M6 Closure Southbound, Lancashire, Monday 07 March 2016
The M6 in Cumbria and Lancashire was closed southbound between J36 at Kirkby Lonsdale and J34 at Lancaster following two serious collisions, one within J34 and the other between J35 and J34. The second collision resulted in 1 serious injury. The road remained closed whilst Lancashire Police carried out a collision investigation and subsequent clean-up work, vehicle recovery and resurfacing of the damaged carriageway was completed.
At 03:57 our North West Regional Control Centre (RCC) were advised by the driver of one of our salt-spreading vehicles working out on the network that a lorry on the southbound carriageway had collided with the central reservation barrier and come to rest in lane 3. The RCC immediately informed North West Motorway Police Group and the RCC then dispatched a Highways England Traffic Officer unit to the scene.
When the Traffic Officers arrived, they implemented a rolling road block approaching the scene to enable an assessment to be made. It was established that the lorry had ruptured its fuel tank in the collision with the barrier and was leaking diesel onto the carriageway between the slip-roads at J34. Our Officers diverted traffic off the southbound carriageway at the J34 exit slip, over the roundabout at the junction to pass the incident and back on to the southbound carriageway via the entry slip to enable the traffic which had been blocked to start moving again.
The RCC contacted our National Traffic Operations Centre (NTOC) in Birmingham to inform them of the closure. Operators there immediately set the electronic Variable Message Signs (VMS) on the southbound M6 approaching from the north to advise of the closure and on our online traffic information services such as Traffic England (www.trafficengland.com or m.highways.gov.uk) and our smartphone travel apps to advise of the closure. Our National Incident Liaison Officer (NILO) also based at NTOC produced report to be distributed to the local and national travel media. They also updated our @HighwaysNWEST twitter account to warn of the closure. These information services continued to be updated as soon as there were significant changes during the incident.
Further assessment at the scene established that the vehicle was carrying 600 litres of diesel which was rapidly leaking onto the road. There was also substantial damage to the central barrier which was protruding into lane two of the carriageway. Our contractors were requested to the scene to deal with clear up of the diesel and establish what emergency repair would be required to the barrier. Although staff on scene were able to block the diesel leak, over 300 litres had already escaped and spread causing damage to roughly 80m of carriageway in lanes 2 and 3 that would require resurfacing before the road would be safe to re-open.
At 06:10 while work at the scene of the first incident was ongoing, North West Motorway Police Group passed a report to our RCC of a second collision on the M6 southbound between junction J35 and J34 involving three lorries. There were reports of a trapped casualty and a large spillage of diesel from the vehicles.
They had dispatched officers to this incident and requested Lancashire Fire Service to attend as there were reports of trapped casualties. Our RCC also then dispatched Traffic Officers to the incident.
At 06:31 the Police requested our Traffic Officers to implement a full closure of the southbound carriageway as the vehicles had come to rest across all the lanes between J35 and J34. In order to provide a diversion route from J35 that could best handle motorway volumes of traffic the decision was made to close the motorway from J36 (Kirkby Lonsdale). From there a diversion route to J34 has been pre-agreed with the local council and stakeholders and is already signed with symbols for drivers to follow installed on local road signs. This was via the A65 to Kirkby Lonsdale and then the A683 towards Lancaster to re-join the M6 at J34. Unfortunately due to the rural nature of the local roads, there was an unavoidable obstruction on the A683 of a low bridge with a 15ft 6in height limit. This new closure meant that the first incident was now contained within the longer closed section of carriageway.
The RCC again contacted our NTOC in Birmingham to make them aware of the new closure. The electronic VMS on the southbound M6 and online services were updated. In addition they worked with Traffic Scotland to ensure that the closure was warned of on the VMS installed north of the border on the M74 and on Traffic Scotland’s website. VMS were also set approaching M6 junction J40 on the southbound M6 and on the A66 eastbound approaching from the Lake District advising long-distance traffic travelling to the South to use the A66 eastbound and A1 southbound.
Our National Incident Liaison Officer (NILO) produced a new report to be distributed to the local and national media to notify the diversion route details and the bridge height limit. Further tweets were sent on our @HighwaysNWEST twitter account to provide our followers with a link to the diversion route details.
As a clearer picture of the incident scene was reported, it was established that there was 1 person trapped after the incident. North West Air Ambulance Service was requested to attend. Meanwhile Lancashire Fire Service and worked to get the trapped person released.
Further updates from the staff at scene advised that 1 of the lorries involved was a milk tanker. The vehicle’s load was intact, however its diesel tank was completely ruptured, and one of the other lorries had shed its load of wood.
At 07:00 the Police and Fire services requested a closure of lane 3 on the northbound carriageway between J34 and J35 to enable access to the scene; the northbound carriageway was then fully blocked at J34 at approximately 07:50 to enable the air ambulance to attend the scene. The air ambulance left the scene with the injured person at approximately 08:20 and one lane was then re-opened for northbound traffic.
As work at the incident scene continued, as soon as staff became available provision was made to start turning around traffic which was stuck in the closed section of southbound carriageway between J35 and the incident scene to return under supervision to J35 and resume their journeys.
After the Fire and Ambulance services had concluded their work at the scene, Lancashire Police continued to work to carry out forensic collision investigation into the incident which required the preservation of the incident scene until this was complete.
Whilst the investigation was taking place preparations were made to recover the lorries, one of which had shed its load of wood onto the carriageway. It was also identified that due to the diesel spill which had damaged a 100m stretch of the carriageway across all lanes, extensive resurfacing would be required before the carriageway re-opened.
At approximately 10:50 a second lane was able to be re-opened on the northbound carriageway past the scene, easing the disruption to the northbound traffic.
As this incident was continuing to be dealt with arrangements were made to resurface the carriageway after the original incident at J34 while the incident closing J36 to J34 was ongoing to minimise further disruption. This was carried out during the afternoon.
The Police completed their investigation at approximately 16:00 when the scene of the incident was handed over to Highways England and recovery work was able to begin. Recovery work took several hours as all three lorries were badly damaged and the shed load of wood also required clearance.
As the recovery work was being carried out, our contractors took the opportunity to begin planing the damaged road surface in preparation to begin resurfacing. Recovery and clean-up was completed at approximately 21:15 and resurfacing of all lanes and the hard shoulder was then able to begin. This was completed just after midnight and new white lines were then painted onto the carriageway. The southbound carriageway fully re-opened at approximately 02:15.
At its peak there were delays in excess of 90 minutes to northbound traffic during the carriageway block while the air ambulance landed and very slow traffic negotiating the southbound diversion route. Our RCC liaised throughout the incident with Lancashire and Cumbria Police and Lancashire and Cumbria councils to try to ensure that traffic on the southbound diversion route was kept flowing as well as possible.
If you were affected by these protracted incidents and road closure Highways England would like to thank for your patience and understanding.
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