Major construction work on a vital £126 million scheme to increase capacity reduce congestion and improve safety on the M6 between junctions 5 and 8 near Birmingham was officially started today by Highways Agency Chief Executive Graham Dalton.
When the scheme is complete in spring 2014 road users will benefit from improved journey times thanks to the use of variable speed limits to smooth out traffic flows and opening up the hard shoulder as an extra traffic lane. It will also connect the two existing stretches of managed motorway on the M6 – junctions 4 and 5 and junctions 8 to 10a making it the longest stretch of managed motorway in the country.
The works which will encompass the M6 carriageway over Gravelly Hill Interchange (more commonly known as Spaghetti Junction) will also be the first managed motorway scheme to be carried out on such a long continuous section of elevated motorway.
It is one of 20 major road improvement projects due to start construction before March 2015 as part of a £2.1bn Government package of strategic road projects to boost the economy.
Road Minister Mike Penning said:
Work starting here today shows the Government is delivering on its promise to invest in transport especially managed motorway schemes that have proven to reduce congestion improve safety and support economic growth. These types of projects continue to deliver results and provide more reliable efficient transport links for motorists and businesses.
This is why we are funding an additional 11 managed motorway schemes over the next few years. It is about laying solid foundations for the future and delivering a first class transport infrastructure this country needs.”
Graham Dalton Highways Agency Chief Executive said:
The West Midlands is at the heart of Englands strategic road network with some of the busiest motorways in the country. That’s why I am delighted that main construction work is getting underway today on schedule. The managed motorway scheme will provide much-needed additional capacity on the M6 for more than 160000 road users who travel on this section of the motorway every day. I know the project team will do what they can to keep traffic moving while they deliver these much-needed improvements.
The West Midlands was the first region to benefit from managed motorways technology in the country with the Highways Agency trialling the congestion busting scheme on the M42 junctions 3a to 7 in 2006. Research has shown that accidents have more than halved since the hard shoulder was opened to traffic as part of the managed motorway scheme and the technique has since been introduced on a further two sites in the region – M6 J4 to J5 and on the M6 between junctions 8 and 10A near Birmingham.
Work on the M6 will include building emergency refuge areas installing gantries and electronic signs and installing sensors in the road to measure traffic flow. CCTV cameras will also be installed to monitor the motorway and emergency refuge areas.
Rob Edwards Highways Agency Project Manager said:
These works pose some engineering challenges as it is the first time we have installed managed motorways on such a long section of elevated section of motorway including the M6 carriageway over the iconic Spaghetti Junction.
In order to minimise delays to road users we are carrying out this work in phases starting with junctions 6 to 8. Our plan is to start work on junctions 5 to 6 in January next year. We will be keeping three lanes available to traffic in both directions at peak times throughout the construction with a reduced speed limit of 50mph in place at all times enforced with average speed safety cameras to smooth the flow of traffic and ensure the safety of road users and our workforce.
We are working closely with residents in the area. We held public exhibitions last year and in January we arranged a pre-construction exhibition to explain the scheme and answer questions. We will continue to keep them and road users updated as work progresses.