Highways England has completed a £265m project to add extra lanes and new technology to a 19-mile stretch of the M6, which it called the most significant change since the motorway first opened in Cheshire in 1963.
A fourth lane has been introduced in each direction between Crewe and Knutsford and a total of 258 electronic signs, 104 traffic sensors and 70 CCTV cameras.
Highways England said the upgrade is the first of four 'smart motorway' schemes to be finished that will increase the M6’s capacity by a third on 60 miles of the motorway between Coventry and Wigan.
Chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said: ‘Tens of thousands of drivers travel on the M6 between Crewe and Knutsford each day making it one of the busiest stretches of motorway in the country, so the extra lanes and new technology will help make the M6 fit for the future.’
Overhead electronic signs will give drivers live information, including lane closures incidents on the route and changes in the variable speed limit, which will be set automatically by traffic sensors at the side of the motorway.
New CCTV cameras will help Highways England traffic officers and the emergency services respond to incidents, with ‘frequent emergency areas giving drivers a safe place to stop if they break down’, Highways England said.
The first two sections of the scheme, which has been finished over a week ahead of schedule, were completed earlier this year.
Other improvements as part of the scheme include resurfacing the entire route with a low-noise road surface, installing a new concrete safety barrier to reduce the risk of vehicles crossing onto the opposite carriageway in collisions, and fitting 700 metres of noise barrier to reduce noise levels for people living close to the motorway.
Highways England said that statistics from the first week of operation of the stretch between junctions 18 and 19 show that traffic was flowing at around 70mph for 22 hours each day, with variable speed limits ‘helping to keep the motorway congestion-free during peak times’.