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.

Image from North West Motor­way Police twit­ter account.

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.

Image from Lan­cashire Police Twit­ter Account.

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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