Highways England opens Greater Manchester’s first smart motorway


The first smart motorway serving the Greater Manchester region in the UK is now fully-operational, as Highways England (HE) continues its expansion of the country’s managed highway network in the Northwest.

The smart motorway technology went live last week on the final M60 section between junction 10 and junction 18, meaning that the whole of the motorway between junction 8 of the M60 at Sale and junction 20 of the M62 at Rochdale is now fully-operational.

As well as an extra running lane in each direction along the M62 between junction 18 and junction 20, intensive extra technology, such as CCTV cameras and electronic signs, has been provided along both M60 and M62 sections. Variable mandatory speed limits guide traffic along the motorway at steady speeds, helping to tackle congestion and reduce frustrating stop-start driving conditions for motorists.

The removal of narrow lanes and completion of the project now paves the way for key sections of the M60 to be resurfaced, with the program of overnight resurfacing and bridge maintenance set to begin later this month.

This is part of HE’s £100m (US$129.6m) investment in maintenance work across the Northwest. The resurfacing will reduce the need for further maintenance, meaning less disruption for drivers in the long run. The first phase of this work will begin later this month and involves resurfacing between junctions 15 and 12, and between junctions 10 and 12.

The road forms an important part of the main east-west transport corridor, linking Merseyside and Greater Manchester with Yorkshire and the Humber. The route also serves both national and international traffic movements, forming part of Euro Route 22, which links Siberia, Russia, to Dublin, Ireland.

Used by over 180,000 vehicles per day, it is also an important local route connecting conurbations within the Greater Manchester district, and has previously suffered from heavy congestion and unpredictable journey times, especially during peak periods.

Four more smart motorway improvements, worth £500m (US$648.2m) and delivering 90 miles (145km) of extra lanes to the local motorway network, are also due to be constructed during the next few years.

The first of these, the M62 junction 10 to junction 12 project, which will link the M6 near Warrington to the M60 near Eccles, is due to start later this month, while M56 (junctions 6 to 8), M6 (junctions 21a to 26), and M62 (junctions 20 to 25) schemes are also planned.

“Going ‘live’ this week marks the most significant milestone for this project. We would like to thank users of the M60 and M62 and people living around them for their patience and support over the last few years while we have worked to deliver this vital investment in what is an almost uniquely complex environment,” said HE’s senior project manager, Jonathan Stokes.

“Although this is the first smart motorway in the Northwest, the system has been running successfully in other parts of the country for several years, including around Leeds, and we’re confident it will deliver safer, smoother and more reliable journeys.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).