Work to upgrade the M6 to provide Smart Motorway technology between Stafford and Stoke on Trent, in order to tackle congestion and improve capacity. This section of the motorway is one of the busiest parts that have not yet been converted.
Like nearby Smart Motorway projects on the M6 between junctions 10 and 12, and between17 and 19, is expected to include all-lane-running (conversion of the hard shoulder to a full-time normal traffic lane) as well as variable speed limits and other signalling technology.
This scheme is part of the Smart Motorways programme of works.
This scheme will also involve some improvements to J15, according to the video in the scheme's webpage, which implies something happening to the northbound off-slip, possibly a change in alignment. However, the work will be nowhere near the complete redesign of the junction that many of its users feel it needs.
Narrow lanes and 50mph speed limit have been implemented on three sections of the M6 between J13 and J15. Also, the 'upgrading to smart motorway' signs state that the new Smart Motorway will open in March 2022.
Initial works have now begun at J15, which bring a 50mph speed limit and among other things have moved traffic onto the southbound hard shoulder. This removes the deceleration lane for traffic leaving the motorway at J15 southbound and cuts the first part of the exit sliproad down to 1 lane. As J15 is already badly congested at times, this means the main southbound carriageway is frequently now also blocking up due to the queue of exiting traffic.
So far the only difference northbound is some machinery and earthmoving on the hard shoulder of the entry slip road.
Narrow lanes are now installed from Stafford Services to J15 along with shorter sections at J14 and J13 for bridge works associated with the scheme. The central reservation has nearly being removed and excavations have taken place on large sections ready to install drainage prior to the concrete barrier going in. A new off-slip is being created at the Yarnfield Lane access ready for a shift in the narrow lanes to allow access off at this point for emergency vehicles still.
Narrow lanes and 50mph speed restrictions now extend all the way from J15 to J14 along with the existing small section around J13. The drainage works associated with the central barrier installation is progressing at pace at the northern end of the scheme with tarmac being applied in some sections for the final concrete barriers to be put in place.
The off-slip at Yarnfield Lane is still progressing but this has mainly been earthworks and strengthening of the embankment. Barrier removal between Stafford Services and J14 is beginning ready to start drainage works here.
A contraflow is now running northbound between the Yarnfield Lane overbridge and J15. Lanes one and two can only be used to exit at J15 as lane three is running on the Southbound side. A 50mph limit remains in place.
The contraflow means that overnight closures are reduced as all traffic can use the contraflow lane overnight, allowing a full closure of the northbound side. This will allow works to start on the northbound hard shoulder where vegetation clearance has already taken place. Further south, the new offslip to Yarnfield is nearing completion and the earthworks for the concrete barrier between J14 and Stafford Services is taking place. Some sections have tarmac down whilst others need drainage installing.
Narrow lanes and 50mph speed restrictions now extend from J13-J15 with the final gap 'plugged in' between J13-J14. Between J14 and Stafford Services the concrete barrier is ready to be laid. Further north in the contra-flow, the piling works are taking place in the refuge areas and work seems to be progressing at a good rate.
Northbound verge works are nearly complete between Yarnfield overbridge and J15 with new gantries erected here. Further south the concrete barrier works are now complete apart from a small section within J14. A new contra-flow runs from before J13 to before J14 and then again the existing contra-flow is still in place from just after J14 to J15. In the New Year works will progress to the Southbound verge with a switch in the contra-flow.
With most of the work on the northbound side complete, a series of overnight closures this week are switching the northernmost contraflow (through j15) to the opposite side. Northbound traffic is now running as close to the nearside kerb as possible and a temporary barrier is now in place to separate it from the one lane of southbound traffic which will soon be switched over. Meanwhile maintenance teams have made use of the recent enforced closure through j15 to also extensively patch and resurface the carriageways.
A new 60mph speed limit is in place Northbound from Yarnfield Lane to J15 on the completed section. Work continues on the Southbound side with the drainage and earthworks from J15-Yarnfield. Further south, the concrete central barrier still needs to be installed in the vicinity of J14 and the Northbound verge works are still progressing from J13-J14 with the refuge bays being added.
With thanks to David Peek for information on this page.