Upgrade of the M6 to Smart Motorway between junctions 16 and 19, in order to create a smoother flow of traffic and thus reduce congestion.
As well as variable speed limits, this is a full conversion to All-Lane-Running (turning the hard shoulder into a permanent fourth running lane) with only Emergency Refuge Areas provided instead.
This scheme replaces the earlier M6 J13-19 Smart Motorway scheme, which was withdrawn in 2014.
Works will initially be at the northern end of the scheme, before spreading south.
This scheme is part of the Smart Motorways programme of works.
According to Highways England, initial survey work has now started, with some overnight lane closures planned during November. Major works (and associated temporary speed limits) are not expected until 2016.
Work site under construction off the A5022 before Brindley Green Farm.
"Average Speed Check" cameras have now been installed next to the road, in preparation for the main works starting. National Speed Limit is still in place and cameras are not yet in use as work has not yet started.
A 50mph speed limit is now in force north of Knutsford services, as initial works appear to be underway.
The main phase of construction is scheduled to start on 26 February 2016, it was announced today. The first section to be tackled is an 8-mile stretch between J18 and Knutsford Services.
Initial works, narrow lanes and the 50mph speed limit have now spread as far south as J17. Much of the permanent central barrier has now been totally removed between J18 and J19.
Work to replace the central barrier with a concrete version (and associated resurfacing work) is now complete between J17 and J19. Work on this northern section has now moved to the hard shoulder, where redundant matrix signs are being removed and Emergency Refuge Areas are now in varying stages of construction. Between J17 and J16 the old central barrier has now been totally removed and work to install the new concrete one continues.
Central barrier replacement is now largely complete between J16 and J17. A series of overnight closures are happening to move traffic lanes away from the hard shoulder so work can begin on the nearside.
Aside from northbound through J16 (where the hard shoulder is still in use as a running lane), all traffic is now running as close as possible to the central barrier. Between J19 and J17 several emergency laybys are in various stages of construction. The M6 is due to close southbound overnight from J16 to J15 next week - it's unclear if this is related to the Smart Motorway works.
Across the whole stretch of M6, traffic is now running as close to the central barrier as possible. Especially north of j18, a few emergency laybys are now complete except for a top surface layer of tarmac, while significant earthmoving or retaining work now seems to be be complete at the others. Machinery is now being used to lay the new kerb along significant stretches of the scheme.
Between J18 and J19, distinctive curved gantries and frames are now being installed, ready for the MS4 electronic signs as used on all Smart Motorways. Kerb-laying work is now virtually complete on this northern section. The old "fork" exit signs at J17 are now being removed - presumably these will soon be replaced with gantry signs.
Several "cantilever" half-gantries are now in place between j18 and j19. The main kerb and drainage works appear complete between J17 and j19, with several sections of nearside permanent safety fence (crash barrier) now also installed. The southern section (j16-j17) still has a lot more work to be done, with work on kerbs generally still not started and many emergency laybys barely begun.
The northern half of the scheme (J18-J19) is now visibly nearing completion, especially on the Northbound side. Most (if not all) new emergency lay-bys on this section have received their final top layer of tarmac, as has much of the former hard shoulder - ready for its future life as Lane 1. Virtually all of the new standard signs are now in place, and new electronic VMS, both large panels and over-lane versions, have begun to be installed.
Progress on the southern section (J16-J18) is less advanced. It seems unlikely the entire scheme will be brought into use at the same time. Large signs erected during the work suggest everything should be complete by Spring 2019 - 12 months later than the original schedule.
New permanent lane markings and road studs (modern catseyes) have been put down along much of the northern section (j. 18-19), and the new Lane 1 is signed as "closed for technology testing". Most if not all electronic VMS signs are now in place both there and between j17 and j18, and the former hard-shoulder along this stretch is now in the process of getting a new top tarmac surface. Around j19 some of the new matrix signs are wired up and the MS4s are already being used to display information, though the over-lane signs are not yet being used.
J16-17: VMS and overhead signs still to be installed whilst the 'new' lane 1 closed off. Narrow lanes and 50mph limit still in place.
J17-18: Some VMS still to be installed and ERA to be constructed. Still some white lines to be painted in places. 50mph limit still in place.
J18-19: All VMS installed with lane 1 closed for 'technology testing' according to signs. New 60mph limit in place however still unsure as to whether this is just for Christmas traffic. ERAs still need to be painted orange.
The M6 Northbound between junctions 18 and 19 now has 4 lanes open to traffic.
Between J18 and 19 (both ways) the upgrade is now functionally complete and is operating as Smart Motorway with a maximum variable speed limit at 70mph, rather than 60mph as it had been since the new lane opened.
However, work is clearly not totally done on this stretch - average speed cameras still need removing, and most if not all of the new variable speed cameras are still to be installed.
Between J16 and 18, most if not all matrix signs are now in place, but some resurfacing and barrier work still needs doing (especially south of J17) and the limit for traffic remains at 50mph.
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With thanks to David Peek, Fraser Mitchell and Michael Pritchard for information on this page.