'Perfect storm' of traffic woe led to city gridlock

A6 at Garstang was chocka
A6 at Garstang was chocka
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A multiple vehicle crash on the M6 yesterday brought gridlock to Preston, with frustrated motorists questioning whether the city’s road network is fit for purpose.

With thousands of commuters trapped for hours on both the M6 and M61 yesterday morning, the resulting backlog affecting alternative main routes caused further chaos.

Meanwhile, a power cut causing traffic light failure at a busy junction and localised flooding later in the day contributed to a perfect storm of traffic woe.

Transport bosses have called the congestion “exceptional circumstances” and highlighted that major infrastructure improvements funded through City Deal – such as bypasses in Penwortham and Broughton – will help in the long term.

However, experts have suggested measures that could be adopted to alleviate the strain on the county’s motorway network, with the Preston bypass section of the M6 the oldest in the country.

Commuters, many of whom were hours late for work, vented their fury on social media with confusion as to how one incident – albeit a major one – had caused such widespread gridlock.

Graham Ainslie said: “Preston is a city with village road networks. Doesn’t matter which route in or out from the east of the county – gridlock.”

Haydn Williams posted: “Twice in a week and there is utter chaos. It will be even worse before the Ikea gets built as all the roundabouts around have to be adapted first, so there will be years of traffic misery even if the M6 isn’t shut.

“Then the additional 900 houses on Leyland Test track – or the 17,000 houses in all as part of the City Deal.”

Dave Pakeman said: “With the M6 being shut, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have extra junctions on the M6 and M55 and a bridge at the Docks?”

In the hours after the accident – which saw two men cut from their vehicles and taken to hospital – complete carriageway closures were in place on the M6 between junctions 32 and 33, causing major delays. Major routes around the city then felt the knock-on effects with significant tailbacks on the A6, A59 and B6241 and commuters reporting travel times of several hours for journeys that usually take less than half-an-hour.

The M6 was opened after a closure of more than three-and-a-half hours with the traffic backlog taking significantly longer to clear.

Daniel Herbert, highways manager for Lancashire County Council, said: “The extra traffic through Preston on Wednesday was caused by an incident which forced a section of the M6 to close.

“In exceptional circumstances like this, thousands upon thousands of extra vehicles are using alternative routes on roads throughout the city, which just aren’t designed to handle motorway levels of traffic.

“Although we’re making substantial improvements to Preston’s road network to ensure traffic can move more freely around the city, no local networks could cope with the extra traffic generated by one-off incidents like this.”

A spokesman for Electricity North West said a fault with an underground cable caused a power cut close to the junction of Blackpool Road and the A6 near to the city centre, meaning nearby traffic lights were out of action from 8am.

Electricity North West said a fault to an underground cable has affected 33 properties and the traffic lights at the junction of Blackpool Road and the A6.

Engineers are on the scene and they are working to connect a temporary generator to restore power. This may not be working before 6pm, a spokesman said.

Once power is restored, a full repair operation will take place.

A spokesman for Highways England said: “We received a report of a serious collision involving four lorries and two cars on the northbound M6, between junctions 32 and 33, just after 6am on Wednesday.

“The incident required the closure of the northbound carriageway, with a diversion using the M55.

“Our traffic officers worked closely with the emergency services at the scene of the incident, and we were able to let vehicles that had been stopped between the two junctions to continue their journeys by around 8.30am. All of the lanes were fully reopened by 9.15am, once the vehicles involved in the collision had been removed.”