M5 Closure Southbound, South Gloucestershire. Saturday 05 August 2017

The M5 in South Glouces­ter­shire was closed south­bound between J14 and J15 due to a road traf­fic col­li­sion involv­ing a Heavy Goods Vehi­cle and a car tow­ing a car­a­van. Both vehi­cles over­turned and sub­se­quently the HGV shed a large pro­por­tion of its load of 24 tons of flour on to the car­riage­way surface.

Events began to emerge at approx­i­mately 04:30 on Sat­ur­day morn­ing when Avon & Som­er­set Police informed staff at our South West Regional Con­trol Cen­tre of the road traf­fic col­li­sion. This report trig­gered approach­ing signs and sig­nals to be set warn­ing cus­tomers head­ing towards the scene and also deploy­ment of High­ways Eng­land Traf­fic Offi­cers to the scene to assist.

First reports were that the south­bound car­riage­way was blocked with traf­fic held and Police, Fire and Res­cue and Ambu­lance crews all deployed and head­ing to the scene. The inci­dent had occurred within range of CCTV cam­eras in the vicin­ity and the inci­dent was quickly located on CCTV where events at scene could be observed. Within the first 10mins it was reported that 6 fire crews were head­ing to the scene and with the extent of debris clearly vis­i­ble, it was obvi­ous the road would be closed. By 04:50 the police had indeed requested High­ways Eng­land to close the road at J14. Injuries had been reported and a large spillage of diesel had also resulted from the col­li­sion which was later con­firmed to be in the region of some 200 litres of diesel fuel. Thank­fully injuries sus­tained were later con­firmed as not serious.

With road clo­sure con­firmed for the south­bound car­riage­way, our National Traf­fic Oper­a­tions Cen­tre (NTOC) near Birm­ing­ham was also informed and set wider strate­gic on-road vari­able mes­sage signs to warn of the clo­sure. This also enabled our National Inci­dent liai­son Offi­cers (NILO) to pub­lish break­ing news mes­sages on our web­sites and to engage with cus­tomers via our @HighwaysSWEST twit­ter feed and addi­tion­ally informed the travel media with reg­u­lar updates on the situation.

The diver­sion route was quickly estab­lished which informed cus­tomers to fol­low the solid cir­cle sym­bol led diver­sion to exit the M5 at J14 and take B4509 to junc­tion with the A38. Fol­low the par­al­lel A38 south­bound and re-join the M5 at J16. This infor­ma­tion was tweeted and pub­lished and also for­warded to media and stake­hold­ers. Given the sever­ity of the inci­dent and the resources involved, the South West Regional Con­trol Cen­tre esca­lated its response lev­els in order to co-ordinate deploy­ment of resources and to liaise with stake­hold­ers dur­ing a num­ber of later tele­phone con­fer­ences, to ensure that all aspects of this inci­dent were being man­aged cor­rectly and efficiently.

By 05:00 the over­turned car­a­van had been righted and moved clear of the car­riage­way to rest on the hard shoul­der for its onward recov­ery. Impor­tantly this allowed a sit­u­a­tion where lane 3 could be re-opened and allowed traf­fic caught by the inci­dent to drive past the scene to pro­ceed on their jour­neys. This expected tem­po­rary mea­sure was to be in place until heavy recov­ery oper­a­tors requested by Police arrived on the scene where a full clo­sure was then antic­i­pated to be re-installed. Thank­fully recov­ery oper­a­tors con­cluded they could work within the 2 closed lanes when they later arrived.

From approx­i­mately 05:40 onwards the inevitable queues and delays began to emerge which was expected given a busy day of sum­mer hol­i­day traf­fic which was trav­el­ling to and from the South West. Indeed with only 1 lane oper­a­tional, by 06:30 delays of 30mins had been mea­sured and by 09:00 this had risen to 1.5 hours of delays and 7 miles of rear­ward traf­fic queues back to J13.

In addi­tion to recov­ery con­trac­tors, High­ways England’s own con­trac­tors had been assist­ing with imple­ment­ing clo­sures and also pro­vided pave­ment engi­neers, bar­rier repair crews and sweeper/planer vehi­cles with resur­fac­ing crews. By the mid-morning oper­a­tions to jet wash had com­menced as the car and the car­a­van had been recov­ered clear. This allowed our con­trac­tors to start their impor­tant clean-up work. Near­side bar­ri­ers were dam­aged, there was a con­crete end block dis­lodged and there was also the con­cern for a resur­fac­ing oper­a­tion being very likely. Not for­get­ting of course remov­ing the load of flour which was being trans­ported to Weston Super Mare for indus­trial disposal.

In the later hours of the morn­ing, the over­turned HGV had been righted and with dam­age to lane 2 not being as bad as ini­tially feared, this was allowed to be re-opened just prior to 11:00. With only lane 1 now closed, this slightly eased the con­ges­tion and from this time onwards the delays steadily reduced. In the hours after mid­day the delays reduced to below 10mins for approach­ing traffic.

The sever­ity how­ever of the dam­age to the road sur­face of lane 1 was not retriev­able and resur­fac­ing was required. Given that High­ways Eng­land did not wish to have more road space taken to do this dur­ing a busy day, this work was deferred to overnight Sat­ur­day where the impact would be min­i­mal. There­fore for the remain­der of day the M5 J14 – J15 had lane 1 (of 3) closed and the J14 south­bound entry slip also remained closed. The re-surfacing repair work com­mended at 20:00 that evening.

Through­out the inci­dent reg­u­lar updates were tweeted on the High­ways Eng­land @HighwaysSWEST regional twit­ter feed and clo­sure pub­lished on Break­ing News on High­ways Eng­land web­sites. High­ways Eng­land would like to thank cus­tomers who were affected dur­ing the inci­dent for their patience and understanding.