Work to start on M56 project between Greater Manchester and Cheshire says HE

The main construction work on the M56 between Greater Manchester and Cheshire is set to stat this month.

As part of the project, an extra running lane will be added to both the westbound and eastbound carriageways to tackle congestion and provide more reliable journeys for city centre commuters and businesses as well as tourists and workers using the airport. Technology will also be installed to manage vehicles through the upgraded motorway – providing smoother journeys – and four emergency areas will provide refuge in the event of break downs or other emergencies.

Highways England’s preparations for the £85 million upgrade started in the spring but the main construction work will get underway at the end of the month with traffic management along the motorway for the first time. A contraflow system will be in operation from the start – helping to reduce the number of carriageway or full motorway closures needed during construction.

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 – carrying 100,000 vehicles a day as part of the important corridor between Manchester and Manchester Airport and the Midlands

Highways England project manager Clare Bond said:“The start of the main construction work is a significant milestone for this project which will ease congestion and make journeys more reliable once it opens to drivers in 2022.

“This is one of the busiest sections of motorway in the North West but using the contraflow system during construction will allow us to keep all the motorway lanes open during the day with occasional overnight lane and carriageway closures.”

Graphic showing the typical layout of a motorway contraflow system which is being used on the M56 to keep all three lanes of the motorway open in each direction during the construction and reduce the use of overnight carriageway closures

The eastbound hard shoulder will be converted into a running lane first with work switching to the westbound hard shoulder late next spring, followed by construction of a concrete central reservation barrier between the three junctions from September. Systems installation and testing after that should see the smart motorway to open to traffic by spring 2022 at the latest.

Work on the project will also involve; providing new electronic information signs, signals and CCTV cameras on overhead gantries. These will show variable mandatory speed limits and manage traffic flow and incidents

Also there will be remotely-operated temporary traffic management signs installed along the entire route to aid traffic management during carriageway closures due to incidents or routine maintenance. Four new emergency areas to provide drivers with safety and rescue areas following an incident or breakdown will also be constructed and workers will piut in place new emergency roadside telephones in each emergency area to provide a direct, location-pinpointing connection to the regional operations centre near Warrington

The steel safety barrier in the central reservation with a new concrete barrier to help increase safety will be replaced and lanes will be re-surfaced with low-noise asphalt.

As well as tackling current congestion, the upgrade will help support future homes and jobs in the area – including the Airport City project bordering the motorway. It will also complement other major improvements along the important Midland to Manchester corridor including motorway upgrades along the M6 in Staffordshire and Cheshire, the M6 junction 19 roundabout improvement and the new A556 Knutsford to Bowdon bypass.

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