M6 junction 21a to 26 smart motorway

We're improving the 10-mile section of the M6 between junctions 21a and 26 by upgrading it to an 'all-lane running' smart motorway.

Start date March 2021
End date Spring 2025
Cost £259 million to £285 million

Latest updates

  • 09 February 2024

    Upcoming scheme work

    During the day, we’ll continue working in areas behind the metal temporary barrier to construct emergency areas. We are putting 22 in place throughout the scheme as part of the motorway upgrade.

    Meanwhile, we'll be continuing to work overnight over the coming months. This includes putting new signs on gantries to inform drivers, surfacing what will be the new lane one and completing technology work.

    To reduce disruption on motorists, we will be carrying out this work at night-time when traffic levels are lower.

    For the safety of staff and road users, we will need to close lanes and occasionally carriageways to complete our work.

    We will continue sharing full carriageway closures on this webpage. In addition, we also use gantry variable message signs and advance roadside signage to inform motorists about upcoming road closures.

    Sign up for our weekly email bulletin to be kept informed about all scheme related closures, by contacting: M6J21a26SmartMotorway@nationalhighways.co.uk.

    Planting programme underway

    We recently started a comprehensive planting schedule as part of the scheme. This involves planting over 15,000 shrubs and trees, some of which will be over eight feet in height, in the next few months

    As part of this work, we’ll also be re-seeding roadside verges throughout the scheme.

    Our planting programme will initially focus on the area between junction 23 at Haydock and 26 at Orrell.

    Motorway closure information - updated Friday 9 February

    All of the closures shown below will be taking place overnight from 9pm to 6am.

    Keep an eye on our daily closures and our regional Twitter page for the latest information. All of our closures are subject to the weather and traffic conditions not affecting them.

  • 14 December 2023

    Motorway upgrade to more than double emergency areas

    A major upgrade being delivered on the M6 between Warrington and Wigan will now include more than double the originally planned places for drivers to stop in an emergency.

    Up to 12 new emergency areas are now being included in the scheme, in addition to the original 10.

    The upgrade was originally planned to open earlier this year, but we’re now expecting to complete our work in spring 2025.

    While our motorways are among the safest in the world, we recognise that some people have concerns about being able to find a safe place to stop in an emergency on all lane running motorways (ALR).

    We have listened to drivers’ concerns and the new emergency areas on the M6 are part of a £390million programme to build over 150 additional emergency areas on ALR motorways, in operation and construction

    Emergency areas provide a place to stop in an emergency if drivers cannot exit the motorway or stop at a motorway service area.

    They are marked by blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol. Each is coloured orange and is around the same length as a football pitch. They are positioned at regular intervals, providing somewhere safe to stop and have phones linked directly to our control rooms.

    In addition to the extra emergency areas, we’ve also experienced some delivery challenges during construction that have impacted our initial work schedule.

    More complex ground conditions than expected, knock-on delays to our drainage programmes, and extra mine treatment work in an area with a history of old mine workings, have had a cumulative impact on our original completion date.

    We’ve also had to remove larger areas of non-native invasive weeds in grass verges throughout much of the scheme, causing changes to our work schedule. A comprehensive landscaping plan is in place to replace lost trees and shrubs before the completion of the scheme.

    We’d like to apologise for any inconvenience the new opening date causes, but also reassure you that we’re working hard to complete our work safely and as quickly as we can.

    When we complete our work, the extra lane in each direction and additional technology will provide much-needed capacity and more reliable journeys for drivers, especially at peak times.

    Work completed so far

    Since starting construction we’ve completed work to upgrade the central reservation safety barrier. This has involved replacing ten miles of barrier between junctions 21a and 26 of the M6.

    The new concrete safety barrier reduces the risk of vehicle crossover between carriageways, enhancing the safety of road users, and reducing congestion and delays from incidents.

    We’ve also resurfaced all of the new lane four on both carriageways with a low noise surface, which helps to reduce traffic noise. As well as this, we’ve installed nearly 20 miles of drainage pipes, 20 miles of communication cabling and 65 new gantries.

    Our earthwork undertaken to date has excavated nearly 150,000 cubic metres, which is equivalent to 60 Olympic sized swimming pools.

    What happens next?

    Between now and spring 2025, we’ll be completing key elements of the scheme such as:

    • delivering extra technology including CCTV and stopped vehicle detection to enable safer journeys

    • installing up to 22 emergency areas for motorists to use in the event of an emergency

    • putting new and higher capacity drainage in place

    • converting the hard shoulder into an extra running lane to provide much-needed extra capacity for the 120,000 motorists that use this stretch of motorway on a daily basis

    We open all our motorway upgrades in a phased way to ensure that they are fully tested and operational before they go live and that there is a smooth handover from our roadworks teams to our on and off-road traffic officers.

    First, we will open the newly created lane and increase the speed limit to 60mph. Then, when the final remaining systems have been tested to our stringent requirements, we will restore the maximum 70mph limit and the upgraded section will be fully open.

    We will continue to manage the roadworks to keep any disruption to an absolute minimum. We will keep three lanes open at all peak times, and limit other restrictions like closures overnight or at weekends when traffic levels are lowest.

    You can sign up for our scheme traffic bulletin by emailing: m6j21a-26smartmotorway@nationalhighways.co.uk. Alternatively, keep an eye on our daily closures and our regional X (formerly Twitter) page for the latest information.

  • 27 November 2023

    Scheme completion date

    We're working hard to upgrade the M6, with a new lane in each direction and technology to improve journeys.

    We have been making some good progress and will provide an update on opening as soon as possible.

    Temporary barrier removal

    Running up to Christmas, we’ll gradually be removing the majority of temporary metal barriers that have been protecting where we work.

    To improve visibility for road users, cones and lights will continue to run alongside what will become lane 1. This will also help us to complete our work, which we’ll be carrying out at night-time.

    To reduce disruption on drivers, we’ll be removing the barriers overnight (9pm to 6am) when traffic volumes are lower.

    To do this safely, we will need to close lanes and on occasion carriageways. We appreciate that this type of work can be noisy, but we will be following industry best practice to reduce it as much as possible.

    Please be aware that some temporary barriers will remain in place at specific locations, as we continue to build new emergency areas.

    Planting programme to start

    In mid-December, we’ll begin a major programme of replacement planting on the motorway verges.

    This will involve planting more than 15,000 shrubs and trees ranging in size, with the largest being over eight foot. Our planting work will continue until spring, other than at times when bad weather prevents it taking place.

    Motorway closures - locations and diversions

    To allow us to safely carry out our work, we will be closing the motorway as shown below. All of the closures will be taking place overnight from 9pm to 6am.

    Keep an eye on our daily closures and our regional Twitter page for the latest information. All of our closures are subject to the weather and traffic conditions not affecting them.

    If you also want to find out about slip road closures, you can register for our weekly email bulletin by contacting us at M6J21a26SmartMotorway@nationalhighways.co.uk.

    Our work during the festive period

    To help minimise disruption, we will not be carrying out any planned closures from 6am on Tuesday 19 December 2023 until 6am on Tuesday 2 January 2024.

    The three narrowed lanes and temporary 50mph limit, with speed enforcement, will remain in place. This is for the safety of motorists and our workforce.

  • 03 July 2023

    Gantry installation work continues

    We will be providing an update in due course on our work between junctions 21 and 26 of the M6. We apologise for the delay and are grateful to road users for their patience, and for driving safely through the roadworks.

    Meanwhile, work to install 65 new gantries as part of the motorway upgrade continues. We’ll be putting a series closures in place over the next few weeks to carry our work out safely.

    Closure times, locations and diversions

    The majority of closures will be taking place overnight from 9pm to 6am, but Saturday closures are until 7am. The planned closure on Friday 7 July will start at 11pm due to an event at Haydock racecourse.

    The M6 northbound junction 22 to 23 will be closed from:

    • Monday 3 to Thursday 6 July
    • Monday 10 and Tuesday 11 July
    • Friday 21, Monday 24, Tuesday 25 and Saturday 29 July

    View the M6 northbound junction 22 to 23 diversion

    The M6 southbound junction 23 to 22 will be closed from Wednesday 12 to Friday 14 July, Monday 17 to Wednesday 19 July and Wednesday 26 to Friday 28 July. View the M6 southbound junction 23 to 22 diversion

    The M6 southbound junction 22 to 21a will be closed on Friday 7, Saturday 8 and Monday 17 July. View the M6 southbound junction 22 to 21a diversion.

    The M6 northbound between junction 22 exit and entry slip, will be closed on Saturday 20 July. Traffic will be diverted up and over the roundabout.

    Keep an eye on our daily closures and our regional Twitter page for the latest information. All of our closures are subject to the weather and traffic conditions not affecting them.

  • 19 June 2023

    Latest overnight motorway closures confirmed

    We’re continuing work to install gantries as part of the motorway upgrade between junctions 21a to 26 of the M6.

    In total, 65 will be put in place throughout the 10-mile stretch of the M6 between Warrington and Wigan. We've installed 44 new gantries to date.                                 

    For the safety of drivers and staff we need to carry out a number of overnight closures as we deliver this essential work, which involves using large cranes.

    We’re also taking the opportunity to carry out other works at the same time, minimising customer disruption by reducing the number of closures needed.

    This includes removing the temporary steel barrier to enable resurfacing of the new lane 1, as well as carrying out carriageway repairs.

    Most of the gantries can be installed in one night, but superspan gantries take a number of nights. Installing them over more than one night means we’ll only ever be closing one carriageway at a time, minimising disruption to road users.

    Closure times, locations and diversions

    All of the closures will be taking place overnight from 9pm to 6am.

    • M6 northbound junction 22 to 23 will be closed from Monday 19 to Thursday 22 June. View the diversion
    • M6 southbound junction 23 to 22 will be closed from Monday 26 to Friday 30 June.  View the diversion

    Keep an eye on our daily closures and our regional Twitter page for the latest information. All of our closures are subject to the weather and traffic conditions not affecting them.

  • 25 April 2023

    Next series of overnight motorway closures confirmed

    Our work installing new gantries will be continuing over the coming weeks.

    In total, 65 will be put in place throughout the 10-mile stretch of the M6 between Warrington and Wigan. We’ve installed 33 to date, including three superspan gantries.

    We’re also taking the opportunity to carry out carriageway repairs at the same time, minimising customer disruption by reducing the number of closures needed.

    For safety we need to carry out a number of overnight closures as we deliver this essential work.

    We’ll only ever be closing one carriageway at a time to reduce disruption on road users.

    Closure times, locations and diversions

    All of the closures will be taking place overnight from 9pm to 6am.

    We will be closing the M6 northbound junction 23 to 26 on Thursday 27 April. View the M6 junction 23 to 26 northbound diversion.

    We will also be closing the M6 southbound junction 26 to 23 on Tuesday 2, Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 May. View the M6 junction 26 to 23 southbound diversion.

    The M6 northbound junction 21a to 22 will be closed on Tuesday 9 and Thursday 11 May. View the M6 junction 21a to 22 northbound diversion.

    The M6 northbound junction 22 to 23 will be closed on Wednesday 10 May. View the M6 junction 22 to 23 northbound diversion.

    Keep an eye on our daily closures and our regional Twitter page for the latest information. All of our closures are subject to the weather and traffic conditions not affecting them.

    Thank you for bearing with us.

  • 09 March 2023

    Overnight motorway closures for essential work

    We’re continuing with our work to install new gantries between junction 23 (Haydock) and 26 (Orrell) of the M6.

    In total we’ll be installing 65 new gantries. We’re making good progress and have installed 21 of these to date. There are 12 more to put in place between junctions 23 and 26.

    The other 32 gantries will be installed between the M6 junctions 21a and 23 over the coming months.

    For the safety of road users and our operatives, we need to carry out a series of overnight closures as we continue to deliver this essential work.

    During these closures we’ll also be taking the opportunity to repair potholes that are forming. This will ensure drivers continue to have safe and reliable journeys and minimise the need for further closures.

    Additionally, we’ll only ever be working on one carriageway at a time to reduce disruption on road users.

    The M6 southbound junction 26 to 23 will be closed on the following:

    • Monday 20 to Thursday 23 March, 9pm to 6am

    View the M6 junction 26 to 23 southbound diversion.

    We’re also planning to close the M6 northbound junction 23 to 26 overnight on:

    • Friday 24 March, 9pm to 6am
    • Monday 27 to Friday 31 March, 9pm to 6am

    View the M6 junction 23 to 26 northbound diversion.

    Keep an eye on our daily closures and our regional Twitter page for the latest information. All of our closures are subject to the weather and traffic conditions not affecting them.

    Watch this timelapse video to see how we recently installed a superspan gantry as part of our work. 

  • 20 January 2023

    Project update - January 2023

    Earlier this month we began our work installing gantries between junction 23 (Haydock) and junction 26 (Orrell) of the M6.

    In total we have 65 new gantries to install. Ten of these are super-span gantries, which means that they go across both carriageways.

    In addition to the gantry installation we’re also installing new barriers, completing drainage and finishing the surfacing of the new lane 1.

    As well as working during the day we are carrying out a lot of work overnight, aiming to reduce customer disruption in doing so.

    However, we understand that this does still impact drivers and residents, especially those who live close to the motorway and along diversion routes. We try to minimise the noise as much as possible and are following industry best practice methods.

    Some of our work can only be done overnight when the volume of traffic is lower. This allows us to close lanes or the motorway completely, something that is required when we’re installing gantries.

    To ensure we can safely continue carrying out gantry installations we need close the motorway on a number of occasions over the next few weeks.

    We’re planning the following overnight closures:

    • M6 junction 23 to 26 northbound. Monday 30 January, Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 February, 9pm to 6am
    • M6 junction 26 to 23 southbound. Tuesday 31 January and Friday 3 February, 9pm to 6am. Saturday 4 February, 9pm to 7am

    View the M6 junction 23 to 26 northbound diversion.

    View the M6 junction 26 to 23 southbound diversion.

    Keep an eye on our daily closures and our regional Twitter page for the latest information. All our closures are subject to the weather and traffic conditions not affecting them.

  • 01 December 2022

    Scheme update - December 2022

    Over recent months we’ve been working around the clock to install new drainage and the bases for CCTV and gantries. We have also put environmental barriers in place to reduce motorway noise for nearby residents.

    Our work to resurface the old hard shoulder has started. Once completed this will become an additional lane of traffic, providing more capacity to reduce congestion and improve journey reliability. 

    The concrete safety barrier and new drainage in the central reservation is complete through the whole length of the scheme.

    Where there are houses around junction 24 at Ashton-in-Makerfield, we are no longer working during the night. This is to avoid disturbing residents who live close to the motorway.

    Our drainage work is largely unseen but does involve some substantial excavations. The picture below gives you an idea of the depth of these works.

    What’s next?

    In the first few months of 2023 we will be:

    • completing our environmental barrier installation. This will be on the southbound carriageway up to the office units just before Haydock Island
    • continuing with drainage work in the verges
    • installing new gantries and CCTV posts between junction 23 at Haydock and junction 26 at Orrell
    • continuing to resurface the new all lane running lane from junction 23 to 26

    To carry out the gantry and CCTV post installation, we’ll need to close the motorway overnight between junctions 23 and 26 on a number of occasions in January, February and March 2023.

    The first of those closures will take place on the southbound carriageway from Tuesday 10 to Friday 13 January (9pm to 6am), weather permitting. Keep an eye on our daily closures and our regional Twitter page for the latest information.

    As we approach Christmas we’ll be finishing off as much work as possible. We’ll have no overnight lane, junction or carriageway closures from Tuesday 20 December until we return to site after the holiday period on Tuesday 3 January 2023.

    During this period the speed restrictions, narrow lanes and temporary barriers will remain in place for your safety and that of other road users. The three lanes will be open at all times. CCTV and free recovery will be in place to ensure the safety of motorists travelling through the area.

    We’d like to take this opportunity to thank customers for their continued patience as we work to deliver the scheme.

  • 05 September 2022

    Overnight motorway closures as gantry installation begins

    This month we will be starting to install gantries between junctions 23 and 26 of the M6.

    The new signs will provide key information to motorists while travelling, keeping them safe and ensuring journeys run smoother.

    To safely carry out this work, we need to close the M6 between junctions 23 and 26. The overnight (9pm and 6am) closures will take place over two weeks.

    The dates, locations and carriageway closures are the following:

    • Tuesday 13 September to Thursday 15 September 2022, M6 northbound junctions 23 to 26 closed
    • Tuesday 20 September to Thursday 22 September 2022, M6 southbound junctions 26 to 23 closed

    Clearly signed diversion routes will be in place for each closure and can be found in the diversions section of this webpage.

    When installing the gantries, nearby residents may notice more noise in the area than normal.

    We’ll be making every effort to reduce the noise as much as possible and will be following industry best practice. Nonetheless, we’d like to apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

    We always aim to work to schedule. However, unforeseen circumstances such as poor weather may mean changes occur at short notice and this may change the dates above.

    When the scheme is complete messages on the gantries will be operated from our Regional Operations Centre. Radar technology and cameras will be used to detect the speed, volume and flow of traffic. The information informs an optimum speed that is displayed on the signs, keeping traffic moving and reducing congestion.

    The signs can also be altered manually by Regional Operations Centre staff in the event of an accident or debris on the road. Operations centre staff can close a lane to protect a live lane breakdown and to create a path for emergency service vehicles to access the incident.

    A red X will be shown above the affected lane (or lanes) to close the traffic. Supporting variable message signs will be set to inform approaching motorists of a closed lane.

  • 31 May 2022

    Scheme progress and traffic management change

    Progress update

    Junctions 24 to 26

    We’re currently carrying out deep excavation work in the verge area between junctions 24 and 26, which enables us to drill underneath the road.

    This allows us to get electric and technology services from one side of the carriageway to the other, without having to close the road or dig it up, reducing disruption on our customers.

    We’ve completed five deep excavations on this stretch of the network so far.

    We’re also preparing areas ahead of installing new signs, gantries and CCTV cameras. And we’ve carried out 300 metres of drainage work. During this work we’ve moved 16,350m3 of material - that’s the same volume as six-and-a-half Olympic swimming pools.

    Caption: You can see the roof of the machine in this photo, showing how deep these excavations are.

    Junctions 21a to 24

    We have finished building almost 200 new drainage chambers and installing 4,000 metres of new drainage.

    The construction of the new concrete barrier for the central reservation is underway and we’ve started resurfacing what will be lane 4 of the finished motorway. The lane will have a low noise surface.

    We’ve been completing around 1.3 km of the central reservation each month.

    Caption: Central reservation work is progressing between junctions 21a and 24

    What’s next?

    In the coming months, we’re planning to close sections of the M6 between junctions 21a and 26 to install the next phase of traffic management.

    The closures will allow us to move from working in the central reservation to the remaining verge areas.

    The overnight closures, between 9pm and 6am, will take place on the following:

    • Monday 13 June 2022, M6 southbound between junctions 26 to 23
    • Tuesday 14 June 2022, M6 northbound between junctions 23 to 26
    • Monday 20 June 2022, M6 southbound between junctions 23 to 22
    • Tuesday 21 June 2022, M6 northbound between junctions 22 to 23
    • Monday 11 July 2022, M6 southbound between junctions 23 to 22
    • Tuesday 12 July 2022, M6 northbound between junctions 22 to 23
    • Wednesday 13 July 2022, M6 southbound between junctions 22 to 21a
    • Thursday 14 July 2022, M6 northbound between junctions 21a to 22

    Clearly signed diversion routes will be in place for each closure.

    When moving the traffic management, nearby residents may notice more noise in the area than normal.

    We’ll be making every effort to reduce the noise as much as possible and will be following industry best practice. Nonetheless, we’d like to apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

    We always aim to work to schedule. However, unforeseen circumstances such as poor weather may mean changes occur at short notice and this may change the dates above.

  • 03 February 2022

    Next phase of work between junctions 23 and 26

    In the coming weeks we will finish work in the central reservation between junctions 23 and 26. This includes removing old signage and lighting, improving drainage and installing a new central concrete safety barrier.

    We’re also currently resurfacing lane 4 with a low noise road surface system. Once completed we will move onto the next phase of our work, which will be in the verge areas.

    To do this we first need to close the M6 to move the temporary metal and concrete barriers from the central reservation to the verge, and create the new work area. These barriers will be secured onto the road to keep road users and our workforce safe. Securing the barriers can be noisy, and we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause you.

    Listed below are the dates for the full overnight closures:

    • 10, 11 and 14 February, M6 northbound between junctions 23 and 26, between 9pm and 6am
    • 15, 16 and 17 February, M6 southbound between junctions 26 and 23, between 9pm and 6am

    Associated slip road closures are also required and signed diversion routes will be in place. 

    We always aim to work to schedule. However, unforeseen circumstances such as poor weather may mean changes occur at short notice and this may change the dates above. We thank you for bearing with us.

  • 21 December 2021

    December progress update and winter newsletter

    Winter newsletter

    Click here to view our winter newsletter.

    Progress update

    The temporary safety barriers, narrow lanes and a reduced 50mph speed limit are now fully in place between junctions 21a to 26 of the M6. Installing these measures allows us to keep the traffic flowing in both directions, maintain capacity, while still allowing us the safe space we need to work.

    Between junctions 24 and 26, we’ve finished replacing all the deep drainage and the surface water drainage in the central reservation.

    Between junctions 21a and 24, we’re continuing to remove all the old street lighting, metal barriers, and signs. We’re also preparing the area ready to start work to install the deep drainage.

    What’s next

    We’ve started installing the concrete safety barrier in the central reservation between junctions 24 and 26. This type of barrier is designed to last 50 years, and requires very little maintenance.

    Once we’ve finished installing the new concrete barrier in the new year, we plan to change the layout of our traffic management between junctions 24 and 26. This will entail switching our working area from the central reservation to the verges. We will update the webpage to let you know when this is happening. Please register for updates on our webpage to receive a notification.

    Christmas period

    As we approach Christmas, we’ll be finishing off as much work as possible. Our work sites will close from Monday 20 December, before returning on Tuesday 4 January 2022. The speed restrictions, narrow lanes and temporary barriers will remain in place for your safety. All three lanes will be open at all times. CCTV and a free recovery service will be available for the safety of motorists travelling through the area.

    If you have any enquiries during this period, please contact our 24-hour Customer Contact Centre on 0300 123 5000. Or you can email at info@highwaysengland.co.uk.

    We’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  • 22 October 2021

    Progress update, ground investigation work and planned closures

    Since our last update, the 10-miles of narrow lanes between junctions 21a and 26 are now in place, where we will continue our work within central reservation and verge areas. This will include:

    • removing existing street lighting columns, safety barrier and signage
    • installing new drainage system

    Over the coming weeks, some ground investigation work is also planned between junction 21a and 23. These are to assess the ground conditions, for work to install the ducts and cables in the future.  To carry out the ground investigation work safely, we plan to have the following closures in place between 9pm and 6am:

    • Monday 25 October – M6 southbound between junctions 22 to 21a
    • Tuesday 26 October – M6 northbound at junction 23
    • Wednesday 27 October – M6 northbound between junctions 21a to 22
    • Thursday 28 October – M6 northbound between junctions 22 and 23
    • Tuesday 2 November – M6 southbound between junctions 23 and 22
    • Monday 15 and Tuesday 16 November – M6 southbound between junctions 23 and 22
    • Wednesday 17 and 18 November – M6 northbound between junctions 21a to 22

    Signed diversion routes will be in place, and for more information see diversion routes maps below.

  • 13 September 2021

    Next phase of traffic management and summer newsletter

    In April, we installed our first phase of traffic management between junctions 24 and 26. Later this month, we’re planning to close sections of the M6 between junctions 21a and 24 to install the next phase of traffic management along the remaining 5 mile section of the project. This will include temporary safety barriers, narrow lanes and a reduced 50mph speed limit.

    Installing these measures allows us to keep the traffic flowing in both directions, maintain capacity, while still allowing us the safe space we need to work. We kindly ask everyone to be extra cautious when travelling through our roadworks, and thank you for your continued patience.

    The overnight closures, between 9pm and 6am, will be in place on the following dates:

    Monday 20 September - M6 southbound junctions 24 to 23
    Tuesday 21 September - M6 northbound junctions 23 to 24
    Wednesday 22 September - M6 southbound junctions 23 to 22
    Thursday 23 September - M6 northbound junctions 22 to 23
    Friday 24 September - M6 southbound junctions 22 to 21a
    Monday 27 September - M6 northbound junctions 21a to 22

    Signed diversion routes will be in place for each closure.

    To find out what else is happening on the project, view the summer newsletter here.

  • 02 June 2021

    Progress update and upcoming full closures

    What’s next?
    We’ve removed most of the steel safety barrier and streetlights in the central reservation between junctions 24 and 26.

    After this, we plan to carry out drainage work and then later install a concrete barrier. We will continue to remove old signs and other redundant items as well. We will undertake these works during the day when we can.

    Full closures
    We need to close the M6 between junctions 23 and 26 to carry out some work safely. This will include removing street lights and communication cabinets from the verge areas, removing existing signs and preparing areas for new signs.

    The closures will be in place on the following dates:

    • M6 northbound between junctions 23 and 26 – 7 to 12 June
    • M6 southbound between junctions 26 and 23 – 14 to 19 June

    We plan to have the closures in place between 9pm and 6am. This is subject to traffic flows, and will only be installed when this is at a minimum.

    Localised signed diversion routes will be in place (see ‘Diversions’ tab below). Please note that that the A49 Warrington Road at Worsley Menses in Wigan will be closed overnight from the 7 June for five nights. Following our approved and signed diversion route will ensure motorists are not affected by this closure.

    Noisy activity on site
    The work to remove the existing sign and preparing the areas for the new signs can be noisy. Nearby residents may also notice some vibrations from our work at these times.

    We will take steps to carry out the work as early in our shifts as possible. Nonetheless, we understand this will cause some disruption and would like to apologise for any inconvenience this may cause you.

    Please note our work is subject to weather conditions, therefore dates may change at short notice.

  • 30 April 2021

    Removal of steel barrier and street lights has started

    We’ve finished installing the narrowed lanes and temporarily lowered the speed limit between junction 23 and 26 of the M6. This allows us to safely work in the central reservation between junctions 24 and 26. Our work will include removing the old steel barrier, street lights, install new drainage and a new concrete barrier. The new barrier will reduce future maintenance and therefore disruption to motorists and residents. 

    We will start to remove the steel barrier from the 4 May for around a week. Most of the barrier will be removed during the day, but there are some areas where we need to remove parts of the barrier overnight. To remove the barrier safely, overnight lane closures will be in place between 9pm and 6am.

    Work to remove the street lights is planned from the 10 May for around three weeks. At the beginning, the noisier activities will take place. When we take down the lights this shouldn’t cause any disturbance. However, there may be occasions where we need to cut them down. Overnight lane closures are also needed to take down the street lights in the central reservation safely. 

    We will then move on to remove the existing signs and start to prepare the bases for the new signs.

    It is possible that our work will create some noise disruption for local residents. We will take steps to minimise any overnight disturbance and carry out as much work as possible during the day. Where we need any lane or full closures on the motorway we can only do this at night when the motorway is less busy. We thank you for bearing with us and apologise for any disturbance our work may cause you.

  • 23 March 2021

    Main construction has started and project newsletter now available

    The main construction work has now started, and we expect to complete the work by spring 2023.

    We’ve listened to the feedback from our customers, and as a result the work will be done in phases, starting from junction 24 to junction 26. This will reduce the length of roadworks in place, minimising potential disruption to journeys.

    For the safety of road users and our workforce we will need to use some traffic management measures. This will include narrowed lanes with a reduced speed limit.

    Motorway closures
    To install the narrowed lanes, overnight closures (from 9pm until 6am) are required on both carriageways of the M6 between junctions 23 and 26 on the following dates:

    • M6 southbound between junctions 26 to 23: Tuesday 6, Thursday 8 and Wednesday 14 April
    • M6 northbound between junctions 23 to 26: Wednesday 7, Friday 9 and Tuesday 13 April

    There are plans of the diversion routes we will be using in the overview section of this page.

    Read our newsletter to find out more on what is planned next and how to sign up for future updates.

  • 08 February 2021

    Start of main construction work

    The M6 junction 21a at Croft to 26 at Orrell is a 10-mile-long project that is part of our programme to add capacity to the motorway network. The upgrade will reduce congestion levels and smooth traffic flows, providing more reliable journey times.

    Late last year we began clearing vegetation in the motorway verges between junctions 24 and 26. We are now also carrying out other works including manhole strengthening, mine treatment works and test piling overnight in the same area.

    We’ll be starting the main construction work on the project in March 2021. We expect to complete our main construction work by March 2023.

    Construction will inevitably have some impact on road users, the local community and businesses.

    We have listened to customers regarding the disruption that is caused by carrying out works on the whole length of a scheme at one time. To reduce the impact on road users we will be installing 5 miles of narrow lanes only between junctions 24 and 26 whilst we carry out our works in this area. We will maintain three narrowed lanes running in each direction during the day.

    There will be a reduced speed limit of 50mph throughout our roadworks. Where possible, and it is safe to do so, such as over Easter and Christmas holiday breaks, we will increase this to 60mph.

    These measures are being put in place to allow road users to continue travelling through our roadworks without compromising their safety, or that of our workforce. We expect that the average journey time will only increase by a maximum of 2 minutes during our roadworks.

    Wherever possible, we’re carrying out the noisier operations during the day to reduce disturbance on communities. There is however some work that we can only do at night time which cannot be carried out safely with traffic using the road. We’ll therefore need to use occasional overnight closures of the motorway to complete certain activities. We will keep closures to an absolute minimum in order to cause the least disruption possible.

    When closures are required details will be advertised on Traffic England, sent to stakeholders via email and hard signage will be placed on the affected section of road at least 14 days in advance. Clearly signed diversions will be in place.

    We’ll also operate a 24/7 free recovery service throughout our roadworks with a fully monitored CCTV system in place so that we can quickly identify and remove any stranded vehicles that have broken down within our work area.

  • 13 January 2021

    Advance works between junctions 24 and 26

    We have now started some work in advance of our main upgrade which will be starting in late March. This early work is taking place between junctions 24 and 26.

    Over the next few months we will be carrying out vegetation clearance, treating old mine works, strengthening manholes on the hard shoulder and preparing the foundations for sign and gantry bases.

    To carry out this work we will need to cone off areas of the hard shoulder as we work during the day. At night time we will also need to close lanes and, on occasion, slip roads to allow us to carry out our work safely. Where we need to close slip roads we will give advance notice by placing signs on the slip road at least 14 days in advance. Information will also be on Traffic England and all diversion routes will be clearly signed.

    We’re continuing with construction work during the lockdown, ensuring that all of our work is taking place in accordance with Covid safety guidelines.   

    We will be holding a virtual Public Information Exhibition in late February to provide you with information about the motorway upgrade. Full details will be provided on this webpage soon. You can subscribe to receive email alerts when we update the webpage.

  • 24 December 2020

    Consultation now closed

    Our consultation on the introduction of Variable Mandatory Speed Limits as part of this project has now closed.

    We’ll be providing an update on the project in the new year, as well as publishing a summary report of the responses we received to the consultation. You can subscribe for alerts for when we update this webpage.

Project information

Give us your feedback

Visit our M6 junction 21a to 26 feedback tool to have your say. The tool includes an interactive map. You can click on a location to make a specific comment, or give us your general feedback.

ECHO is a one-way feedback tool, so if you’d like a response to your feedback you can email the project team at: m6j21a-26smartmotorway@nationalhighways.co.uk

Map showing location of M6 junction 21a to 26 scheme

The M6 forms part of the London to north-west and Scotland strategic corridor, and the wider trans-European route, E05. The M6 between junctions 21a and 26 is a key strategic route carrying around 120,000 vehicles daily between Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire and Greater Manchester. 

Congestion and unreliable journey times are currently experienced at busy periods and traffic is predicted to grow. 

The M6 junction 21a to 26 smart motorway scheme will relieve congestion and smooth the flow of traffic, improving safety and journey times. 

Smart motorways are a technology-driven approach to tackling the most congested parts of the motorway network, improving journey reliability by controlling the flow and speed of traffic. They also support the economy by providing much-needed capacity on the busiest motorways, while maintaining safety for road users and those who work on the roads. 

The design features of the scheme include: 

  • Converting the hard shoulder into a permanent traffic lane 
  • variable mandatory speed limits 
  • driver information, including lane availability, provided through a mixture of gantries and cantilever signs 
  • queue detection and automatic signalling system, which provides queue protection and congestion management 
  • comprehensive low light pan-tilt-zoom CCTV coverage 
  • emergency areas where drivers can stop in an emergency 

With this scheme, we aim to: 

  • reduce congestion and smooth the flow of traffic to improve travel times, making journeys more reliable 
  • support the economy and facilitate economic growth within the region. Providing much needed capacity on the motorway will reduce the cost of economic delay to both commuters and business traffic 
  • continue to deliver a high level of safety performance on the network using smart motorway techniques 
  • minimise environmental impacts 

M6 northbound junction 24 to junction 26

M6 southbound junction 26 to junction 23

M6 northbound junction 23 to 26

M6 southbound junction 25 to 23

M6 junction 23 northbound entry slip road

M6 southbound to M62 westbound link road

M62 eastbound to M6 southbound link road

M62 westbound to M6 southbound link road

M6 southbound junction 24 to 23 

M6 northbound junction 22 to 23

M6 southbound junction 23 to 22 

M6 junction 22 northbound entry slip road

M6 junction 22 southbound entry slip road

M6 junction 23 southbound entry slip road

M6 junction 21a to 22 northbound diversion

M6 junction 22 to 21a southbound diversion

Documents

Traffic information

Information about scheduled roadworks and events on our motorways and major roads.

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