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.

Did you find this bul­letin use­ful? We really wel­come your feed­back. Please click here to help us. Thank you.