Roadworks to turn M56 into ‘smart motorway’ to continue next month despite government decision

Major construction work is set to begin between the Hale and Bowdon junctions of the M56 next month to make it a ‘smart motorway’, with some changes from as early as next week.

The third and final construction phase of National Highways’ upgrade of the M56 is set to begin in May along the four-mile stretch between junction 6 at Hale and junction 8 at Bowdon.

The stretch of motorway is one of the busiest in the North West and National Highways is going to add an extra lane in each carriageway, as well as extra technology ‘to help smooth drivers’ journeys.’

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The road between the two junctions is currently carrying up to 100,000 vehicles a day. The roll-out of new all lane running (ALR) smart motorways was paused by the government in January 2022 to allow safety and economic data to be collected after a series of incidents and fatalities.

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However, work on stretches already under construction – such as the M56 – is set to continue because these stretches were all more than half completed at the time. Those behind the works said that leaving traffic management in place as it currently is, throughout the government pause, would ‘significantly disrupt drivers’.

Preparation work for this final phase of work on the M56 will begin from the week commencing Monday April 25, with night-time lane and carriageway closures expected from Wednesday April 27. The first phase of construction work along the motorway started in autumn 2020 and this final stage is due to be completed in autumn.

The first two phases of the project – conversion of the eastbound and westbound hard shoulders into permanent extra running lanes – have now been completed.

Work to alter the traffic management along the motorway will start from as early as next week with the roadworks then moving into the central reservation for the construction of a concrete safety barrier between junctions 6 and 8.

As part of the traffic management for the final phase, the current contraflow system will be removed. It has been in place to keep three lanes of the motorway running in each direction.

To provide a safe working space in the central reservation, lane three in both the eastbound and westbound carriageways are set to close and drivers will be able to use the newly-converted hard shoulders – keeping three lanes running in each direction with a 50mph speed limit until the project is completed.

To adjust the traffic management in readiness for the third phase of work, there will be nightly closures of lanes or carriageways for four weeks from Wednesday April 27.

The following closures will be taking place with clearly signed diversions in place where required:

  • Nightly closures of the westbound carriageway between junction 5 and junction 7 from 9pm on Thursday April 28 to 6am on Friday May 20 – but with no work or closures overnight on Monday May 2
  • Five full overnight closures of the eastbound carriageway between junction 9 and junction 5 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday 28, 29 and 30 April and again on Sunday May 8 and Friday May 13
  • Nightly lane closures along the eastbound carriageway, with a single lane open to drivers, on most nights from 9pm on Wednesday April 27 to 6am on Friday May 20 – but with no overnight eastbound lane or carriageway closures on Sunday May 1, Monday May 2 and Saturday May 7.

A section of the M56 is set to close

The overnight lane or carriageway closures will start at 9pm each night and will be lifted by 6am each morning (or 7am on Saturday and Sunday mornings). Access to Manchester Airport will be available at all times – via a diversion using junction 5 of the westbound M56 when the eastbound carriageway is closed.

As well as the new concrete safety barrier, low noise surfacing, four emergency areas – providing a place to stop in the event of breakdowns or other emergencies – and technology to alert the regional operations center to incidents and vehicles stopped in live lanes will be installed . More information about the M56 motorway upgrade is available on the project webpage.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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