M6 junction 13 to junction 15 smart motorway

We're upgrading the busy 28km stretch of the M6 between junction 13 at Stafford and Junction 15 near Newcastle under Lyme and Stoke on Trent to make it a smart motorway.

Start date 2017-18
End date 2021-22
Cost £232.3 to £335.4 million

Latest updates

  • 11 August 2022

    Upgraded motorway now open

    Today we lifted the final restriction on a major motorway upgrade to a 17 mile stretch of the M6 between junction 13 at Stafford and junction 15 near Newcastle under Lyme and Stoke on Trent. This means you can now drive at the national speed limit along this route.

    If you’ve been using the road recently, you’ll know that a new fourth lane was opened earlier this year. Drivers were kept at a lower maximum speed limit of 60mph while we calibrated the technology which detects stopped vehicles. Our testing shows the system is performing satisfactorily so we have increased the maximum speed to the national speed limit of 70mph along the stretch which carries on average 127,000 vehicles a day.

    We’d like to say thank you to everyone for their co-operation and understanding while this work was carried out.

    All motorways, with or without a hard shoulder, are designed and operated with drivers in mind, to be easy and straightforward to drive on. On motorways where the hard shoulder has been converted to a traffic lane, there’s a whole system of inter-related features, working together to help keep traffic moving safely. They include:

    • variable speed limits to help keep traffic moving, reducing frustrating stop-start traffic and making journeys quicker
    • clearly signed and orange-coloured emergency areas set back from the road and with telephones linking directly to our control rooms
    • detection systems to monitor traffic for changes in flows and speeds 
    • CCTV cameras that our operators are able to move and zoom to monitor and manage congestion and incidents, where notified. The system has the ability to see 100% of the carriageway
    • signs and signals to provide better information, and that can alert drivers to hazards ahead and display Red X signals to close lanes to other traffic when a stopped vehicle is identified
    • enforcement cameras to deter the minority who break speed limits and ignore Red X signals

    To further enhance safety, on all lane running smart motorways we are continuing to roll out technology which will allow us to detect stopped vehicles. The stopped vehicle detection (SVD) system automatically identifies stopped vehicles and provides an alert to our control rooms. Our operators can then close lanes with a Red X signal, display speed limits and deploy traffic officers.

    The system of inter-related features is all overseen and joined up by our dedicated National Highways teams, both in control rooms and on road, who are here to help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

    In taking forward the Transport Committee’s recommendations, £390m has been allocated to design and build more than 150 additional emergency areas during the second Road Investment Strategy, on all lane running motorways in operation and construction. A decision on whether to retrofit across the remainder of all lane running smart motorways will be considered as part of the formulation of the third Road Investment Strategy, based on evidence of safety benefits.

    The M6 J13-15 is the first smart motorway upgrade to open with additional emergency areas – five in addition to the originally planned 21 – to give drivers more places to stop in an emergency. Drivers will be able to use one of 26 emergency areas if they need to stop in an emergency, with a place to stop or leave the motorway every 0.99 miles on average.

    Driving on motorways

    If you’d like to know more about the main features of smart motorways, advice and guidance on safer driving, and what to do in an emergency, visit our new ‘Driving on motorways’ hub.

    What’s still to be done

    We’ll be continuing with some final activities, information about any traffic management will be available on this webpage.

  • 29 June 2022

    M6 junction 14 southbound – lane closures

    This weekend we’re strengthening the carriageway on the M6 southbound around junction 14. To minimise disruption, we’re limiting the length of roadworks that we need for this work; however, we will need to close some lanes for limited periods of time.

    Traffic will be reduced to one lane on Friday 1 July and Sunday 3 July between 9pm and 6am each night while we put in place some traffic management measures for the work.

    Following this, traffic will run at two lanes from 6am on Saturday 2 July to 9pm on Sunday 3 July to provide our workforce with a safe space to carry out the resurfacing work.

    All four lanes will reopen by 6am on Monday 4 July 2022.

    Please bear this in mind when planning your journeys, we're sorry for any disruption this may cause.

  • 20 May 2022

    May Project Update

    On Friday 20 May we opened the new fourth lane of the upgraded northbound carriageway of the M6 between junctions 13 and 15. Over the past week, we’ve been removing the temporary cones and barriers overnight, allowing drivers to now use the new fourth lane.

    The motorway will continue to operate at 60mph while we calibrate the newly-installed Stopped Vehicle Detection system. This technology works as part of a system to help further reduce the risks associated with live lane breakdowns.

    During this phase, the temporary CCTV cameras used for the roadworks will remain in place, alongside the permanent cameras installed as part of the upgrade. We’ll also maintain our free recovery service for anybody who may break down during this calibration phase of the technology.

    We expect to be able to increase the maximum speed limit to 70mph on the upgraded M6 northbound in the summer of this year.

    14 emergency areas will be available for drivers to stop in case of an emergency on the northbound carriageway. In response to the Transport Committee report, we decided to install five additional emergency areas on the northbound carriageway. One of the additional five emergency areas will remain coned off and we are working to get the final one open next month.

  • 08 April 2022

    April Project Update

    Work on the southbound side of the M6 between junctions 15 and 13 is almost complete. We are currently testing the new technology that we have installed, including Stopped Vehicle Detection (SVD). This is why the speed limit is 60mph, even though we have four lanes open. We’re testing the new technology to make sure it is operating correctly between the junctions.

    We have listened to drivers’ concerns about being able to find a safe place to stop in an emergency, and that’s why we are installing five more additional emergency areas (EAs) on the M6 as part of the motorway upgrade. This work is taking place on the northbound carriageway and is due to be completed within a few weeks. Testing of the technology on the northbound carriageway will then begin.

    Revised scheme completion date

    The scheme was originally due to finish in March 2022 but by using a contraflow, which enabled us to carry out more work during the daytime, we were able to reduce that by six months.

    However, with our commitment to install SVD before the scheme opens, the full scheme completion has now gone past the original date of March 2022. While carrying out the SVD work, we’ve also taken the opportunity to install the five additional EAs now, rather than cause more disruption at a later date.

    All motorway upgrades are opened 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 the roadworks teams to control room operators.

    Safety is always our primary concern and we will only fully open the carriageway when all of the technology has been comprehensively tested. As a result of this additional work, the revised completion date for this scheme is the end of June 2022.

    We are working hard to get the work completed quickly and hope to have all four lanes running on the northbound carriageway at 60mph and southbound at 70mph shortly.

  • 04 August 2021

    Upcoming closures and revised scheme opening date

    Update on work and upcoming closures

    The majority of outstanding work is taking place overnight including commissioning the new technology; where we carry out testing on site and through our regional operations centre. This is to make sure that the new technology is operating correctly between the junctions. As there is a lot of technology to test, this will take a few months to complete.

    We’re also continuing to install new bridge strengthening joints, traffic signs, street lighting and resurfacing the carriageway.

    We need to use some more overnight closures of the M6 between junctions 13 and 14 to complete our remaining resurfacing work. We’re pleased to confirm that these will be the last road closures required for this project. Our planned closures are between 9pm and 6am on the following dates:


    • Saturday 14 August and Sunday 15 August
    • Saturday 21 August
    • Saturday 4 September and Sunday 5 September
    • Saturday 11 September and Sunday 12 September


    • Sunday 22 August

    These dates are subject to weather or other unforeseen circumstances and because of this, we have provisionally booked an additional weekend closure (Saturday 11 September and Sunday 12 September) that will be cancelled if not required.

    We understand that the increase in traffic on the diversion route causes disturbance to some residents. We did look to carry out the work under lane closures rather than full closures. However, this is not possible because we need to close the M6 to resurface multiple lanes as it continues to deteriorate, and we have serious concerns that more bad weather will have a further damaging effect and lead to emergency closures at short notice.

    Revised scheme completion date

    We have continued to make progress during the various lockdowns in line with the Government’s guidelines and strict Site Operating Procedures. The planned motorway upgrade work, to convert the hard shoulder into a permanent running lane, is planned to be complete by August 2021. However, in line with our commitment in the Smart Motorway Stocktake: First Year Progress Report, we need to install Stopped Vehicle Detection technology before the motorway fully opens as an all lane running section. We’re aiming to complete the work by the original project end date of March 2022.

    To minimise disruption to road users and local communities, we’re completing the Stopped Vehicle Detection installation through lane closures overnight, Monday to Friday, rather than full road closures.

  • 25 November 2020

    Scheme scheduled for early completion

    There’s good news for businesses, motorists and residents as this scheme is set to finish six months ahead of schedule thanks to the introduction of our contraflow system.

    The upgrade of the 17-mile stretch of motorway was due to be completed in March 2022, but the work is now set to end in September next year.
    The contraflow system was introduced last year and has reduced the number of motorway closures needed by around half, as well as getting work done more quickly.

    We’re increasing capacity between junctions 13 (Stafford) and 15 (Stoke-on-Trent) by turning the hard shoulder into an extra traffic lane and installing up-to-date technology that will help keep traffic flowing more smoothly.

    A major motorway upgrade will usually require up to 450 full motorway closures to complete construction work. By using a contraflow, the number of full closures needed on this scheme has been reduced by around half, benefiting local people and drivers.


  • Contraflow information

    A contraflow is a temporary arrangement where traffic is transferred from its usual side to share the other half of the carriageway with traffic moving in the opposite direction. This layout will provide a wider working space in the verge, allowing our teams to safely speed up certain construction activities. A contraflow will reduce the amount of overnight closures we need by around 60%. This will benefit road users and residents living on diversion routes through Stafford.

    The contraflow allows us to carry out larger activities that are normally carried out overnight, during the day. As there is more space in the verge to work, site vehicles will be able to pass each other without having to wait until another team has finished an activity. As there will be less traffic management to install overnight, this gives us a greater working window to complete the project quickly.

    Please note that road users wishing to exit at junction 15 will need to remain in lanes 1 and 2 as they drive through the contraflow.

Project information


The M6 between junctions 13 and 15 is one of the busiest sections of road in the UK. It is used by over 127,000 vehicles per day and suffers from heavy congestion and unpredictable journey times, especially during peak periods. Congestion on this stretch of motorway also impacts on local roads. The scheme will reduce congestion, remove major bottlenecks and improve journey time reliability which will help businesses in the area to be more efficient. 

The scheme will involve: 

  • permanent conversion of the hard shoulder to create a fourth lane and changing the junctions to accommodate this 
  • new CCTV cameras and electronic information signs and signals on gantries - these will show variable mandatory speed limits and manage traffic flow and incidents 
  • emergency refuge areas throughout the length of the scheme 
  • the hardening of the central reserve and installation of a reinforced barrier to improve safety 
  • nearly 2km of new noise barriers in built up areas 
  • upgrades to Dunston and Norton railway bridges 
  • widening of Creswell Viaduct 
  • demolition of the redundant Creswell Home Farm bridge 
  • minor improvements to Junction 15 

We’ve made an assessment of the environmental impact and found that there will be no long term significant effects. There will be some temporary effects during construction to changes in views, construction noise, disruption to road users and a very minimal loss of habitat. We’ll ensure these effects are minimised as much as possible. The issues considered are:

  • air quality, noise and visual impacts in relation to nearby housing
  • the Sites of Special Scientific Interest at Doxey and Tillington Marshes and Kings and Hargreave’s woods
  • protected species and habitats including bats, badgers and great crested newts
  • the setting of conservation areas and heritage assets such as Trentham Park
  • public rights of way


Traffic information

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

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