M6 Closure J34 – J33 Southbound, Lancashire. Wednesday 27 January 2016

The M6 in Lan­cashire was closed south­bound between J34 (Lan­caster, More­cambe, A683) and J33 (Garstang, Fleet­wood, A6) due to a lorry trans­port­ing bis­cuits which caught fire. The road remained closed whilst the fire was extin­guished, the lorry was unloaded and recov­ered and emer­gency resur­fac­ing to remove and replace the road sur­face which was dam­aged by the fire.

At 10:58 High­ways England’s North West Regional Con­trol Cen­tre (RCC) were noti­fied by our col­leagues of the North West Motor­way Police Group that they had received numer­ous emer­gency calls report­ing a lorry on fire on the M6 near Lan­caster. Our RCC oper­a­tors quickly located the fire on CCTV and estab­lished with Lan­cashire Fire & Res­cue that they were aware if the fire and were already on their way to the incident.

Lan­cashire Fire & Res­cue ser­vice con­firm they had been called by the dri­ver of an artic­u­lated lorry that had suf­fered  a fuel spillage which had caught fire in lanes 1 and 2 at 10:54 and that two fire engines from Lan­caster were en-route. When fire­fight­ers arrived at the scene, they imme­di­ately requested a full clo­sure of the south­bound motor­way for safety rea­sons and they started to tackle the fire using four fire­fight­ers in breath­ing appa­ra­tus and two hose reels. By 11:30, another three fire engines from Carn­forth, More­cambe and Garstang were mobilised to the scene. Fire­fight­ers at the scene con­firmed at 1130 that the HGV had been trans­port­ing a 44 tonne load of bis­cuits and that they antic­i­pated that it would take some time for the fire to be extinguished.

The RCC con­firmed that a diver­sion route was avail­able around the closed sec­tion of motor­way. Road users were to leave the M6 at J34 and fol­low the hol­low square diver­sion sym­bols on local road signs which took traf­fic on to the A683 towards Lan­caster and then join the A6 south­bound through Lan­caster town cen­tre to re-join the M6 at J33.

Whilst the fire ser­vice worked at the scene to extin­guish the fire offi­cers from Lan­cashire Police units arrived on the scene and began to turn traf­fic around that was stuck behind the scene and J34 so they could exit the motor­way. Given the mix­ture of large and small vehi­cles and the vol­ume of traf­fic within the closed sec­tion of motor­way this was a slow and com­pli­cated process that took sev­eral hours. At 1345 North West Motor­way Police Group, High­ways England’s RCC and Lan­cashire Police con­ferred with Lan­cashire Fire & Res­cue as to whether it would be pos­si­ble to open a lane past the scene of the inci­dent to help try and speed up the process.  Lan­cashire Fire & Res­cue agreed and the trapped traf­fic was cleared by 14:30. At 15:00 it was agreed that the lane could remain open past the scene and the motor­way reopened. This would assist alle­vi­at­ing the sig­nif­i­cant delays on the M6 south­bound between J35 and J34 wait­ing to come off the motor­way on to the diver­sion route.

It was impor­tant to ensure that the remains of the HGV and its load were suf­fi­ciently cool enough for con­trac­tors to han­dle. Lan­cashire Fire & Res­cue con­tin­ued to work at the scene damp­ing down the HGV until 15:00 when they deter­mined the fire was fully extin­guished and would not re-ignite and the vehi­cle was safe to be removed. The scene was then handed over to High­ways Eng­land to under­take the recov­ery, clean-up and repair of the road.

Our con­trac­tors worked at the scene to remove the burnt out 44 tonne load and then recover the sig­nif­i­cantly dam­aged lorry. In order to pro­vide a safe work­ing envi­ron­ment whilst this was done it was nec­es­sary to keep 2 lanes closed past the scene.

At 1700 the load and lorry had been suc­cess­fully removed from the scene and inspec­tions of the road sur­face could be made to deter­mine how much dam­age had been done and what level of repair to the road sur­face was needed. There was no dam­age to the mid­dle lane of the motor­way and there­fore it was reopened to traf­fic. How­ever the inside lane and hard shoul­der of the motor­way had suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant dam­age and there­fore it was deter­mined the road sur­face would need to be fully removed and a new sur­face installed. It should be noted that motor­way road sur­faces need to be of a higher stan­dard than other roads given the vol­ume and types of vehi­cles they have to take, as a result the com­plete removal and relay­ing of a motor­way is an exten­sive oper­a­tion. High­ways Eng­land con­trac­tors com­menced work and the replace­ment of the road sur­face was com­pleted overnight of the 27/28 Jan­u­ary 2016.

Once it was con­firmed the road would remain closed for some time High­ways England’s National Traf­fic Oper­a­tions Cen­tre (NTOC) set mes­sages on our elec­tronic Vari­able Mes­sage Signs (VMS) on the M6 south­bound as far back as the Scot­tish bor­der to advise road users of the clo­sure. In addi­tion they con­tacted Trans­port Scot­land who pro­vided addi­tional mes­sages on the VMS they con­trol on the south­bound M74 north of the border.

In addi­tion High­ways England’s National Inci­dent Liai­son Offi­cers (NILOs) pro­vided an inci­dent report and reg­u­lar updates on the inci­dent via email to both the media (local and national) and inde­pen­dent traf­fic infor­ma­tion providers of the inci­dent and its progress.  The NILOs also utilised High­ways England’s social media chan­nels to advise the trav­el­ling pub­lic of the clo­sure and keep them apprised of the progress of the inci­dent and the delays. They posted mes­sages on our North West traf­fic infor­ma­tion feed on Twit­ter. Our NILOs also set an announce­ment on the Break­ing News sec­tion of our Traf­fic Eng­land web­site (desk­top ver­sion here and the mobile ver­sion here) which detailed the diver­sion route above (our tweets pro­vided a link to this Break­ing News item). The Traf­fic Eng­land web­sites, along with our other mobile ser­vices (detailed here) pro­vided a con­stant feed of infor­ma­tion regard­ing the inci­dent and its impact on road users — in par­tic­u­lar the delays it was caus­ing for road users approach­ing J34 (which peaked at a delay of 2 hours over nor­mal trav­el­ling time). Even once we had a lane and then 2 lanes open past the scene the delays con­tin­ued to be detected and reported in to the evening.

If you were affected by this inci­dent High­ways Eng­land would like to thank you for your patience and under­stand­ing whilst the fire, recov­ery, clean-up and resur­fac­ing were completed.

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