M6 junction 21a to 26 smart motorway

We're improving the 10-mile section of the M6 between junctions 21a and 26 by upgrading it to an 'all-lane running' smart motorway.

Start date 2020-21
End date 2022-23
Cost £100 million - £250 million

Latest updates

  • 14 May 2019

    Waiting for announcement

    We'll announce a new start date for this scheme in due course.

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    If you need to contact us about the M6 junction 21a to 26 smart motorways scheme, please use the details below:

  • 14 May 2019

    Changes to M6 junction 21a to 26 scheme

    In winter 2019 – based on feedback from our customers and stakeholders of their experiences on our network – we announced changes to our smart motorway programme across the north-west to reduce the impact of concurrent roadworks on our customers.

    This means we've agreed to defer the start date of the M6 junction 21a to 26 scheme.

Project information


The M6 forms part of the London to north-west and Scotland strategic corridor, and the wider trans-European route, E05. The M6 between junctions 21a and 26 is a key strategic route carrying around 120,000 vehicles daily between Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire and Greater Manchester. 

Congestion and unreliable journey times are currently experienced at busy periods and traffic is predicted to grow. 

The M6 junction 21a to 26 smart motorway scheme will relieve congestion and smooth the flow of traffic, improving safety and journey times. 

Smart motorways are a technology-driven approach to tackling the most congested parts of the motorway network, improving journey reliability by controlling the flow and speed of traffic. They also support the economy by providing much-needed capacity on the busiest motorways, while maintaining safety for road users and those who work on the roads. 

The design features of the scheme include: 

  • Converting the hard shoulder into a permanent traffic lane 
  • variable mandatory speed limits 
  • driver information, including lane availability, provided through a mixture of gantries and cantilever signs 
  • queue detection and automatic signalling system, which provides queue protection and congestion management 
  • comprehensive low light pan-tilt-zoom CCTV coverage 
  • emergency areas where drivers can stop in an emergency 

With this scheme, we aim to: 

  • reduce congestion and smooth the flow of traffic to improve travel times, making journeys more reliable 
  • support the economy and facilitate economic growth within the region. Providing much needed capacity on the motorway will reduce the cost of economic delay to both commuters and business traffic 
  • continue to deliver a high level of safety performance on the network using smart motorway techniques 
  • minimise environmental impacts 


Traffic information

Information about scheduled roadworks and events on our motorways and major roads.

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