Two smart motorways projects on the M56 near Manchester Airport and the M6 between Warrington and Wigan, worth a combined £240m, have been pushed back by around a year.
The £90m project on the M56 cover a stretch of motorway running from the Marriott in Hale Barns to the junction with the A556 and A56, and was due to begin this spring with Galliford Try as main contractor.
On the M6, work was due to cover a stretch between Junctions 21a to 26 in a £150m scheme, running from Croft to Orrell. This too was due to begin in spring 2019.
Highways England said the changes to the two projects followed “feedback from road users” with the schemes now due to get under way after the current round of smart motorway upgrades have completed.
While the works on the M56 have been pushed back to begin in spring 2020, the works to the M6 have been deferred, with work likely to be staggered between 2020 and 2025.
As well as changes to the timeline, alterations to road layouts will be brought forward to speed up the construction process. Contraflow roadworks layouts, where one lane is moved onto the opposite carriageway with a temporary barrier between traffic, are to be introduced to cut the duration of schemes.
This will allow larger 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.
Another smart motorways upgrade in the region, works to the M62 near Warrington, is unaffected and is on course to complete next spring. This will increase capacity on the network by a third once it hands over.
Mike Bull, Highways England’s smart motorways programme manager for the North West, said: “Hundreds of thousands of people across the North West will benefit from a huge investment on the road network over the next few years and we’re keen to help keep drivers moving while the upgrades take place.
“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.”