that the motorway would need to be closed southbound and therefore resources were deployed to put this in place. Fire crews were soon on scene tackling the blaze:
At 0155 the closure of the southbound carriageway was in place at J13 and the small amount of traffic trapped between there and the scene of the fire were being turned around to head back to J13 and exit the motorway.
Our National Incident Liaison Officers (NILOs) at the National Traffic Operations Centre (NTOC) issued bulletins to advise the travelling public of the closure and significance of the incident via social media. The NILOs would continue to provide regular updates via social media throughout the day. In addition they issued the first of many bulletins of the day regarding the incident to the media which included the details of the diversion route. Furthermore our staff at NTOC set warning messages on our electronic Variable Message Signs (VMS) across the motorway network in the North West of England and north Midlands to advise road users already on the road of the closure. Our online traffic information service (www.trafficengland.com) also carried information regarding the closure and would be regularly updated throughout the life of the incident. Our staff in our 24 hour Customer Contact Centre (0300 123 5000) were fully briefed on the incident in order to provide information to any members of the public who called in regarding this incident.
Our West Midlands Regional Control Centre established that an emergency diversion route was available for the closure of the southbound carriageway. This would take traffic off of the motorway at J13 and follow the hollow circle symbol on local road signs. This would take traffic via the A449 southbound through Penkridge to meet the A5, head east and meet the M6 at J12. We also sought to direct longer distance traffic bound for London, the East and South East of England away from the M6 and therefore we issued guidance to such road users to consider using the A500 around Stoke-on-Trent, the A50 eastbound past Derby and pick up the M1. Information about the diversion route was included in our incident reports issued to the media, our social media and online traffic information output and via our advisors at our Central Contact Centre.
The drifting smoke from the fire was impacting on the northbound carriageway and as such traffic was held before the scene until the fire was under control and the drifting smoke was no longer a hazard to northbound road users.
The fire was bought under control by 0300 and northbound traffic was released albeit restricted to the nearside lane passing the scene. Shortly after another lane was reopened northbound with the just the off-side lane nearest the central reservation remaining closed for safety reasons. At 0420 the fire was sufficiently under control that all lanes were able to be opened on the northbound carriageway.
At 0350 officers on the scene advised that there was significant damage to all three lanes and the hard shoulder of the southbound carriageway. As such Highways England began making arrangements to get the appropriate resources on scene to recovery the remains of the lorry once it was safe to do so. In addition our West Midlands maintenance contractor in conjunction with the contractor responsible for the major roadworks where the incident occurred began making preparations to get the appropriate resources and material on scene to commence the resurfacing work once the removal and clean-up of the lorry had been completed.
Staffordshire Fire Service remained on scene and damping down the vehicle took some time. This took some time as the lorry was transporting a load of vehicle and industrial parts and a number of large containers of non-hazardous but flammable liquids.
Following the completion of work by the fire service a full carriageway inspection could occur and it was determined that 640 square metres of the road surface across the full width of the motorway would require complete removal and relaying. This would be a protracted piece of work to complete.
At 0650 the fire service were satisfied that the vehicle was cool enough to be approached and recovery could commence. Given the damage to the vehicle recovery was going to be complex but was completed by 1030.
Once the lorry was removed our contractors could begin in earnest to remove the damaged road surface. Given the intensity of the fire the damage penetrated the road surface and therefore the road would need to be completely stripped over a section of 640 square metres and completely relayed. It should be noted that motorway road surfaces need to be of a higher standard than other roads given the volume and types of vehicles they have to take, as a result the complete removal and relaying of a motorway is an extensive operation that under ideal circumstance would require a full closure of the motorway for at least 8 hours.
The stripping of the damaged road surface commenced at approx 1130 once the clean-up of the remaining debris from the fire were cleared. The laying of the new tarmac commenced at 1430.
Following the completion of the laying of the new tarmac at approx 1630:
Before a new road surface can be used by traffic it requires time to cool and set. In addition the white lines need to be repainted on to the carriageway which again requires the road surface to be fully set and cool before it can be done. The white lining work commenced at 1650:
The restoration of the road was completed by 1720:
and at this time the road began to be reopened at J13. Firstly traffic was allowed to re-join the M6 from J13:
Whilst one of crews began removing the main closure approaching J13 itself at 1730:
Our Traffic Officers briefly had to hold traffic whilst the last of the cones were removed from the closure.
Our traffic monitoring systems continued to detect, and we reported on, residual delays following the opening of the road. However these delays began to reduce quickly with the reopening of the road.
Following the reopening of the road our National Traffic Operations Centre (NTOC) staff changed the electronic VMS across the North West at 1730 to inform the public on the road that the M6 was reopen. In addition our National Incident Liaison Officers (NILOs) issued an update to advise the media of the road reopening and used social media to inform the public of the opening as well as issuing a road reopen message on our traffic info websites.
Throughout the duration of the incident our NTOC constantly monitored the traffic delays on the M6 southbound approach to the closure at J13. Our traffic monitoring systems indicated that road users were experiencing peak average delay of 1 hour over normal journey times for a Saturday morning/afternoon on the J14-J13 stretch of the motorway. Further delays were also experienced on the diversion route detailed above. At its peak very slow traffic was seen as far back at J14 some 5.5 miles from the closure at J13. Throughout the incident our NILOs continued to utilise social media to advise of the closure and its impact and encourage road users to allow extra travelling time, consider delaying their journey or, if possible, plan an alternative route. In addition our NTOC utilised a large number of electronic VMS for traffic heading southbound on the M6 from the North West region of the closure and delays. Our NILOs produced regular updated reports on the progress of the incident to the national and local media and third party traffic information providers (such as the BBC) provided regular updates on the closure and its impact via both online and local and national radio. The Highways England press office also issued a briefing to the media regarding this incident and detailing what was happening.
Highways England would like to thank motorists for their patience during this lengthy incident.
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