M5 Closure J24 – J23 Both Directions, Somerset. Wednesday 06 January 2016

The M5 in Som­er­set was closed on Wednes­day 06 Jan­u­ary between J24 – J23 due to an over­turned HGV Tanker. The scene of the inci­dent was on the north­bound car­riage­way J24 – J23. The HGV rup­tured its tank spilling some 1000 litres of Kerosene across the road. This sub­stan­tial spillage, lift­ing and recov­ery oper­a­tion and sub­se­quent resur­fac­ing neces­si­tated the full closure.

Shortly before 9am in the morn­ing an over­turned HGV Tanker was reported to Avon & Som­er­set Police who had received infor­ma­tion from a mem­ber of the pub­lic and the inci­dent was relayed to our South West Regional Con­trol Cen­tre. High­ways Eng­land oper­a­tive in the Con­trol Cen­tre instantly set signs and sig­nals in the imme­di­ate vicin­ity to warn approach­ing traf­fic and swiftly located the inci­dent on CCTV.

A multi-agency response was under­way as High­ways Eng­land Traf­fic Offi­cers were des­ig­nated to head to the scene to assist units from Devon & Som­er­set Fire and Res­cue, Avon & Som­er­set Police and the South West Ambu­lance Service.

At the out­set a lane 2 and 3 clo­sure was needed until assess­ment at the scene could be under­taken but nev­er­the­less High­ways Eng­land Con­trac­tors were called just after 9am as it was clear that traf­fic man­age­ment mea­sures and clean-up work would require their exper­tise. Thank­fully it emerged that the dri­ver of the vehi­cle was only slightly injured and was not trapped in the cab of the vehicle.

M5 J24-J23 Both Directions Kerosene spill closure

When Devon & Som­er­set Fire and Res­cue arrived at the scene, it was quickly estab­lished that the vehi­cle was trans­port­ing Kerosene. For those not famil­iar, Kerosene is a major com­po­nent of avi­a­tion fuel also used as a sol­vent, degreaser and domes­tic fuel. Most sig­nif­i­cantly, the fire ser­vice deemed it nec­es­sary to imple­ment a 150 metre cor­don in accor­dance with reg­u­la­tions as Kerosene is a haz­ardous material.

This essen­tially meant that the motor­way needed to be closed in both direc­tions on safety grounds. Dur­ing the next hour High­ways Eng­land Con­trac­tors and Traf­fic Offi­cers were engaged in imple­ment­ing full clo­sures of the north­bound and south­bound car­riage­ways and the J24 north­bound and J23 south­bound entry slip roads. Addi­tion­ally the Envi­ron­ment Agency and the Depart­ment for Trans­port Haz­ardous Goods Branch were con­tacted accordingly.

The clo­sure of the north­bound car­riage­way effec­tively meant a num­ber of vehi­cles were now sta­tion­ary in “trapped traf­fic”. Once it was safe to do so our High­ways Eng­land Traf­fic Offi­cers began the process of turn­ing traf­fic around and head­ing rear­ward back to J24 to be able to leave the motor­way. Just prior to 10am this process was under­way. Dur­ing the course of the first hour Signs and Sig­nal from far­ther afield were set by staff at the National Traf­fic Oper­a­tions Cen­tre in Birm­ing­ham and tweets were issued to the @HighwaysSWEST twit­ter feed and Break­ing News infor­ma­tion was pub­lished on High­ways Eng­land web­sites. When the clo­sures were con­firmed diver­sion routes were avail­able. These routes are pre-determined with stake­hold­ers and signed estab­lished on the route. For this inci­dent the routes were: south­bound traf­fic is to fol­low the Solid Square sym­bol via the A38 south­bound from J23 and north­bound traf­fic fol­lows the Solid Tri­an­gle sym­bol tak­ing the A38 north­bound via Bridgwater.

M5 Closure J24 – J23 Both Directions, Somerset.

Con­ges­tion at this time was sig­nif­i­cant with delays of up to 60mins and sig­nif­i­cant con­ges­tion within Bridg­wa­ter on the diver­sion route.

Just before 10:30am it was reported from scene that the leak of Kerosene had been stemmed which was impor­tant as there was an esti­mated 5500 litres still left in the vehi­cle. Later just before 11am rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Envi­ron­ment Agency arrived. The flow of the Kerosene, which had escaped from the truck, was enter­ing the drain­ing sys­tem and to pre­vent this hap­pen­ing, a boom was placed by fire and res­cue to stem the tide. Dur­ing the late morn­ing recov­ery oper­a­tors were deployed and a replace­ment truck for the tran­ship­ment of the load headed to the scene. It was noted at this time that the stricken HGV was still vul­ner­a­ble and there was a risk of the Kerosene igniting.


Apart from the envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors of the inci­dent, Avon & Som­er­set Police col­li­sion inves­ti­ga­tion teams also were in place to carry out their inves­ti­ga­tions in to cause of the truck over­turn­ing. The Fire Ser­vice had 3 fire appli­ances deployed and remained on scene to over­see the decant­ing of the Kerosene.

Into the early after­noon the decant oper­a­tion took place and this took a num­ber of hours. It was dur­ing this time that con­trac­tors from High­ways Eng­land were able to start inspec­tions of the road sur­face and the like­li­hood was that resur­fac­ing of the road would poten­tially be nec­es­sary for both direc­tions.  The impact of the event dur­ing the after­noon remained and delays reported from traf­fic data still indi­cated delays of 50mins above pro­file in the vicin­ity. Three High­ways Eng­land units had been steadily turn­ing trapped traf­fic around with ¾ miles of traf­fic unfor­tu­nately hav­ing to be turned. It was reported at 12:45 that a num­ber of vehi­cles had bro­ken down, mostly with flat bat­ter­ies and this ham­pered efforts to clear vehi­cles. By 1pm trapped traf­fic was fully cleared.

M5 Closure J24 – J23 Both Directions, Somerset.

Through­out the mid to later after­noon the clean-up oper­a­tion con­tin­ued and prepa­ra­tions made for recov­ery of the stricken tanker. As a traf­fic man­age­ment mea­sure High­ways Eng­land closed the J25 north­bound entry slip road to ease the north­bound con­ges­tion approach­ing the J24 diver­sion. High­ways Eng­land Con­trac­tors were notably involved dur­ing the late after­noon with pro­vi­sion of light­ing rigs to illu­mi­nate the area as day­light was being to fade. These rigs were escorted to the scene and set up to avoid any delay in the oper­a­tions at the scene. There were a num­ber of obsta­cles and chal­lenges that High­ways Eng­land Traf­fic Offi­cers faced dur­ing the course of the after­noon. Some aspects were vehi­cles inap­pro­pri­ately revers­ing, deal­ing with vehi­cle break­downs and per­haps the largest of all was a wide load com­pris­ing of a steam train which was trav­el­ling north­bound approach­ing the con­ges­tion at J25 – J24. There were con­cerns that this vehi­cle was inap­pro­pri­ate for the diver­sion route and there­fore it was steered to an appro­pri­ate park­ing place at J24.

By 17:15 the recov­ery oper­a­tion of the tanker was being con­ducted by con­trac­tors and the tanker was suc­cess­fully righted and removed. This was sig­nif­i­cant as there was no longer a safety risk from the Kerosene fumes. A fur­ther devel­op­ment was that despite leaks affect­ing the whole of the road the south­bound car­riage­way was not required to have resur­fac­ing done and could there­fore be re-opened. High­ways Eng­land Traf­fic Offi­cers and Con­trac­tors were there­fore deployed to remove traf­fic man­age­ment and the south­bound clo­sure was removed by 18:00.

With police inves­ti­ga­tions also com­pleted and fire & res­cue clear of the scene, High­ways Eng­land was now lead­ing the oper­a­tion to restore the north­bound car­riage­way. It had already been deter­mined that resur­fac­ing was required due to the Kerosene dam­age. Impor­tantly, to alle­vi­ate the queues on the north­bound car­riage­way our Traf­fic Offi­cers put in place a rolling road block to hold north­bound traf­fic whilst our con­trac­tors and their staff amended traf­fic man­age­ment at the scene to open the north­bound car­riage­way but with a 20mph speed limit in place. The objec­tive was to clear the con­ges­tion prior to an overnight clo­sure to resur­face. The J25 north­bound entry slip road had ear­lier been re-opened at  19:15 and the  main car­riage­way was opened at 21:00. Once all the ear­lier con­ges­tion has cleared, the car­riage­way was again fully closed in order for our ser­vice providers to safely resur­fac­ing the car­riage­way, repair­ing the dam­age caused. This was com­pleted and the M5 was fully re-opened to traf­fic at 05:40 Thurs­day 7th January.

Through­out this inci­dent, High­ways Eng­land  updated cus­tomers via our web­site www.highways.gov.uk/traffic-information/ and via our regional twit­ter feed @HighwaysSWEST.

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