M4 Closure Westbound, Bristol, Friday 25 September 2015

The M4 near Bris­tol and the Sev­ern Cross­ings was closed on Fri­day 25 Sep­tem­ber between J21 – J22 due to an inci­dent involv­ing an over-turned HGV. This fully laden refrig­er­ated vehi­cle went through the near­side bar­ri­ers, where it then rolled down the embank­ment and over­turned and shed most of its load. The sub­stan­tial recov­ery work and repairs to bar­ri­ers neces­si­tated the full car­riage­way closure.

At 06:31 on Fri­day morn­ing Avon and Som­er­set Police informed High­ways Eng­land that a HGV with a 40ft trailer had over­turned and was down an embank­ment on the M4 west­bound car­riage­way towards Wales. The inci­dent hap­pened beyond the split for the M48 cross­ing as indi­cated below. This enabled the M48 to be used as a nat­ural diver­sion route for traf­fic head­ing for South Wales and cru­cially M49 north­bound traf­fic was unaf­fected as they could merge onto the M4 ahead of this closure.

M4 J21 - J22

Upon noti­fi­ca­tion our South West Regional Con­trol Cen­tre responded by imme­di­ately set­ting sig­nals for traf­fic approach­ing the inci­dent  and by 06:40 Avon & Som­er­set Police informed our Traf­fic Offi­cers that a full clo­sure of the car­riage­way was required. In response to this devel­op­ment, a fur­ther High­ways Eng­land Traf­fic Offi­cer unit ini­ti­ated a rolling road block to bring traf­fic to a com­plete stop. Addi­tion­ally our con­trac­tors were tasked to attend to imple­ment traf­fic con­trol mea­sures and to respond to what was clearly going to be a pro­longed inci­dent due to its nature.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, emer­gency ser­vices at the scene had now clearly deter­mined that the HGV dri­ver was seri­ously injured and would need to be extracted from the cab of the truck. South West Ambu­lance Ser­vices and Fire Crews from Avon Fire and Res­cue were on scene.

M4 J21 - J22

Work to extract the dri­ver was con­tin­u­ing as the morn­ing pro­gressed and by 08:15 efforts to assist the dri­ver were advanc­ing, how­ever effects on traf­fic flows were begin­ning to become sig­nif­i­cant. Approaches to the toll booths at the sev­ern river cross­ing for the M48 were increas­ing with traf­fic data indi­cat­ing 20 minute delays for traf­fic and by 08:50 there was approach­ing queues of some 2.5 miles Traf­fic from the ear­lier road block was routed to the M48. By 09:15 two recov­ery oper­a­tors tasked to attend were on scene and High­ways Eng­land con­trac­tors had laid out cones for the full Chap­ter 8 road clo­sure with sign­ing for dri­vers approach­ing the closure.

Our National Traf­fic Oper­a­tions Cen­tre based near Birm­ing­ham was also engaged in set­ting strate­gic sign­ing for cus­tomers trav­el­ling from far­ther afield to warn of the M4 clo­sure J21 – J22.

Through­out the mid-morning fur­ther work took place to sta­bi­lize the vehi­cle and efforts to deal with the trucks load were ongo­ing. The trucks load of frozen goods and its related pack­ag­ing were strewn across the near­side of the car­riage­way on the hard­shoul­der area but also sig­nif­i­cant amounts were down the embank­ment. Notably, by 10:00 a crane which had been deployed as part of the recov­ery oper­a­tion had sta­bi­lized the vehi­cle. Other related mat­ters were also attended to dur­ing the mid morn­ing includ­ing assess­ment of bar­rier dam­age and an elec­tri­cian who was busy assess­ing dam­age to a fibre optics box, which con­tained wiring as part of CCTV infra­struc­ture in the vicin­ity.  Finally some diesel spillages also had to be taken care of by our attend­ing contractors.

M4 J21 - J22

Impor­tantly, work to get the dri­ver to hos­pi­tal was suc­cess­ful but mat­ters of police inter­est indi­cated that a full police inves­ti­ga­tion would also need to be imme­di­ately con­ducted. Thus by mid­day effects to traf­fic were increas­ing with most impact on the M48, inter­est­ingly at this point the M49 and M4 routes around the point of clo­sure were largely unaf­fected, how­ever later in the day that was to change. Strate­gic sign­ing was encour­ag­ing south­bound M5 traf­fic head­ing from the Mid­lands to use the M50 route into Wales if possible.

Dur­ing the early after­noon High­ways Eng­land via var­i­ous press and media mes­sages were dis­sem­i­nat­ing the mes­sage for traf­fic to use the M4 and M49 with a view to lessen the impact for cus­tomers by eas­ing the pres­sure on the M48 route. Includ­ing fur­ther tweets on the SW Twit­ter feed and via local radio and Break­ing News on High­ways Eng­land web­sites. At 14:30 the Fire Ser­vice com­man­der at the scene con­firmed that the remain­der of the trucks load was fully removed and there­fore recov­ery of that HGV could now be done safely. The load would later be tran­shipped to another truck.

M4 J21 - J22

Dur­ing the mid to late after­noon recov­ery work con­tin­ued and by 16:00 effects on traf­fic were 40 min­utes of delay for queues wish­ing to cross the M48 and by now this queue had extended rear­ward to M4 J18 which is the junc­tion for the A46 (Bath) turnoff. Cru­cially with these queues now extend­ing rear­ward beyond the Almonds­bury Inter­change. M5 traf­fic was now being affected as it could not merge onto the M4 in the nor­mal man­ner due to the abnor­mal congestion.

After pro­longed work dur­ing the day our con­trac­tors were able to pos­i­tively con­firm just before 17:00 that recov­ery work was com­pleted. Whilst this would not sig­nify the end of the dis­rup­tion it did allow High­ways Eng­land to pre­pare for re-opening of some of the car­riage­way to alle­vi­ate the stress on the sur­round­ing road net­work. Over the course of the next few hours Police, Fire and High­ways Eng­land planned the next phase of the oper­a­tion. This involved removal of an ear­lier inci­dent screen and the removal of the stricken HGV by the recov­ery oper­a­tor. Liais­ing with our Traf­fic Offi­cers, con­trac­tors then altered the approach­ing traf­fic man­age­ment and lane 2 was re-opened. This was con­firmed at 20:30.

M4 J21 - J22

As the inci­dent moved into the late evening delays for approach­ing traf­fic began to reduce and by 22:00 delays were at 30mins above pro­file and the M5 and Almonds­bury Inter­change routes were run­ning freely with­out traf­fic queues. Overnight with the traf­fic becom­ing ever lighter, con­trac­tors con­tin­ued with clear­ing the remain­der of the debris from the road sur­face area which included the hard­shouder road sur­face and replaced the dam­aged bar­ri­ers. The bar­rier repair work was com­pleted by 04:20 Sat­ur­day morning.

To min­imise dis­rup­tion to cus­tomers a deci­sion was made to re-install lane 1 clo­sures as future overnight road­works as there is still some of the shed load which has to be retrieved from the verge.

Through­out this inci­dent, High­ways Eng­land updated cus­tomers via our web­site www.highways.gov.uk/traffic-information/ and via our regional twit­ter feed @HighwaysSWEST

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