M5 Closure J8-J9 Southbound, Worcestershire, Thursday 2nd June 2016
The M5 on the Worcestershire/Gloucestershire border was closed southbound between J8 (M50, Strensham) and J9 (A46, Tewkesbury) due to two collisions involving a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) and a number of cars. The incident resulted in a number of injuries including 2 fatalities and required the road to remain closed for several hours whilst a full collision investigation was completed.
At approximately 0108 on the morning of Thursday 2nd June 2016 Gloucestershire Police received a report of a serious road traffic collision (RTC) on the M5 southbound between J8 and J9 and that the road was blocked. Early reports from members of the public at the scene was that this was a serious incident with multiple casualties. As a result units from Gloucestershire Police were despatched to the scene and a mutual aid request was sent to West Mercia Police (who patrol the M5 and M50 nearby) and their colleagues of the Central Motorway Police Group. In addition ambulances from the West Midlands Ambulance Services were notified and units were despatched. Gloucestershire Police also requested that Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue attend due to the reports of persons being trapped in their vehicles. Highways England’s regional control centres in the South West and West Midlands regions were also alerted of the incident and three traffic officer units were despatched to the incident to assist with managing traffic.
The first emergency service units arrived on scene at approximately 0120 and it was immediately apparent that this was a serious incident and would require the road to be closed for some time whilst it was dealt with. Highways England’s West Midlands Regional Control Centre (WMRCC) started setting warning messages on the electronic Variable Message Signs (VMS) on the M5 southbound approaching J8. In addition they notified the National Traffic Operations Centre (NTOC) in Birmingham to advise of the incident, closure and likely duration. Operators at the NTOC set VMS further afield across the motorway network to warn road users bound for the M5. They also issued a travel alert on the Highways England’s travel website www.trafficengland.com. These alerts are also disseminated on our mobile services, RSS feeds and Twitter feeds.
From the scene Gloucestershire Police confirmed that sadly this incident has resulted in the loss of two lives and that a third person was seriously injured. As such a full, detailed, forensic investigation was required and that this would take several hours to complete before the road could be cleared up and re-opened. It was confirmed that this incident was in fact two separate collisions that occurred very close together in a short space of time. The initial incident involved 2 cars and the second incident involved a HGV and 2 other cars.
Highways England’s National Incident Liaison Officer (NILO) was briefed on the details of the incident and they drafted and issued a incident report to the local and national travel media (such as the BBC and INRIX — who provide traffic info to sat nav providers, online travel information services etc) to advise them of the situation. In addition the NILO posted a bulletin on the Highways England’s HighwaysWMIDS and HighwaysSWEST feeds on Twitter. Finally they also issued a bespoke press release to the media providing additional detail regarding the incident in an effort to ensure that local and national travel information providers could warn road users as soon as possible as this incident was clearly going to last throughout the morning peak travel period. Both NTOC and NILO continued to provide regular updates throughout the duration of the incident via the numerous means mentioned above, including the diversion (detailed below).
Once the closure was confirmed as being required our WMRCC checked to see if there was an available diversion route which could be utilised. A diversion route was found and implemented which took road users off of the M5 at J8 on to the M50 westbound to J2 of that motorway. Traffic would then be directed off of the motorway at J2 on to the A417 southbound to Gloucester and then the A40 eastbound to J11 of the M5. This is pre-planned emergency diversion route for the closed section of the M5 and is marked out on road signs with a black square symbol.
For road users travelling from further afield the NILO also issued an advisory to the media and the Highways England website asking road users to consider alternative routes to avoid the closure and local diversion route. A suggested route was via the M42 to J3, then the A435 southbound past Redditch to Alcester to pick up the A46 southbound to Tewkesbury where traffic could pick up the M5 at J9.
Following the incident there was a small amount of traffic trapped in the closure between J8 and the scene of the incident. This traffic was released via a process called rear-ward relief. This entails traffic being turned around from the back of the queue and directed the wrong way along the motorway to exit at the previous junction. This took some time to complete as Gloucestershire Police wanted to speak to each driver to ascertain if they’d witnessed the incident. Once the police had taken statements the traffic was released and clear of the scene by 0500.
Gloucestershire Police continued with their investigations at the scene until 0900 when the road was handed over to Highways England contractors to start to clear the scene of the debris and vehicles. The specific nature of the incident resulted in a large amount of vehicle debris at the scene which took some time to clear.
Additionally there was some damage to the central reservation crash barrier following the incident that needed to be repaired before the road could be reopened. The clean-up, recovery and barrier repairs were completed by 1120 and the road was fully reopened.
The incident and closure initially caused no delays until approximately 0700 when traffic was observed to be building up on the M5 southbound approach to J8. These delays increased throughout the morning with a peak delay of approximately 1 hour for traffic approaching the closure. Additional delays were noted on local roads in the area including an unofficial diversion via roads between J1 of the M50 to Tewkesbury and roads through Tewkesbury town centre. Note that this route was not official and was not promoted by Highways England or any other traffic information provider — the official diversion route detailed above was selected in order to avoid causing the delays experienced by road users in Tewkesbury.
Following the incident Gloucestershire Police have made a public appeal for information regarding the incident. A driver involved in the collision did not remain at the scene and they are appealing for the driver to come forward, or for members of the public to provide information to help identify and locate them.
If you were affected by this protracted incident and closure Highways England would like to thank you for your patience and understanding.
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