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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