The true scale of problems caused by major roadworks on the M62 can be revealed by the Telegraph & Argus today.
Since work to construct a managed motorway began a little more than a year ago, highways officials have been forced to remove more than 1,500 broken-down vehicles and deal with more than 100 crashes in the short stretch between junction 25 at Brighouse and junction 27 at Gildersome – a section that includes the M606 turn-off at junction 26 Chain Bar.
The £150 million Highways Agency scheme, due for completion before 2014, will involve opening up the hard shoulder as an extra running lane.
And to allow the ongoing work to take place, the normal width of lanes has been narrowed, no hard shoulder is available to stricken vehicles and a 50mph limit is being enforced by a series of speed cameras.
But the knock-on impact of each breakdown or accident is lengthy jams which haulage firms in the Bradford district say are costing them dear.
Responding to a request for information by the Telegraph & Argus, the Highways Agency revealed that, since construction work started, figures recorded by the Highways Agency for October 2011 to September 2012 show that: l There have been 138 collisions l 1,569 broken-down vehicles have been removed (an average of five per day) between junction 25 and junction 27, eastbound and westbound.
And there has been no let up since.
Last Friday afternoon, an accident involving six vehicles on the westbound carriageway near junction 25 caused traffic queues which tailed back to junction 31 at Castleford, adding about three hours to journey times.
The owner of one Bradford transport firm said the motorway was a “nightmare”, and things would only get worse as winter set in.
Thomas Crompton, owner of Thomas Crompton Developments Limited, said serious delays on the M62 could cost his firm thousands of pounds a day.
He said: “I think I have been affected three times in the last two weeks with serious delays.
“We do a lot of work in the Huddersfield area so we have to get from Chain Bar to Ainley Top. It’s a nightmare.
“It’s turned into quite a black spot at the moment. It has definitely got worse over the past few weeks.”
Malcolm Bright, of Malcolm Bright and Son Haulage Distribution in Bingley, described the M62 as being “hell on earth”.
He said: “You can lose three or four hundred pounds, no problem, sat in queues not getting forward, not getting half your day’s work done.
“You’re sat around doing nothing. Nobody ever looks at the cost of the roadworks being done.”
Mr Bright said there often did not seem to be many workmen in sight.
He said: “You can travel miles and miles and miles and nothing’s being done. You can find it’s been coned off for the last four miles and there’s half a mile where they’re doing work on it.”
Meanwhile, Councillor Robert Light (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw), leader of the Conservatives at Kirklees Council, has now called for the roadworks to be fast-tracked.
He said although everyone understood why the works were necessary, they were having a knock-on effect on his ward, with queues regularly building up along routes which fed on to the motorway.
A Highways Agency spokesman said: “Work on the scheme is progressing really well, and we would like to thank road users for their patience while we carry out these much-needed improvements to the M62. In order to reduce the delays caused by broken-down vehicles and collisions in live lanes, the Highways Agency has a free, 24/7 vehicle recovery service in operation throughout the roadworks for the scheme, and the entire length of the roadworks is covered both by constantly-monitored CCTV cameras and, as well as traffic officers patrolling the routes, our contractor has Traffic Safety Control Officers keeping an eye out for road users.
“This means that accidents or incidents can be quickly identified and the appropriate help given, with an average response time by our vehicle recovery service of 15 minutes.
“It is not possible to give an estimate of average delay times caused by collisions or breakdowns.
“In normal motorway conditions, queues are monitored through electronic ‘loops’ set into the road surface, but these have been deactivated to allow the construction work to take place.
“As a result, queue data through the M62 works is not routinely recorded.”