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Final phase of work begins on M56 upgrade




The third and final construction phase of National Highways’ upgrade of the M56 will get underway next month.


The four-mile section of motorway between junction 6 at Hale and junction 8 at Bowdon is one of the busiest in the North West. National Highways is adding an extra lane in each carriageway and extensive extra technology to help smooth drivers’ journeys through a section of the region’s motorway network carrying up to 100,000 vehicles a day.


Main construction work started in autumn 2020 and is due to be completed this autumn. The first two phases of the project – conversion of the eastbound and westbound hard shoulders into permanent extra running lanes – have been completed. Work to alter the traffic management along the motorway will start next week with the roadworks then moving into the central reservation for the construction of a concrete safety barrier between junction 6 and junction 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 will 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 (27 April). 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 28 April to 6am on Friday 20 May - but with no work or closures overnight on Monday 2 May;


• 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 8 and Friday 13 May;


• Nightly lane closures along the eastbound carriageway, with a single lane open to drivers, on most nights from 9pm on Wednesday (27 April) to 6am on Friday 20 May – but with no overnight eastbound lane or carriageway closures on Sunday 1, Monday 2 and Saturday 7 May.


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 centre to incidents and vehicles stopped in live lanes will be installed.


The roll-out of new all lane running (ALR) smart motorways was paused by the government in January to allow safety and economic data to be collected. However, work on stretches already under construction – such as the M56 – is continuing because these stretches were all more than half completed and leaving traffic management in place throughout the pause would significantly disrupt drivers.

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