M6 Closure Northbound, Cheshire. Tuesday 15 November 2016
The M6 in Cheshire was closed northbound at J19 (Tabley Interchange) for the A556 due to a serious incident which involved a HGV that overturned within the junction. The articulated HGV was transporting its load of non-hazardous (plastic balls used for pop bottles and a syrup dye when it overturned coming to rest at an angle and blocking the carriageway.
Early on Tuesday morning at 01:00 Highways England Staff at our North West Regional Control Centre were alerted to an overturned HGV at J19 by our Police Service colleagues (North West Motorway Police Group) following a member of public reporting it to them. The location was significant as it lay within a current Highways England Major Roadworks Scheme (M6 junctions 16–19: smart motorway scheme) where the motorway is being converted into a smart motorway from J16 Crewe to J19 at Knutsford. With the location being within works the incident was very quickly located on a roadworks camera.
Self-evidently the incident was significant and given that there was also a serious injury reported with the driver trapped, all emergency services were deployed. Together with North West Motorway Police, Ambulances, and Cheshire Fire and Rescue, Highways England Traffic Officers and Contractors were also deployed. Furthermore, staff at the Highways England National Traffic Operations Control Centre (NTOC) near Birmingham were notified together with the National Incident Liaison Officers (NILO) based at the same location. This enabled the National Incident Liaison Officers to issue the reports of this incident to the Travel Media and Stakeholders and updates on the incident were also disseminated on Social Media Twitter and Highways England websites including Traffic England again by the NILO Team. On road Variable Message Signing (VMS) was also utilised to inform customers heading northbound on the M6.
With the incident located fractionally beyond the J19 exit slip road, approaching traffic was very fortunately able to divert past the incident using the J19 exit and entry slip roads at the junction. This dramatically reduced the numbers of trapped traffic and the few vehicles which were stuck behind the incident were quickly turned and freed to use the exit slip road.
By 01:20 further reports had emerged that the driver was trapped in the cab and the Fire Service began their work to free the driver and with the location being in roadworks emergency traffic management was very quickly set up to facilitate approaching traffic to merge off the main carriageway and onto the slip. With the incident within road works and with a wide central reservation roadworks area available, this provided excellent access for emergency and contractor vehicles.
Overnight the A556 had a pre-planned closure in place and for the initial stages of this incident overnight there were no significant delays being noted with only a very slight delay being experienced by customers as they left the motorway and then re-joined the north carriageway at J19. With the initial response to the incident still in progress, Traffic Officers at the scene identified items of the partially sealed shed load and this was identified to be Glutaric Acid; this information was quickly relayed to Cheshire Fire & Rescue by our North West Regional Control Centre Staff.
Over the course of the next hour further fire crews had arrived and Highways England Contractors overlaid the traffic management to re-enforce the carriageway closure. At 02:00 it was reported that the driver had been extracted from the cab of the HGV and receiving further medical attention. Police indicated at this time that no protracted collision investigation work would be necessary and attention could now focus on the HGV recovery operation. Indeed Heavy Vehicle recovery operators had arrived quickly to the scene to assist. A number of approaches were considered for recovery of the HGV with lifting being quickly ruled out due to the weight of the load. Also consideration was given to dragging the HGV to the nearside of the carriageway with a view to at least enabling 2 lanes to re-open. This was decided against when Contractors Safety officers calculated that with the available width of road the 2 running lanes for traffic would not be suitable for HGV traffic due to it being too narrow.
This development now confirmed that the closure of the carriageway would inevitably impact into the morning peak rush hour traffic and would affect customers travelling to Manchester Airport and other strategic routes and locations in the North West. With concerns about the removal of the HGV and its load, Senior Highways England staff were notified and at 04:45 a region wide response was declared to co-ordinate resources and ensure all appropriate measures were being undertaken at a teleconference which took place at 05:15. At this time the fire service had officially left the scene of incident at J19.
During this time more variable message signs became available as overnight roadworks closure were being removed, and as a consequence more signs were utilised to inform customers to use other routes. Breaking News and Social Media was also broadcasting the message for customers to expect delays and consider other routes.
With the police leaving the scene at 05:33 and the fire service having declared the load as non-hazardous (plastic balls used for pop bottle production and several drums containing cola syrup) recovery work commenced. Contractors on scene with assistance from the recovery operators started to make pallets ready for the movement of the load. The main concern was the syrup as there were 5 drums of 50 gallons each likely to spill during recovery.
A full closure had been implemented earlier within J19 and road users were being diverted around the incident via the northbound exit and entry slips at J19. Due to the spillage of the load and the issue with the carriageway being contaminated by the spilt syrup it became apparent that recovery was going to be protracted. Along with this the HGV and trailer needed to be righted. Sweepers belonging to our Highways England Contractors were requested to scene and recovery work commenced at a pace.
With the “up and over” diversion in place delays inevitably began to increase and by circa 07:00 our operators at the National Traffic Operations Centre set Variable Message Signs with the following legend
Our National Incident liaison Officers (NILO) remained active with social media advising road users travelling to Manchester Airport to allow extra journey time. With the diversion in place and a plan formulated and in operation, recovery work continued throughout the morning. At circa midday the overturned HGV had been righted, however carriageway clean– up continued. This work continued throughout the afternoon. An added problem with the removal of the syrup based substance was that it had adhered itself to the “cats eyes” on the carriageway and these would need to be cleaned thoroughly in order to make the road safe to re-open. The recovery vehicle left scene with the former overturned HGV at 12:40. Congestion at this time was measured as being back to J18 and road users were experiencing significantly longer journeys as a result. During the recovery operation and the righting of the vehicle it was discovered that the vehicles diesel tank had ruptured and this added a further complication to the clean– up process extending the time this was going to take.
Finally after much hard work by our contractors, recovery agents, emergency services and Highways England Traffic Officers, the road was fully re-opened at 16:20. The M6 was once again safe to use for our customers. Residual delays remained severe with the congestion still back to J18 however this situation steadily improved as traffic began to flow again unrestricted.
We would like to thank road users for their patience whilst this incident was ongoing. The National Traffic Operations Centre and National Incident Liaison Officers within it endeavoured throughout to keep road users fully updated on the progress of restoration and clearance of this incident.
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