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Traffic CongestionA £208 million Highways Agency scheme gets underway today to cut congestion and improve journey times on parts of the M60 and the M62 in Greater Manchester.

The scheme, which is said to take three years, will see a 17-mile stretch of the network upgraded to a smart motorway between junction 8 of the M60 near Sale and junction 20 of the M62 near Rochdale.

This will be the first of its kind in the North West and, once installed, will be able to monitor traffic levels, provide traffic information to road users and ease congestion using variable speed limits.

Plans are to permanently convert the hard shoulder into an extra lane on a five-mile stretch of the M62 between junctions 18 and 20, providing extra capacity on the part of the motorway that links the North West to Yorkshire.

Stephen Greenhalgh, Project Manager at the Highways Agency, said: “It is great news that we are starting work on these vital improvements, which are part of the record £24 billion investment the government is making in the road network over this Parliament and the next to support economic growth.”

The first stage of the project, starting today, will see engineers carry out site surveys and ground investigation work.

“Once completed, the smart motorway will tackle the congestion and unpredictable journey times that users of the M60 and M62 experience every day,” Greenhalgh said. “It is also good news for the construction industry as more than a thousand jobs will be created to help deliver these vital improvements.”

From Monday 21st of July, a temporary steel barrier to protect road workers will be installed in the hard shoulder between junction 18 of the M62 at the M60/M66 interchange and junction 20 at Rochdale. At the same time a 50mph speed limit will be introduced on the M62 section, to ensure the safety of the workforce and motorists.

The temporary speed limit will then gradually be extended across the length of the smart motorway route over the following weeks. All of the lanes on the motorway will remain open during the day throughout the three years of the scheme but some overnight closures will be required later in the project.

Highways Agency Divisional Director, Jeremy Bloom, added: “We’ve had experience of this type of scheme over in Yorkshire – it’s been quite successful and we’ve learned lessons from that. There will be some disruption […] so motorists should allow extra time for their journey especially between peak hours but we will keep disruption to a minimum.”

Once completed, in autumn 2017, more than 200 new electronic signs on the M60 and M62 will warn drivers of changes in the mandatory speed limit, lane closures, and incidents ahead. CCTV cameras will also be used to monitor traffic levels from the Highways Agency’s Regional Control Centre at Newton-le-Willows in Merseyside.

The smart motorway will operate emergency refuge areas when needed on the section of M62 without a hard shoulder, and the overhead signs will be used to display a red X to close lanes during incidents, allowing emergency vehicles to get through.

Starting today and lasting three years, this scheme is sure to provide delays and disruptions to your daily driving. If this stretch of motorway is part of your driving route, be sure to plan extra time for travel.