THE so-called smart motorway has finally opened on the M56 after three years of roadworks.

An extra lane opened today, Monday, on each carriageway of the M56 between Altrincham and Hale.

National Highways lifted traffic cones and barriers on the upgrade at 6am this morning as part of an £85 million upgrade between junction 6 for Hale Barns and junction 8 at Bowdon.

It is hoped that tens of thousands of drivers who use this route every day should see improvements in their journey times and reliability.

The section will run at a maximum of 60mph, with other interim safety measures in place, until work to calibrate technology, including stopped vehicle detection, is completed.

Knutsford Guardian: The project started in March 2020The project started in March 2020 (Image: National Highways)

The upgrade is then expected to fully open, with the 70mph maximum national speed limit restored, early this spring.

Some overnight work to resurface lanes along both carriageways will start shortly after.

The project started in March 2020 and, alongside adding an extra lane in both the eastbound and westbound carriageways, has involved providing extra technology and safety enhancements, including stopped vehicle detection.

Stopped vehicle detection uses radar technology to alert National Highways’ control centre operators who can then close lanes with a Red X signal, display speed limits and deploy traffic officers. 

Temporary additional CCTV from the roadworks and a free recovery service will remain in place alongside the new permanent systems during the technology commissioning period.

Drivers will also be able to use any of the four new emergency areas if they need to stop in an emergency.