A government agency has defended its decision to upgrade part of the M56 near Manchester to a ‘smart motorway’ but not the notoriously smash-prone section between Runcorn and Chester.
Highways England said the goal of this type of project is to boost traffic flow and is not focused on safety.
The agency commented after figures were revealed showing that far more drivers died or suffered severe injuries on the J12-14 section between Runcorn and Chester than on the M56 between J6 and J8 – where no-one was killed or seriously injured in crashes over the same period 2014-15.
During that time the Runcorn-Chester route had three fatal smashes with four deaths while there were none along the stretch from J6-8, which runs between Manchester Airport and the junction that turns north to Altrincham and south towards Knutsford, Northwich and Chester.
The Runcorn-Chester section had accidents that left two casualties with serious injuries, while the Altrincham-Manchester Airport had none.
In addition, 23 drivers and passengers suffered slight injuries between J12-14, and there were just 14 between J6-8.
A Highways England spokesman repeated its pledge to carry out a study into problems on the J12-14 section of highway.
The Department For Transport revealed in August that J6-8 of the M56 will be upgraded to a ‘smart motorway’, which usually means the hard shoulder can be opened to traffic at certain times and also to install variable speed limits and overhead displays for shutting lanes to manage traffic flow.
Cheshire West and Chester Tory councillor for Frodsham Lynn Riley said she and Weaver Vale MP Graham Evans are concerned about the problems on the Runcorn-Chester section of motorway and have asked for an investigation into its problems.
She added that steps are already under way to make it safer.
She said: “We have had some horrendous situations on the M56 with some terrible accidents and some incidents that have effectively grid locked the whole of the North West so putting in extra lanes in those areas where there’s a high KSI (killed and seriously injured) factor will be looked at by the clever people who understand road dynamics.
“Through Graham Evans and through the work we did with Highways England, we have been pushing Highways England for some years now to upgrade the overhead gantries – it’s this motorway management you need so when there’s an incident, you are not locking down the network.”
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