M6 hell: Highways bosses respond to chaotic weekend scenes on M6 and reveal new plans for upcoming closures

Chaotic scenes on the M6 at the weekend have led Highways bosses to scrap a second planned closure for later this week.
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National Highways said it is ‘sincerely sorry’ for the severe delays on the M6 which left thousands of drivers trapped in miles of queuing traffic over Saturday and Sunday.

After being flooded with complaints from angry drivers, the agency has vowed to rethink how it deals with future closures, and confirmed it has suspended plans for a second closure this upcoming weekend (Friday, September 16 – Monday, September 19)

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Drivers fumed after being stuck in gridlock for up to 12 hours when the motorway was closed between junctions 33, for Lancaster, and 32, for Broughton.

The roadworks had been planned in advance to allow Highways to carry out “essential bridge safety and maintenance works”, but thousands of drivers – unaware of the plans – found themselves trapped in long queues of stationary traffic.

Some drivers reported taking more than eight hours to travel just one junction, complaining of a lack of signage in the run up to the closure.

There were concerns for health, with young children and the elderly among those stuck, with some also running out of food and water.

The motorway issues also left Lancaster gridlocked.

One driver described the hours-long delays as 'M6 hell'. Picture credit: Kieron Brogan @kieron_broganOne driver described the hours-long delays as 'M6 hell'. Picture credit: Kieron Brogan @kieron_brogan
One driver described the hours-long delays as 'M6 hell'. Picture credit: Kieron Brogan @kieron_brogan
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Today (Monday, September 12), National Highways – the agency responsible for motorway works – issued an apology to those caught up in the chaos.

It added that it will review plans for future weekend closures and “make any necessary changes to minimise disruption”.

This is what National Highways says after the weekend’s ‘M6 hell’

Alan Shepherd, National Highways divisional director, said: "We are sincerely sorry for the delays experienced by drivers on the M6 this weekend and will be reviewing the traffic management, signage and communications ahead of future weekend closures.

“As soon as practicable and to help ease congestion and support road users, we reopened two out of three lanes on the southbound carriageway at 5.10pm yesterday, with the work restarting at 12am and continuing until 5am today (Monday 12 September).

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"As the nation pays its respects to Queen Elizabeth, planned full closures on the M6 are being paused this weekend (16 – 19 September).

"This will allow National Highways more time to review its plans for future weekend closures and make any necessary changes to minimise disruption.

“We continue to advise road users to check their routes before setting off using live traffic information on www.trafficengland.com, to allow extra time for their journeys and to familiarise themselves with diversion routes if necessary.”

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Were motorists warned about the closures?

National Highways said last weekend's closure was publicised in a number of ways, including advance notice letters to affected residents and businesses ahead of the closures.

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It says there was also signage across the ‘strategic road network’ – including the M6 from the Scottish border and the A1(M) to the East of the country, warning of the closure and delays ahead of and during the weekend.

Additionally, traffic bulletins were published to ensure the work was advertised via radio stations, with further traffic updates issued over the weekend on its North West web page and Twitter and Facebook feeds.

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