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.