Tests began last week on a pilot project designed to reduce congestion along the M62 near Warrington in Cheshire.

Highways England is delivering the project at Croft Interchange – where junction 21a of the M6 meets junction 10 of the M62 – with the aim of giving drivers a smoother and more reliable journey along the eastbound M62, one of the region’s busiest commuter hotspots. 

The testing is scheduled for completion by January, and combines electronic information signs and variable mandatory speed limits on the M62, alongside traffic lights on the motorway link roads from the M6, to provide smoother traffic flows. 

Andy Withington, programme delivery manager for the North West at Highways England, said: “This is an opportunity to combine existing technology and traffic management systems in a novel way to see whether we can give drivers using the frequently congested eastbound M62 lower journey times during peak hours and smoother, more reliable journeys.   

“Once the system is fully up and running we’ll be monitoring its use over a period of up to a year. If it is successful – and we believe it will be – it could well be used on other motorway-to-motorway link roads across the country.” 

The new motorway-to-motorway system will be introduced in two phases. The electronic variable message signs will be introduced first and drivers travelling between junction 9 and junction 11 of the eastbound M62 will start to see the signs in operation displaying mandatory variable speed limits and other information such as congestion warnings.  

The second phase of the scheme will see traffic lights switched on at the end of the link roads onto the eastbound M62. Traffic leaving the M6 will be closely monitored and the lights will be controlled to minimise queuing onto the M6. 

“The key aim of the project is to test the novel technology introduced through this pilot project and tackle congestion at peak travel times, especially during the morning rush hour,” Withington added. “The link road traffic lights won’t be on all of the time, being limited to the morning peak, but the variable speed limit signs on the M62 eastbound will be working all the time when traffic conditions dictate.

“Therefore, when the system is operating, drivers will be expected to obey the traffic lights on the link roads and variable mandatory speed limits displayed on the new M62 electronic signs.”

Money for the project is coming from a £150 million innovation fund, part of the £15 billion allocated to Highways England in the UK Government’s 2015 to 2020 Road Investment Strategy. The innovation fund is designed to encourage Highways England to look at new technology or novel techniques to improve journeys.