M2 Closure J6-J5 Westbound, Kent, Friday 22nd July 2016

The M2 in Kent was closed west­bound between J6 (Faver­sham, Ash­ford, A251) and J5 (Maid­stone, Sheer­ness, A259)  due to an HGV car­ry­ing hale bales that caught fire. The road remained closed through­out the day as the fire took sev­eral hours to bring under con­trol and fully extin­guish. Due to the sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to the HGV in the fire it also took some time to be recov­ered and the debris from the inci­dent to be cleared.

At approx­i­mately 1018 on the morn­ing of Fri­day 22nd July Kent Fire & Res­cue Ser­vice received a num­ber of 999 calls from motorists report­ing a a HGV on the M2 west­bound between J6 and J5 was on fire. Early reports from pass­ing motorists were that this was a sig­nif­i­cant fire and as such Kent Fire & Res­cue Ser­vice despatched units to the scene at 1019 and advised High­ways England’s South East Regional Con­trol Cen­tre of the incident.

High­ways Eng­land oper­a­tors at the con­trol room found the inci­dent on CCTV quickly and con­firmed the loca­tion and sig­nif­i­cance of the fire.

The con­trol room oper­a­tors despatched at High­ways Eng­land Traf­fic Offi­cer patrol at 1021 and set elec­tronic motor­way sig­nals on approach to the inci­dent to encour­age road users to pass the scene in lane 2 until emer­gency ser­vices could arrive on the scene and assess how best to deal with the fire and man­age traf­fic. Kent Police were also advised of the inci­dent and despatched offi­cers to the scene.

The first unit on scene was a Kent Police patrol which arrived at approx­i­mately 1035 and con­firmed that the vehi­cle was full size HGV trans­port­ing large hay bales and that the fire was sign­f­i­cant and spread­ing quickly to affect the HGV’s fuel tank and trac­tor unit. They also con­firmed that the dri­ver of the vehi­cle was out and safely away from the scene. The police also requested that traf­fic be held from pass­ing the fire and that a full clo­sure of road may be required.

Kent Fire & Res­cue Ser­vice units arrived on scene at approx­i­mately 1040 and they requested fur­ther units to attend to assist in deal­ing with what was now a sign­f­i­cant fire.

The deci­sion to close the road was made at 1100 by Kent Fire  & Res­cue Ser­vice and High­ways Eng­land South East Regional Con­trol Cen­tre requested road main­te­nance con­trac­tors from their Kent area attend to assist with the clo­sure, the man­age­ment of traf­fic and assist with the any clean-up, recov­ery and repairs to the road which would be required.

An emer­gency diver­sion route was estab­lished. Road users were advised to exit at J6 and fol­low the route marked out on local road signs with a solid square sym­bol. This route took traf­fic on the A251 south­bound in the direc­tion towards Badlesmere. Once past Badlesmere at the junc­tion with the A252 traf­fic would turn right to travel on the A252 in the direc­tion towards Char­ing. At the round­about at Char­ing traf­fic would take the A20 west­bound in the direc­tion towards Maid­stone and then join the M20 west­bound at J8. Exit the M20 at J7 and join the A249 north­bound and con­tinue on this road to  re-join the M2 west­bound at J5.

At 1150 Kent Fire & Res­cue Ser­vice advised that the fire had been damp­ened down suf­fi­ciently to allow traf­fic trapped between the clo­sure at J6 and the scene (which was just prior to J5) could be released past the scene. Due to the amount of traf­fic trapped within the clo­sure it was also decided to try and remove traf­fic from the rear of the queue by turn­ing vehi­cles around at the back and allow­ing them to flow the wrong way on the motor­way back to J6 and join the diver­sion route. High­ways Eng­land Traf­fic Offi­cers facil­i­tated this but there was a sig­nif­i­cant amount of traf­fic to clear and given that this sec­tion of motor­way is only 2 lanes wide it took some time to clear every­one.  How­ever all trapped traf­fic was clear by 1300.

Despite the best efforts of the units from Kent Fire & Res­cue the fire con­tin­ued to burn for sev­eral hours and required sev­eral bowsers of water to be attend the inci­dent to replen­ish the ten­ders being used by the fire service.

At approx­i­mately 1430 our con­trol cen­tre were advised that there had been col­li­sion on the diver­sion route and that this route would need to be closed.  This inci­dent and the rural nature of the diver­sion route meant that road users being diverted off of the M2 expe­ri­enced sig­nif­i­cant and severe delays through­out the day. In response to the clo­sure of the diver­sion route the deci­sion was made to take traf­fic off of the M2 at J7 and con­tinue their jour­ney on the ‘old’ A2 towards Sit­ting­bourne. Re-join the M2 at J5 via the A249 at Bob­bing. This route also became heav­ily con­gested through­out the day also.

Kent Fire & Res­cue declared the fire extin­guished and the lorry was cool enough to allow it to be approached and recov­ered at 1829. Firstly the remains of the burnt hay bales needed to be removed and then the burnt out remains of the lorry could be dealt with.


The load was moved from the vehi­cle on to the road so that it could be removed sep­a­rately and  efforts to remove the HGV could com­mence. The HGV was recov­ered by 1930 but whilst it was being moved it became appar­ent that the fuel tank had been dam­aged in the fire and this resulted in the diesel it con­tained leak­ing out in to the road. This would need to be dealt with before the road could be reopened. The remains of the hay bales con­tin­ued to be cleared and this took some time to fin­ish. The hay was removed by 2130 and the road swept for any remain­ing small bits of debris. Prompt work fol­low­ing the diesel spill by our on site clean-up crews had meant that the spillage had been con­tained and we could re-open lane 2 past the scene whilst the last of the clean-up was fin­ished. The spilt diesel in lane 1 was removed and the road sur­face treated and cleaned allow­ing it to be reopened by 2230.

Through­out the dura­tion of the inci­dent our National Traf­fic Oper­a­tions Cen­tre (NTOC) con­stantly mon­i­tored the traf­fic delays on the approach to the clo­sure at J6 and fur­ther afield. Our traf­fic mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems indi­cated that road users were expe­ri­enc­ing peak aver­age delay of 1 hour over nor­mal jour­ney times between J7 and J6. In addi­tion to this third party traf­fic mon­i­tor­ing indi­cated that there were sig­nif­i­cant delays on the diver­sion routes (both the ini­tial route and the later alter­na­tive). High­ways England’s duty National Inci­dent Liai­son Offi­cers (located at NTOC) utilised social media (specif­i­cally our @HighwaysSEAST twit­ter account) to inform road users of what was hap­pen­ing and what to expect. In addi­tion the inci­dent was shown on our www.trafficengland.com web­site. Our National Inci­dent Liai­son Offi­cers also ensured that the local and national media were apprised of the inci­dent and kept reg­u­larly updated as to its progress through­out the day to ensure all avail­able means to advise the pub­lic of this clo­sure and its impact were used.

 The nature and size of the load and the fact it burnt for some time and resulted in the HGV need­ing time to cool before it could be recov­ered neces­si­tated this pro­tracted clo­sure. High­ways Eng­land would like to thank motorists for their patience throughout.

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