Highways England lifts giant ‘super-span’ gantry as part of M6 smart motorway project


Highways England (HE) has released new timelapse footage showing a giant gantry being lifted over the M6 motorway as part of a major technology upgrade that will help improve journeys for thousands of drivers daily.

The huge 131.2ft-wide (40m) structure, spanning the width of the motorway, will hold 10 large electronic signs and is the biggest single structure being installed by HE during a £274m (US$359.6m) smart motorway project in Cheshire.

When the scheme is complete, a total of 258 electronic signs, 104 traffic sensors and 70 CCTV cameras will help keep traffic moving and provide better information for the 118,000 drivers who travel along the 20 mile-long (32km) route every day.

The upgrade between Crewe and Knutsford also involves converting the hard shoulder to a permanent extra lane to increase capacity by a third. It is one of four smart motorway schemes due to be completed on the M6 in the next few years to add extra lanes and better technology to 60 miles (96.5km) of the motorway between Coventry and Wigan.

The new timelapse footage shows the ‘super-span’ gantry being lifted into place between junctions 18 and 19 during an overnight closure of the motorway in June. The 20-tonne gantry was constructed off-site and lowered by a crane onto two pillars on either side of the motorway. Around 500 people are currently working on the project to upgrade the M6 to a smart motorway through Cheshire. The scheme will be completed in phases starting with the northern section between junctions 18 and 19, with all of the roadworks due to be removed by spring 2019.

When the smart motorway is complete, electronic signs will alert drivers to changes in the speed limit, lane closures and incidents ahead. New CCTV cameras will also provide 100% coverage of the route and allow HE’s traffic officers and the emergency services to respond quickly to incidents. A total of 18 emergency areas will be created alongside the motorway to provide drivers with a safe place to stop if they break down. A similar smart motorway scheme on a stretch of the M62 in West Yorkshire has resulted in commuters saving an average 30 minutes each week, despite an increase in the number of vehicles using the route.

“The timelapse footage provides a glimpse of the technology transformation currently taking place on the M6 to significantly improve journeys on the vital route between the north and south of the country,” commented Arun Sahni, HE’s project manager for the M6 upgrade.

“The smart motorway in Cheshire will provide much-needed extra capacity and improve journey times for all road users, reducing congestion and connecting families, friends and businesses more quickly. We’re on schedule to complete the upgrade by spring next year, providing quicker and more reliable journeys for the tens of thousands of drivers who travel along the motorway every day.”

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Adam joined the company in 1994, and has been News Editor of TTT since 2009. In his other role as Circulation Manager, he helped create the original Traffic Technology International distribution list 23 years ago, and has been working on it ever since. Outside of work, he is a keen fisherman, runs a drumming band, and plays an ancient version of cricket.