DRIVERS must bear some responsibility for a month of madness on the M62, says the man behind the £150m mammoth motorway works.
Highways Agency chief David Pilsworth went on the defensive after a wave of criticism from motorists.
Mr Pilsworth, the man in charge of the so-called ‘managed motorway’ project, revealed there were some 300 incidents between junctions 25 at Brighouse and 30 at Rothwell in November alone.
Thousands of drivers were left fuming in queues after peak-time bumps, shunts and breakdowns saw the motorway repeatedly grind to halt.
As a result of the motorway snarl-ups, surrounding road networks in Huddersfield and Brighouse also became jammed, compounding the misery.
Mr Pilsworth yesterday donned his hard hat in the face of criticism and said: “I understand the frustrations but it’s not always our fault.
“I don’t want to blame drivers but the travelling public has a role to play in their own safety.”
Mr Pilsworth, who joins the M62 commute himself every day from his Bradford home to his Morley office, said the agency had carried out a review into November’s incidents – and made some startling findings.
53% of the incidents were caused by vehicle breakdowns
12% by drivers running out of fuel
Just 11% by collisions.
Mr Pilsworth said: “Drivers really need to help themselves.
“To have 12% of incidents caused by people running out of fuel is quite a large percentage and to have more than half caused by drivers not maintaining their vehicles properly really shows that drivers can do more.”
Of the other bumps and shunts, many were caused by a lack of concentration or from motorists driving too fast for the conditions or too close to the vehicle in front.
“We have a 50mph limit on the motorway but that is a maximum. It doesn’t mean you have to reach that speed if it isn’t safe to do so.”
Mr Pilsworth said the agency had investigated the cause of November’s unprecedented chaos and added: “November was a very challenging month.
“There were some incidents that could never have been foreseen including a lady who fell off a bridge into our works.
“When things go wrong we have to help the police and emergency services.
“We had the air ambulance on the motorway for 45 minutes and if that was your loved one you would want that too.
“The road was cleared as quickly as possible but the fact these things happen at peak times means thousands of people are affected.
“We have reviewed what took place in November. We changed nothing in November to explain what happened.”
Mr Pilsworth, who yesterday unveiled a YouTube video to answer some of drivers’ most asked questions, said that between junctions 26 (Chain Bar) and 27 (Birstall) there were 162,000 peak-time vehicles every day.
The major cause of congestion (65%) was sheer volume of traffic. Incidents came in at 25% and roadworks just 10%.
Some have blamed the motorway’s problems on lanes being narrowed too much.
But Mr Pilsworth said: “People say the lanes are too narrow for lorries to cope with but they are above the minimum required.”
Mr Pilsworth urged drivers not to avoid the M62 but instead look after their cars, fill them with fuel and drive sensibly.
“I am a commuter myself and I join the M62 at junction 26 and come off at 27 and in that short stretch the other morning I saw one guy on his phone the whole time and people jumping from lane three to lane one just to gain a couple of car lengths,” he said.
“People take risks they don’t need to take. And sometimes those risks have consequences.”
THE £150m ‘managed motorway’ project on the M62 will see 36 new overhead gantries installed and 16 more upgraded.
These will be used to control the speed and flow of traffic at busy times – and tell motorists when they can use the hard shoulder to ease congestion.
The reduced speed limits will be policed by fixed-point cameras.
Another frequently heard complaint is that the work is progressing too slowly and that roadworks are often deserted.
But Highways Agency chief David Pilsworth said there were 400 workers on the project covering a 30-mile stretch of motorway.
“For that reason they won’t always be visible,” he said. “Also there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work taking place to install, connect and test the new technology. That makes up more than two-thirds of the total work on the project.”
Mr Pilsworth said the Highways Agency offered a free recovery service to stricken vehicles within the road works – and reached the scene in an average of 18 minutes.
A control room at the agency’s Morley base monitors 74 CCTV cameras.
Mr Pilsworth said the agency also works closely with the emergency services to ensure police, fire appliances and ambulances could reach accident scenes even on congested carriageways.
“We will always do our best to make sure they get through,” he said.
“There is always a debrief after a major incident.
“The emergency services send more vehicles than they need, knowing full well some could get caught in traffic.”
On the positive side, recent congestion has meant that injury accidents on the M62 locally are down by 50% to their lowest level in five years.
“Long may it continue,” said Mr Pilsworth, who added that motorways were still the safest roads around.
The ‘managed motorway’ scheme, based on a successful pilot on the M42 in Birmingham, is 12 months into a two-year scheme.
The Brighouse to Rothwell stretch will be opened in phases from April or May next year with completion set for October.