M6 Closure within J7, Northbound, West Midlands, Tuesday 26th July 2016
The M6 in The West Midlands was closed northbound within the J7 (Birmingham, Walsall, A34) near Great Barr, due to a HGV that caught fire. The road remained closed for several hours to enable the fire to brought under control, HGV recovery and carriageway surface inspection and repairs.
At approximately 08:11 on the morning of Tuesday 26th July West Midlands Fire Service were notified by a Highways England contractor that a HGV on the M6 northbound within J7 on fire. West Midlands Fire Services and Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG) despatched units to the scene. Highways England’s West Midlands Regional Control Centre (WMRCC) operators were also notified at the same time and despatched a Highways England Traffic Officer patrol. Our WMRCC started setting warning messages on the electronic Variable Message Signs (VMS) approaching the scene. In addition they notified the National Traffic Operations Centre (NTOC) in Birmingham of the incident. NTOC set electronic signs further afield of the incident to notify road users and ensured that the Highways England’s traffic information website Traffic England was advising users of the incident.
The incident was also visually confirmed via nearby CCTV.
It was confirmed that the driver of the HGV was out and safely away from the fire. At 08:19 our traffic officer on scene advised (via CMPG) that traffic could no longer pass the scene and a full closure of the road was required northbound. A diversion was put in place via the exit and entry slip roads of J7, this is known as an ‘up and over’. Our National Incident Liaison Officers (NILO) fully briefed the national and local media and updated our Twitter followers via @HighwaysWMIDS account.
Traffic on the southbound carriageway had also been stopped whilst the fire was dealt with due to concerns of drifting smoke and also because the hazard that such an incident can cause in distracting passing road users.
Southbound traffic was released and allowed to pass the scene at approximately 08:40 as the fire had been brought under control by that time. However it took some time for the fire to be fully extinguished. This was done by 10:05 and the vehicle could then be approached and assessed to determine how best to recover it from the road.
At approximately 11:00 it was determined by the on-scene emergency services that a lane could be opened past the scene of the incident. This would help alleviate pressure on the J7 diversion which was causing congestion back along the M6 to J5. Delays for the incident peaked at approximately 60 minutes over the normal journey time for this time of day.
At approximately 12:10 West Midlands Fire & Rescue service had to return to the scene of the incident as the fire had partially reignited and this had stopped the recovery process. Whilst the Fire Service damped down the vehicle again traffic had to be stopped from passing the scene again. By 12:40 the fire had been extinguished and traffic was once again released to run past the scene in one lane.
In order for the recovery contractors to have a safe working environment it was necessary at 13:15 to close the single lane running past the incident and to implement the up-and-over diversion again. Recovery of such a heavily damaged vehicle is a complex affair and as such it took until 14:00 for the vehicle to be removed and a full inspection of the road surface undertaken to determine the extent of damage and what level of repair was required. Sadly the road surface was significantly damaged and it was determined that it would need to be fully replaced with new tarmac.
Contractors on scene determined that a temporary repair to the road surface could be completed by stripping off the damaged surface and allowing traffic to travel through with a temporay speed limit with the intention to fully close the road overnight when traffic volumes are normally lower in order to fully replace the road surface. The damaged road surface was therefore removed and the exposed under layer of the road planed to provide a road surface suitable for traffic to pass over.
This was completed by 16:00 and traffic was allowed to travel in all 3 lanes over the temporary road surface with a temporary speed limit of 40mph. This reopening helped significantly with the delays on the M6 northbound and by 17:30 traffic delays had cleared and road users were experiencing normal travel times for that section of motorway for that time of day.
At approximately 22:00 the road was closed again within J7 and an up-and-over diversion was implemented again for the road surface to be fully replaced and this was completed overnight. Delays did occur initially as result of the road being closed again but these dissipated by midnight and the repairs were complete and road fully re-opened by 06:00.
Throughout the duration of the incident both Highways England’s NTOC and NILO teams ensured the local and national media were kept updated of the progress of the incident. In addition these teams monitored the impact on road users of the closure and kept the public up-to-date via social media, traffic report emails and the electronic VMS on the motorway network both locally and further afield.
Highways England would like to thank road users affected by this incident for their patience and understanding throughout.
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