UK’s first and longest motorway to get £900m technology upgrade


Preston Bypass, the first and longest motorway in Britain, which has turned 60 and is now part of the M6, is set for a £900m technology upgrade.

The eight-mile section of road had only two lanes in each direction at the time of inauguration and did not have safety barrier in the central reservation and no electronic signs or other technology.

The government said that this road will undergo a major technology transformation to improve journeys on the M6.

Highways England said that it will complete four upgrades on the M6 by spring 2022 to add extra lanes and better technology to 60 miles of the motorway between Coventry and Wigan.

The first upgrade between Crewe and Knutsford in Cheshire is due to be completed by spring 2019, and currently, 258 electronic signs, 104 traffic sensors and 70 CCTV cameras are being installed along the 20-mile route.

The four upgrades also involve converting the hard shoulder to a permanent extra lane to increase capacity by a third.

Highways England smart motorway director Andrew Jinks said: “The M6 provided a major economic boost to the country when it first opened 60 years ago and it still provides a vital link between London and Scotland through the West Midlands and North West.

“Hundreds of thousands of drivers now use the motorway every day to get to work, meet friends and family, or for long distance deliveries, and the smart motorway upgrades will ensure the M6 is fit for the future.

“Our motorways have changed massively over the past six decades and smart motorways could be just a glimpse of the technology transformation still to come. In 60 years’ time, driverless vehicles could be as commonplace as a car radio.”

The smart motorway technology will allow variable speed limits to be automatically set on overhead signs to improve the flow of traffic, preventing stop-start conditions and tailbacks caused by sudden braking.

The technology will be able to detect queuing traffic, breakdowns and collisions as they happen, allowing traffic officers and the emergency services to respond quickly to incidents.


Image: A highway. Photo: courtesy of jose assenco/

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