Emergency calls are averaging almost one an hour on the crowded motorways near Preston, according to shock new figures.
Almost 40,000 “incidents,” from breakdowns, to minor shunts, to fatal smashes, have been recorded in the last five years on the M6 and M61 skirting the east of the city.
And often the hold-ups have a knock-on effect on Preston itself, bringing the road network to a standstill, especially at rush hour.
The worst bottleneck, say police, is around Junction 31 at Samlesbury, where traffic is often unable to get off the motorway if there is a blockage.
“That is because that junction is only as good as the roads into Preston,” said Inspector John Spencer of Lancashire’s traffic police.
The data from Highways England reveals that since 2012 there have been 39,219 incidents - 30,336 of them on the M6 between Orrell and Lancaster South and 8,883 on the M61 between Horwich and where it merges with the M6.
That is because that junction is only as good as the roads into Preston,” said Inspector John Spencer of Lancashire’s traffic police
Not all the incidents recorded involved an injury or loss of life, but even the most minor incidents like breakdowns have caused regular delays for commuters.
A lorry fire on the northbound M6 carriageway at junction 32 on December 12 2016 resulted in a motorway closure of more than 10 hours and queues of up to 20.4 miles at its worst, according transport data analyst INRIX. Analysts estimated that the accident cost the economy around £903,400 in wasted time, fuel and unnecessary carbon emissions imposed on drivers caught up in it.
Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle recently called for a new junction on the M6 in Central Lancashire as traffic levels increase, coming after drivers said they feared for their lives queuing up to get off the M6 at Leyland because of jams on both exit slip roads. Motorists are already using the Charnock Richard services as an unofficial junction - going on and off the site.
A spokesman for Highways England said: “We put safety at the heart of everything we do to ensure we continue to operate some of the safest roads in Europe. A total of £15bn is currently being invested to modernise and maintain our roads, including a range of safety measures.
“We would also urge road users to adapt their driving to suit the conditions on the road, especially at this time of year when severe weather can reduce visibility and increase stopping distances.”
The findings show that whilst the number of incidents remains high, it is reducing. However, costs to drivers remain high, with lengthy queues on the motorway being a feature of many commuters’ journeys.
Dr Graham Cookson, of INRIX, said: “Drivers in Preston spend six per cent of their time in congestion, with commuters spending almost 16 peak hours a year stuck in traffic.
“This is significantly below the UK average of 39 hours, but congestion cost Preston motorists an average of £570 each in 2016.”
In a recent reader survey carried out by the Post it was revealed that a staggering four out of five people in Preston are caught in congestion at least once a week - 53 per cent every day. More than 150,000 vehicles use the M6 near Preston in an average day, 13,000 of them HGVs. The figures have risen 37 per cent over 10 years.
M6 Junction 26 to Junction 33 (September 1 2015 to August 31 2016)
Road Link Description - Incidents
M6 between M6 J26 and M6 J27 - 562
M6 between M6 J27 and M6 J26 - 401
M6 between M6 J27 and M6 J28 - 558
M6 between M6 J28 and M6 J27 - 539
M6 between M6 J28 and M6 J29 - 208
M6 between M6 J29 and M6 J28 - 234
M6 between M6 J29 and M6 J30 - 317
M6 between M6 J30 and M6 J29 - 181
M6 between M6 J30 and M6 J31 - 276
M6 between M6 J31 and M6 J30 - 353
M6 between M6 J31 and M6 J31A - 435
M6 between M6 J31A and M6 J31 - 200
M6 between M6 J31A and M6 J32 - 238
M6 between M6 J32 and M6 J31A - 184
M6 between M6 J32 and M6 J33 - 799
M6 between M6 J33 and M6 J32 - 654
TOTAL - 6139
M61 Junction 6 to joining junction with the M6 (September 1 2015 to August 31 2016)
Road Link Description - Incidents
M61 between M61 J6 and M61 J8 - 514
M61 between M61 J8 and M61 J6 - 472
M61 between M61 J8 and M61 J9 - 286
M61 between M61 J9 and M61 J8 - 226
M61 between M61 J9 and M6 J30 - 230
M61 between M6 J30 and M61 J9 - 91
TOTAL - 1819