Three years of chaos as work to start on turning M6 into smart motorway
Motorists are facing three years of traffic chaos as work is to start on turning the M6 through Staffordshire into a smart motorway.
Speed limits will be slashed to 50 or 60mph and lanes will be narrowed or closed for the duration of the multi-million pound project between junction 13 at Stafford South and junction 15 in Stoke-on-Trent.
Highways England will begin work on March 18 and it is expected to be completed by 2022 if everything goes according to plan.
In the long run, the smart motorway should speed up journey times as it allows the hard shoulder to be used as an additional lane with technology and variable speed limits to keep drivers moving.
Smart motorways regional sponsor, Peter Smith, from Highways England, today insisted the inconvenience would be worth it in the long run.
He said: “Work on delivering a new smart motorway on the M6 between Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent that will tackle congestion and improve journey times for tens of thousands of drivers daily is due to get underway.
“Capacity will be increased by a third with four running lanes and up-to-date technology will help keep traffic flowing more smoothly and give drivers better information to help with their journeys, while maintaining high levels of safety.
“I’d like to thank drivers for their co-operation and understanding while we build this new, improved road.”
As part of the work starting next month, Highways England will close a carriageway between 10pm and 6am Monday to Thursday, from 10pm on Fridays to 6am Saturdays, and from 10pm on Saturdays to 10am Sundays. There will also be all-day closures at a later date.
It is thought the work could cost the taxpayer in the region of £335.4 million and will overlap with a similar on the M6 in Cheshire which is due to be completed by March 2019.
Stoke-on-Trent South MP Jack Brereton is calling on Highways England to ensure the work is completed on schedule.
He said: “Of course the scheme will have an impact during construction but it is good to see further investment in the area. There will be a knock-on effect during the construction and I have driven through the M6 further north and experienced the congestion but that is always the case with major roadworks.
“Bringing in extra capacity using technology to relieve traffic is good but we need to ensure that investment is effective. I will work with other MPs to challenge Highways England to make sure there’s no slippage.”
Residents of Northwood Lane, Clayton, fear the upgrade will increase the number of cars using their road as a rat run.
Diane Holdcroft, aged 39, said: “It will probably mean traffic gets worse but it depends where people ask their sat-nav to take them. We get a lot of people already using this as a shortcut especially those coming from Trentham or the A34. It can get quite busy in rush hour and people drive quite fast.”
Neighbour Enid Gibson, aged 82, added: “It can be hard to get out in a morning as it is and it will get worse. People already use it now to help avoid the M6.”
Andrew Shenton, transport manager at Tyler Transport in Burslem, said roadworks were just a part of being on the roads.
He added: “I’ve been driving for 25 years and cannot remember a time when there were no roadworks between Staffordshire and Scotland. You’re lucky usually if you can get above 50mph anyway so I cannot see this making too much of a difference.”
In the run up to the works starting there will be a number of public consultation events including:
- Stone Station Community Centre in Station Approach, Stone, on March 2, between 3pm and 8pm;
- Roebuck Shopping Centre in High Street, Newcastle, on March 3, between 10am and 5pm;
- Stafford Gatehouse Theatre in Eastgate Street, Stafford, on March 9, between 3pm and 8pm;
- Guildhall Shopping Centre in Market Square, Stafford, on March 10, between 10am and 5pm.