Are smart motorways the answer to ease pressure on the M6?

Traffic on the M6Traffic on the M6
Traffic on the M6
Increasing pressure on the M6 in Lancashire needs to be urgently assessed in coming years, according to the Lancashire Strategic Transport Prospectus.

The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership is calling for major investment in all transport issues as part of its bid to join the Northern Powerhouse.

Plans are being drawn up for to make Preston railway station “HS2 ready”.

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And the LEP says the M6 is an equally crucial transport link to all areas of the country.

That may lead to smart motorways being extended up to Broughton.

The M6 is an integral part of the UK’s main north-south transport spine to and from London.

The LEP says the M6 is particularly important for the movement of freight, for example, the Port of Heysham, and for logistics and distribution companies.

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Lancashire said it welcomed a commitment in the Road Investment Strategy to upgrade much of the M6 south of Junction 26 (the M58 west of Wigan) to Smart Motorway by 2019/20.

The report added: “Even with full delivery of the schemes set out in the Central Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan, evidence suggests that the M6 Preston Bypass will be under pressure by 2026, particularly during peak periods between Junctions 30 and 32 with the M61 and M55 respectively. This length of the M6 already has four lanes in each direction, so Smart Motorway technology as a potential solution will require assessment. Possible scheme elements could include access controls at junctions and variable speed limits.

“For consistency, Lancashire proposes that the ‘smart spine’ linking the North West and London be extended from Junction 26 as far north as Junction 32.”

The M6 has already benefited from widening of the M6 near Preston and the new Heysham M6 link road due to be completed later this year.

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The LEP predicts improved transport links would create an extra 15,000 jobs across the county, generating £685million a year for Lancashire’s economy.

An ambitious 48-page report, entitled Lancashire – as part of interconnected and productive northern powerhouse – outlines the LEP’s national, regional and local transport priorities.