M6 Closure Southbound, Staffordshire, Wednesday 24 May 2017

The M6 in Stafford­shire was closed south­bound between J15 and J14 due to a fatal road traf­fic col­li­sion involv­ing a Heavy Goods vehi­cle and a car. The impact also caused split fuel tanks and a fuel spillage onto the carriageway.

At approx­i­mately 04:30 Cen­tral Motor­way Police Group and emer­gency ser­vices informed High­ways Eng­land that there were reports of a seri­ous road traf­fic col­li­sion and oper­a­tors at our West Mid­lands Regional Con­trol Cen­tre imme­di­ately despatched High­ways Eng­land Traf­fic Offi­cers to assist at the scene. High­ways
Eng­land con­trac­tors near the inci­dent scene also relayed infor­ma­tion to inform this was going to be a seri­ous impact­ing inci­dent with a prob­a­ble full inves­ti­ga­tion and clear-up oper­a­tion needed.

Given the events, staff set ‘Acci­dent Warn­ing’ vari­able mes­sage signs (VMS) to warn approach­ing road users of the inci­dent. Addi­tion­ally, Our National Traf­fic Oper­a­tions Cen­tre (NTOC) in Birm­ing­ham was informed and this enabled our National Inci­dent Liai­son Offi­cers (NILO) to pub­lish infor­ma­tion on the High­ways Eng­land web­site and engage our cus­tomers via our @HighwaysWMIDS twit­ter feed. Our NILO team also informed the travel media and pub­lished a break­ing news mes­sage on the
High­ways Eng­land web­site. With this inci­dent likely to affect cus­tomers trav­el­ling south from the North West, tweets were also issued on our @HighwaysNWEST feed and fur­ther to this vari­able mes­sage signs (VMS) were set in this region on strate­gic approaches as soon as a road clo­sure was confirmed.

Mul­ti­ple West Mid­lands emer­gency ser­vices includ­ing Stafford­shire Fire & Res­cue and Ambu­lance crews worked at the scene and just after 05:00 our Cen­tral Motor­way Police Group col­leagues con­firmed the road had been for­mally closed. Our Traf­fic
Offi­cers by this time had already com­menced a rolling road block to bring traf­fic to a stop just prior to J15 in antic­i­pa­tion of a full clo­sure. Fol­low­ing this con­fir­ma­tion, a strate­gic diver­sion was put in place and traf­fic was advised to fol­low diver­sion sym­bol (Hol­low Tri­an­gle) which routes traf­fic via the A500 east­bound and A34 south­bound to ulti­mately re-join the M6 at J14. Cen­tral Motor­way Police Group ver­i­fied they expected the clo­sure to be pro­longed and long delays were now expected.

M6 J15 - J14 closure

Prior to 06:30 our West Mid­lands Regional Con­trol Cen­tre had been in dia­logue to
dis­cuss how best to release traf­fic trapped between J15 and the inci­dent loca­tion. In the ini­tial stages, traf­fic was being turned rear­ward from the 3 kilo­me­tre length queue, how­ever this pre­sented dif­fi­cul­ties given that the major­ity of those vehi­cles where HGV’s. Cre­at­ing road space needed for HGV’s to effec­tively turn rear­ward is a time con­sum­ing process. Fol­low­ing fur­ther dis­cus­sions with our Police and
con­trac­tor col­leagues a deci­sion was made to cut and remove the cen­tral reser­va­tion bar­rier and let traf­fic release ahead via the oppo­site north­bound car­riage­way. Within the next hour, tem­po­rary road blocks north­bound cre­ated the safe envi­ron­ment for our con­trac­tors to install a lane 3 clo­sure on the north­bound car­riage­way in order to assist our teams work­ing to cut the cen­tral reser­va­tion bar­rier. Dur­ing this time our duty Oper­a­tions Man­ager esca­lated the region response lev­els given the resources which were being required to man­age this incident.

As time pro­gressed from 06:30, inci­dent screens had been fully installed around the col­li­sion scene and by 08:00 bar­rier cut­ting neared com­ple­tion and prepa­ra­tions were put in place to start releas­ing vehi­cles via the north­bound car­riage­way in lane 3 as a ‘contra-flow’. For safety rea­sons, an addi­tional lane 2 clo­sure was also
imple­mented on the north­bound car­riage­way and under guid­ance the oper­a­tion to free south­bound traf­fic ahead com­menced and ulti­mately by 10:20 all this trapped traf­fic had been released.

From this time onwards, the lane 2 was re-opened on the north­bound car­riage­way
pro­vid­ing 2 live lanes for north­bound car­riage­way traf­fic. Lane 3 remained closed so the sec­tion of bar­rier which had been cut away to release trapped traf­fic could be replaced and our con­trac­tors worked hard through the morn­ing to re-establish the cen­tral reser­va­tion bar­ri­ers. This oper­a­tion was con­cluded before mid­day and
fol­low­ing a fur­ther short hold of traf­fic all lanes of the north­bound car­riage­way were open for north­bound traffic.

Dur­ing the morn­ing a num­ber of tele­phone con­fer­ences had taken place to review,
dis­cuss and for­ward plan for events sur­round­ing our response. Dur­ing the early stages a deci­sion was taken to use bespoke vari­able mes­sages signs for
cus­tomers to inform the M6 south­bound would be closed until at least mid­day. Wider media mes­sages were issued and delays on the M6 south­bound were reg­is­ter­ing 90mins for most of the morn­ing. High­ways Eng­land had deployed 5 of our
Traf­fic Offi­cer vehi­cles and our con­trac­tors had sup­plied sweeper and hydro-blaster vehi­cles in addi­tion to the bar­rier crews as part of our efforts to man­age this inci­dent and sup­port the emer­gency ser­vices and Police. The Cen­tral Motor­way Police Group over­saw the recov­ery of the vehi­cles involved and later informed the West Mid­lands Regional Con­trol Cen­tre that their inves­ti­ga­tion was com­plete and the road was effec­tively handed back to High­ways Eng­land so we could com­mence clear-up prior to re-opening.

There­after, our crews on scene con­firmed the clear-up work was com­plete just before mid­day and the south­bound car­riage­way had been fully re-opened to traf­fic. Our National Traf­fic Oper­a­tions Cen­tre set vari­able mes­sage signs “Road Now Open” and we alerted our cus­tomers via the High­ways Eng­land web­site, social media and informed travel media accord­ingly. As a result of this acci­dent Cen­tral Motor­way Police sadly con­firmed there were 5 fatal injuries and 1 seri­ous injury sustained.

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