Junction 9 of the M6 reopens 6 months late

I am pleased that Junction 9 of the M6 has finally reopened. The management of the closure by Highways England has been inefficient and my constituents have suffered disruption and inconvenience throughout 2015. The slip-road was to be reopened in May, but the date was put back to August, then to November and finally to Christmas. Even now it will be closed for a week from 4 January 2015 in the late evening.

There has been a degree of obfuscation about the reasons for the delays. At a meeting with Highways England in October this year I was told that the degradation to the concrete was far more severe than expected. I was also told that it was only possible to work on small sections of the road at a time in order to ensure the integrity of the structure. This contradicts the account given in a Highways England press release which stated that the problem was not that the concrete had degraded more than would be expected, but that the areas where the degradation was most severe were the areas that were most crucial to the integrity of the structure.

It is surprising that the date for the completion of the works has been delayed on at least three occasions and by a total of six months. This is more than twice the amount of time the works were initially scheduled to last. It is also concerning that the roadway was allowed to degrade to such an extent. I would have expected that engineers at Highways England would have better knowledge of the degradation of concrete and be able to better predict the state it will be in when assessed during repairs.

I put an alternative suggestion to Highways England that Junction 9 did not need to be closed, as queueing on the motorway could be avoided by diverting traffic entering the M5 around Junction 7 to enter from the opposite carriageway.  This came from people who know about highways . Unfortunately, Highways England was not willing to engage with alternative suggestions and my constituents have paid the price.

I am writing to the Secretary of State for Transport to ensure that lessons are learned from this debacle. With works forthcoming at Junction 10, it is crucial that Highways England transforms its ethos to minimise disruption to local residents.