M5 Closure Northbound, Somerset, Friday 04 August 2017

The M5 in Som­er­set had 2 lanes closed north­bound just after J21 (Weston-Super-Mare) due to a road traf­fic col­li­sion involv­ing two Heavy Goods Vehi­cles. The recov­ery of the vehi­cles took some time com­plete. The col­li­sion also resulted in a sub­stan­tial diesel spillage which dam­aged the road sur­face over a large area. As a result emer­gency resur­fac­ing of the road was needed which lasted through the day. This work neces­si­tated the clo­sure of the north­bound entry sliproad at J21. The recov­ery and emer­gency works led to sub­stan­tial delays on both the M5 north­bound and local roads in the area through­out the day.

At approx­i­mately 06:33 on Fri­day 4th August, our South West Regional Con­trol Cen­tre (SWRCC) were alerted by Avon and Som­er­set Police of a road traf­fic col­li­sion involv­ing 2 HGVs. Oper­a­tors imme­di­ately set 50 MPH speeds on approach and informed motorists of an inci­dent ahead using Vari­able Mes­sage Signs (VMS). Our Traf­fic Offi­cer Ser­vice was also imme­di­ately deployed to the scene. Upon arrival of the Police, who were first on scene, it was for­tu­nately estab­lished that no injuries had been sus­tained as a result of the inci­dent, how­ever there were reports of a large diesel spillage on the road. It was con­firmed that the HGVs were sit­u­ated in lanes 2 and 3, and our SWRCC oper­a­tors closed these lanes using over­head gantry signs and sig­nals, to warn dri­vers approach­ing the incident.

SWRCC then informed National Traf­fic Oper­a­tions Cen­tre (NTOC) in Birm­ing­ham of the inci­dent, enabling our National Inci­dent Liai­son Offi­cers (NILO) to dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion via our @HighwaysSWEST Twit­ter feed, as well as inform­ing travel media. With our Traf­fic Offi­cers remain­ing en-route at this stage, the Police informed SWRCC that both HGVs had now been moved to the hard shoul­der; how­ever a fuel tank from one of the HGVs had split open and spilt its con­tents of diesel across the car­riage­way in lanes 1 and 2, ini­tial reports were that this was around 300 litres. Oper­a­tors in the SWRCC sub­se­quently despatched our Area Team con­trac­tors to scene to assess the sever­ity of the diesel spillage and estab­lish what would be required to clear it.

Our Traf­fic Offi­cers had now arrived at scene to assist the Police, and con­firmed that the diesel had spilt onto the hard shoul­der and lanes 1 and 2, and due to fears that the diesel had also leaked into the water­course via drainage, our oper­a­tors in SWRCC also informed the Envi­ron­men­tal Agency to make them aware. By now, a recov­ery vehi­cle had already arrived for one of the HGVs involved, and Police were arrang­ing recov­ery for the other to ensure that the vehi­cles could be cleared from the scene as quickly as possible.

Our Area Team con­trac­tors had now also arrived on scene in an Inci­dent Sup­port Unit (ISU) and after assess­ment of the car­riage­way con­firmed that all 3 lanes of the car­riage­way would need resur­fac­ing due to the extent of diesel which had spilt and dam­aged the sur­face. Exam­i­na­tion of the HGV which had leaked the diesel
now con­firmed that the fuel tank had the capac­ity for 1000 litres of diesel and would need fully drain­ing before it could be safely recov­ered. Spe­cial­ist ‘Pave­ment Inspec­tors’ had now also arrived on scene and were able to con­firm that all 3 lanes would need resur­fac­ing, but traf­fic would still be allowed past the scene for the
dura­tion of this work.

Delays had now reached over an hour and a half above nor­mal jour­ney time, and as so, our NILO requested VMS to be set on the M4 warn­ing dri­vers of 90 minute delays and pub­lished a Break­ing News mes­sage on the High­ways Eng­land web­site, as well as issu­ing tweets encour­ag­ing dri­vers to con­sider using A30/A303 to join the M3. Travel media, the local bor­ough coun­cil and emer­gency ser­vices who would be affected by the con­ges­tion were also updated with the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion at scene, and asso­ci­ated delays. Radio inter­views were also arranged to ensure the road users were kept informed.

Recov­ery of both vehi­cles was com­plete by 10:55, and traf­fic man­age­ment crew now closed the J21 entry slip at 11:30 with a full ‘Chap­ter 8’ clo­sure to facil­i­tate the full resur­fac­ing of the car­riage­way which could now begin as all nec­es­sary equip­ment was now on scene. To ensure this process could be com­pleted as quickly as
pos­si­ble, a plan was imple­mented where trucks trans­port­ing the dam­aged tar­mac away from the scene would be turned around within the lane clo­sure and exited the car­riage­way via the closed J21 entry slip. It was con­firmed that the hard shoul­der, along with lanes 1 and 2 would be resur­faced, fol­lowed by lane 3 later on as this was the least affected lane. Police were also now assist­ing with escort­ing the tar­mac lor­ries to scene to allow them to fil­ter through traf­fic. By mid-afternoon, delays reached 220 min­utes above nor­mal jour­ney time, with traf­fic back to J23 of the M5. Sub­stan­tial delays were also reported through­out the day on local roads in the area around Weston-Super-Mare (such as the A370) due to the clo­sure of the north­bound entry sliproad at J21.

Resur­fac­ing works were well under way by 14:12, with traf­fic pass­ing the scene via lane 3. Works con­tin­ued through­out the after­noon and early evening, with reg­u­lar updates issued to travel media and through the @HighwaysSEAST feed where CCTV images and pho­tographs from scene of the ongo­ing works were posted.

By 20:23, it was con­firmed that lanes 1 and 2 had re-opened with lane 3 re-opening at 20:43. Fol­low­ing on from the emer­gency works it was estab­lished that all 3 lanes would require full resur­fac­ing so rather than keep all lanes closed a 30 mph speed limit was enforced to keep traf­fic mov­ing and once delays eased lanes 1,2 and 3 were closed and re-surfaced overnight with traf­fic run­ning down the hard shoulder.

High­ways Eng­land would like to thank our all of our cus­tomers who were affected by this inci­dent for their patience and under­stand­ing throughout.