Visit to the M6 Project Office 6th June 2016

(please note local residents were not invited to this meeting and have received this report today)

Present: Kate Beirne (Highways England) and Julian Wilson and Dave Smith[1] (who are both part of the Carillion Kier Joint Venture) and Richard Hocknell, Rachel Hurst and Mike Hodge (Cranage Parish Council).

The M6 Project Team recognise that communication is key and try to work on “the basis of no new surprises” and try to inform affected properties by letters, emails, newsletters and the Highways England website when there are noisy operations at night, particularly when unusual or irritating sounds are involved e.g. reversing bleepers.

They are currently examining the maximum length of roadworks and are now planning that work won’t start at J17-18 until the J9-20 stretch has been opened after the completion of the A556 link (although there may be a small overlap with some extra work in Spring 2017). No night time closures are planned. Work on the verges between J18-19 is due to start in Sept 2016 and will continue to Sept 2017. There are two Emergency Areas on the stretch in Cranage, one northbound between Middlewich Road and Kings Lane and on the southbound section, the refuge will be north of the stretch of Kings Lane that abuts the motorway.

Mitigation to reduce current noise is under consideration by the Minister with a decision expected in about 2 weeks[2]. However, we were given the impression that this proposal is unlikely to be approved for the following reasons.
1. Cost. It is estimated that a length of 5.2K (wooden or plastic acoustic fencing is proposed) would be required to affect a 3k length of motorway (because of the way that sounds travel and would add £millions (unspecified) to the budget.
2. It is considered to be poor value for money with a rating of 0.5 i.e. £1 spent would provide a benefit of 50p (a value of 2 is normally considered viable).
3. It is likely that the government would consider that approval in Cranage would set a “dangerous” precedent for other areas.

It also has to be recognised that some trees would have to be removed to provide access for plant machinery to install fencing.

There are no plans to mitigate pollution but the team consider that the long term future of vehicles i.e. better fuel consumption, more electric cars and the expected reduction in speed on the smart motorway will reduce pollution.

We felt that discussions were reasonably open. Residents affected by the M6 may not be happy with the answers we were given but in our opinion, there is an attempt being made to be as considerate as possible during the construction phase.

It should be noted at the Sandbach Depot they are intending to recruit 30 apprentices (locally if possible) who will receive their training and experience during this phase of Smart Motorway construction.
[1] Dave Smith was about to retire and is being replaced by Sam Maidment and Dave Clegg.
[2] MH has subsequently been informed that the Minister’s letter has been delayed.