Costain and Galliford Try were meant to start work upgrading sections of the M6 and M56 respectively this spring. Galliford Try has been told to hold off until spring 2020. A start date for Costain’s job has yet to be announced.
Highways England said that the works were being delayed because of ‘feedback from road users’.
Highways England awarded Costain a £150m contract last June to convert 10 miles of the M6 between junctions 21a and 26 (Warrington to Wigan) to smart motorway. It was said at the time that work would start in September 2018 and be finished by spring 2021.
At around the same time, Galliford Try was awarded a £67m smart motorway contract for the M56 between junction 6 (Manchester Airport) and junction 8 (Bowdon) by making it a smart motorway. Construction here will involve adding six miles of running lanes to the motorway.
Motorists have certainly had to put up with a lot of roadworks on England’s motorway network in recent years as all the infrastructure goes in for remotely-policed variable speed limits, including traffic sensors and cameras – infrastructure that may also in the future make the transition to electronic road tolling technologically straightforward (although motorway tolls are beyond Highways England's current mandate from government).
In response to motorists’ frustrations, Highways England in the northwest has devised changes to the layout of roadworks to reduce the need for overnight diversions and finish schemes sooner. Temporary speed limits will also be increased to 60mph when it is safe for drivers and road workers, and three lanes will be maintained in each direction during the day throughout upgrades.
Contraflow roadworks layouts will also be introduced where possible to cut the duration of schemes. The change to the road layout will allow bigger construction areas to be created at the side of motorways so that more work can be carried out in one shift. Traffic will also be able to continue to travel in both directions on the motorway when one carriageway is closed for major construction work overnight, reducing the need for diversions.
Mike Bull, Highways England’s smart motorways programme manager for the northwest, said: “We’ve listened to what people have been telling us about roadworks and have decided to reschedule two major schemes, benefitting drivers who use our roads to get to work and businesses who deliver goods across the region. We’re committed to the upgrades; we are simply changing the timetable for projects on the M56 and M6.
“We’re also reviewing how we carry out major upgrades so that we can minimise disruption as much as possible and maintain connections for drivers using the road network.”