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Serious crashes on this stretch of motorway happen almost every week

This stretch of the M6 suffers from almost daily hold-ups

If you're headed to the West Midlands or the West Country there's a stretch of motorway that is best avoided for the foreseeable future.

The M6, which runs from the Scottish border to Rugby, has a notorious stretch in Cheshire which is the site of fatal and serious accidents almost every week.

Those that commute to Leeds along the M62 will be aware that the stretch between Brighouse and Pontefract has been upgraded to a smart motorway. You will also remember three years of roadworks and 50mph speed limits while the upgrade took place.

Such an upgrade is taking place on a notorious stretch of the M6 between Knutsford (junction 20) and Crewe (junction 16) which has been blighted by hold-ups and accidents.

According to the Highways Agency and the M6 Motorway Traffic twitter accounts, there have been more than 70 accidents between junction 16 at Crewe and junction 20 at Lymm since January, reports the Manchester Evening News .

But what’s causing this level of disruption, delay and danger?

The M6(Image: TMM)

Most incidents seem to take place between junctions 16 at Crewe and 19 at Knutsford.

Since December 2015, it’s this stretch that’s being turned into a smart motorway - due for completion in March 2019 if all goes to plan. Eventually, it means the road will be monitored by speed cameras with limits fluctuating according to traffic levels.

In the meantime, there are temporary narrow lanes and no hard shoulder, plus a 50mph speed limit.

Why is it so bad here? Are these narrow lanes simply unsuitable for the volume and type of traffic on this particular stretch of motorway?

Road safety experts accept that prolonged roadworks like those on the M6 at Cheshire do have a negative impact on accident rates.

And congestion and high numbers of HGVs are also a problem.

But the biggest issue remains the behaviour of drivers themselves, argues Neil Greig, director of policy and research for the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

“This has always been a particularly difficult stretch of road which is why they are converting it into a smart motorway.

“But whenever you have motorway roadworks, especially along long lengths, the risk of a crash does tend to go up. That’s due to narrower lanes, people travelling closer together, things happening to distract people.”

But he said when there are crashes on roads like these, they tend to be ‘really really bad’.

Mr Greig said a higher percentage of lorries could also be impacting the safety record.

But he said the biggest factor remains driver behaviour and that they were working with Highways England to improve that.

M62 eastbound between junction 25 and 25. 07:20am on September 11, 2017.(Image: West Yorkshire Police Roads Policing Unit)

“Each of those accidents will have caused hours and hours of delays. If you can stop people having the crashes, you can stop that. I think ultimately we are going to see more average speed cameras and more enforcement on bad driving on our motorways in a bid to change behaviour.

“My hope is that this issue will be helped by smart motorways. So far they’ve been proven to improve congestion and have a slight positive effect on safety.”

He said motorways still remained the safest roads when compared to other highways like rural carriageways.

A Highways England spokesman said the roadworks were monitored 24 hours a day and a free recovery service was provided if drivers break down or are involved in an incident.

He added: “The advice is to stay in your vehicle if you’re involved in an incident. We’ll come to you.”

A spokesperson for Highways England said: “We’re urging drivers to stick to the temporary 50mph speed limit on the M6 in Cheshire for their own and our road workers’ safety.

"Narrow lanes are currently in place while work is carried out to upgrade the M6 to a smart motorway. The scheme involves adding an extra lane in each direction to increase capacity, and introducing variable speed limits on new overhead electronic signs to keep traffic moving at a steady speed. We would like to thank drivers for their patience while the upgrade work takes place.”

*There are no publicly available official figures on the exact number of accidents on this stretch. We have made a conservative estimate of the number from Twitter accounts which monitor the roads, including Highways England and M6 Motorway Traffic.

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