M6 Closure Southbound, Cheshire, Thursday 9th March 2017

The M6 in Cheshire was closed south­bound between J18 (A54, Holmes Chapel, Mid­dlewich) and J17 (A534, Sand­bach) due to a seri­ous col­li­sion involv­ing 2 Heavy Goods Vehi­cles (HGVs) and 1 car. The inci­dent required an exten­sive clean-up and recov­ery oper­a­tion fol­lowed by emer­gency bar­rier repairs. Due to this clo­sure severe delays were expe­ri­enced on the M6 south­bound in Cheshire through­out most of the after­noon and evening period.

At approx­i­mately 14:35 on Thurs­day 9th March 2017 the North West Motor­way Police Group started to receive mul­ti­ple reports from mem­bers of the pub­lic that there had been a seri­ous multi-vehicle col­li­sion within the road­works on the M6 south­bound between J18 and J17. The police rapidly noti­fied High­ways England’s North West Regional Con­trol Cen­tre (RCC) and the local CCTV was checked to see if the inci­dent could be found and confirmed.

The first emer­gency ser­vice units arrived on scene at 14:44 and con­firmed that a col­li­sion had occurred involv­ing 2 HGVs and 1 car and there was seri­ous injuries along with a sub­stan­tial fuel leak from both HGVs involved. All emer­gency ser­vices were required to the scene includ­ing Cheshire Fire & Res­cue and North West Ambu­lance Ser­vice. The attend­ing offi­cers from North West Motor­way Police Group instructed High­ways Eng­land that the road needed to be closed whilst this inci­dent was dealt with and it would most likely be a pro­tracted closure.

Once the sever­ity of the inci­dent was appar­ent oper­a­tors at High­ways England’s North West RCC began set­ting warn­ing signs on the M6 south­bound to advise of the inci­dent. In addi­tion the High­ways Eng­land National Traf­fic Oper­a­tions Cen­tre (NTOC) was noti­fied. As a result elec­tronic Vari­able Mes­sage Signs (VMS) were set fur­ther afield to warn road users across the North West region and on the major routes in to the area of the clo­sure. NTOC also issued infor­ma­tion regard­ing the inci­dent and its impact on road users via High­ways England’s online traf­fic infor­ma­tion site (www.highwaysengland.com).

In addi­tion High­ways England’s National Inci­dent Liai­son Offi­cer (NILO) was informed of the inci­dent. The NILO pro­duced an ini­tial report on the details of the inci­dent and dis­trib­uted this to the local and national media to ensure that infor­ma­tion about the inci­dent and clo­sure could be pro­vided to the pub­lic via as effec­tively as pos­si­ble. Through­out the dura­tion of the inci­dent reg­u­lar updates about the progress of work at the scene as well as delay infor­ma­tion was pro­vided via updates issued by the NILO. High­ways Eng­land works closely with local and national press out­lets as well as third party traf­fic infor­ma­tion providers to ensure that info about inci­dents and delays are con­veyed to the pub­lic by as many meth­ods as pos­si­ble includ­ing online and via radio.

The NILO also utilised the High­ways Eng­land social media (on twit­ter via our @HighwaysNWest account) and via our online ser­vices to keep the pub­lic informed and updated of the progress of the inci­dent and most impor­tantly the delays and the diver­sion route options.

Once the clo­sure was con­firmed as required High­ways Eng­land imple­mented a locally agreed diver­sion route via the diverted from J18, via the A54 east­bound, A50 south­bound, and A534 west­bound — to return to the M6 at J17. Once this route was con­firmed the High­ways Eng­land NILO com­mu­ni­cated this out via the pre­vi­ously men­tioned meth­ods (social media, inci­dent reports and online).

At 15:30 traf­fic trapped within the clo­sure between J18 and the scene of the inci­dent (which was just next to J17) was per­mit­ted to be released from the clo­sure via the J17 south­bound exit slip road to go around the junc­tion and rejoin the M6. Due to the fact the road had been blocked by the col­li­sion since approx­i­mately 14:30 there was a sig­nif­i­cant amount of traf­fic to release from the clo­sure. How­ever by 17:00 all vehi­cles with the clo­sure had been released.

By 16:00 the nature of the injuries sus­tained in the col­li­sion meant that the North West Motor­way Police Group advised that a full inves­ti­ga­tion in to the col­li­sion which would not be required and that the oper­a­tion to clean-up the scene and recov­ery the vehi­cles could com­mence. Please note that any col­li­sion of a sig­nif­i­cant nature is ini­tially man­aged by the attend­ing police force and they will deter­mine if an inves­ti­ga­tion is required or not. Until that deci­sion is made the oper­a­tion to clear the vehi­cles, remove spillages and debris and under­take any repairs to the road infra­struc­ture can­not start.

Recov­ery for the vehi­cles arrived on scene at approx­i­mately 16:30 along with High­ways Eng­land main­te­nance con­trac­tors to begin remov­ing the debris and deal with sub­stan­tial diesel spillage that had occurred fol­low­ing the col­li­sion. Once this was done the road sur­face would need to be assessed to see if there was any dam­age to it and, if so, what repairs were required before the road could be reopened and traf­fic allowed use the road. The dam­age sus­tained to the vehi­cles involved meant the recov­ery was a com­plex oper­a­tion and took sev­eral hours for them to be sep­a­rated from one another, their loads secured and the diesel leaks to be stemmed. By 19:50 the recov­ery of the vehi­cles was complete.

Car­riage­way assess­ment was com­pleted by 20:10 and it was deter­mined that the road sur­face was not dam­aged but that there was dam­age to the tem­po­rary crash bar­rier at the scene and this would need to be replaced. Due to the inci­dent occur­ring within road­works and the pres­ence of nar­row lanes it was deter­mined that whilst the road could be reopened 2 lanes would need to remain closed whilst the bar­rier repairs were car­ried out to ensure the safety of the repair crew on scene. The repairs of the bar­rier took some time to complete.

The 2 lane clo­sure was set in place and once the repair crew was on site and ready the road was reopened to traf­fic with clo­sures being removed in stages from 21:35 and traf­fic led through the clo­sure under a rolling road block in the 1 lane open past the scene.

Due to the delays on the motor­way not clear­ing and a large num­ber of bro­ken down vehi­cles in the con­ges­tion the deci­sion was taken by North West Motor­way Police Group to re-close the M6 south­bound between J19 and J18 at approx­i­mately mid­night. This would allow the traf­fic backed up to J19 the chance to clear and for the stranded vehi­cles to be removed. Once done the road would reopen. The diver­sion for this clo­sure took traf­fic through North­wich, Mid­dlewich and back on to the motor­way at J18. This clo­sure was removed along with the 2 lanes that were closed at the site of the orig­i­nal inci­dent between J18 and J17 after the bar­rier was repaired at 02:15.

Through­out the inci­dent and road clo­sure there were severe delays on the M6 south­bound approach to the clo­sure at J18.

Infor­ma­tion regard­ing the severe delays caused by this inci­dent were com­mu­ni­cated to the pub­lic via a vari­ety of means includ­ing social media, online travel sites (both the High­ways Eng­land man­aged Traf­fic Eng­land web­site and those oper­ated by third par­ties), local and national radio bul­letins oper­ated by the media and over­head elec­tronic VMS on all major routes in the North West of Eng­land and major roads approach­ing that region which might have road users bound for the delays. How­ever the delays on the M6 south­bound in Cheshire were exas­per­ated by a num­ber of break­downs in the con­ges­tion, road users park­ing up at J18 to await the reopen­ing of the M6 and lim­ited capac­ity on the diver­sion route.

High­ways Eng­land would like to thank those affected by this inci­dent and clo­sure for their con­sid­er­able patience and under­stand­ing whilst this com­plex clean-up, recov­ery and bar­rier repair work was completed.