M56 junction 6 to 8 smart motorway

Improving the M56 motorway between junction 6 (Manchester Airport) and junction 8 (Bowdon) by making it a smart motorway.

Start date 2019-20
End date 2021-22
Cost TBC

Latest updates

  • 02 November 2020

    Start of main construction work

    The M56 junctions 6 to 8 scheme is part of our programme to add capacity to the motorway network. The upgrade will reduce congestion levels and smooth traffic flows, providing more reliable journey times.

    Earlier this year we began clearing vegetation in the motorway verge, and we’ll now be starting the main construction work on the project in November 2020. We expect to complete our main construction work by March 2022.

    Construction will inevitably have some impact on road users, the local community and businesses. To reduce the impact on road users, we’ll be installing a contraflow system and narrow lanes to maintain three lanes running in each direction during the day. There will be a reduced speed limit of 50mph throughout our roadworks.

    These measures are being put in place to allow road users to continue travelling through our roadworks without compromising their safety, or that of our workforce. We expect that the average journey time will only increase by a maximum of 2 minutes during our roadworks.

    We will need to use occasional overnight closures of the motorway to complete work which cannot be carried out safely with traffic using the road. We will keep closures to an absolute minimum in order to cause the least disruption possible. Wherever possible, the noisier operations will be carried out during the day to reduce disturbance on communities.

    When closures are required, closure information will be advertised on Traffic England and sent to stakeholders via email. Clearly signed diversions will be in place.

    We’ll also operate a 24/7 free recovery service throughout our roadworks, to help any stranded vehicles that have broken down within our work area.


    A contraflow is a temporary arrangement where traffic is transferred from its usual side to share the other half of the carriageway with traffic moving in the opposite direction. This layout will provide a wider working space in the verge, allowing our teams to safely speed up certain construction activities. A contraflow will reduce the amount of overnight closures we need, which will benefit road users and residents living on diversion routes.

    The contraflow allows us to carry out larger activities during that day that we’d normally have to carry out at night with a closure. As there is more space in the verge to work, site vehicles will be able to pass each other without having to wait until another team has finished an activity. As there will be less traffic management to install overnight, this gives us a greater working window to complete the project quickly.

    View contraflow diagram.

    For diversion routes, please see the folder below, under 'Project information'.

Project information


This four-mile stretch of road, which is linked to several arterial trunk roads, is a vital part of the network for commuters travelling into Manchester city centre. This section of the M56 carries in excess of 100,000 vehicles per day.

This scheme is part of our programme to add capacity to the existing strategic road network in order to support economic growth and maintain mobility.

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. Smart motorways 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 existing M56 is a rural dual three-lane motorway with a hard shoulder, with the exception of sections on both carriageways near junction 7 where the hard shoulder has been converted into additional running lanes. As part of this scheme, we will convert the hard shoulder into a running lane on the full stretch between junctions 6 and 7 and through junction 6 westbound.

The scheme involves:

  • converting the hard shoulder to create a new additional permanent traffic lane between junctions 6 and 8
  • new electronic information signs and signals and CCTV cameras on overhead gantries. These will show variable mandatory speed limits and manage traffic flow and incidents
  • installing remotely operated temporary traffic management signs along the entire route, which form a key safety feature of the work
  • four new emergency areas to provide an area of relative safety following a breakdown
  • new emergency roadside telephones in each emergency area. These will connect you directly to our Regional Operations Centres and pinpoint your location
  • replacing the central reservation with a new concrete barrier to help increase safety
  • new low-noise surfacing on lanes 1 and 4 on both sides of the carriageway

It is expected that this smart motorway scheme will:

  • increase motorway capacity and reduce congestion on this key route into Manchester
  • smooth traffic flows
  • provide more reliable journey times to Manchester Airport
  • increase and improve the quality of information for the driver, for example, through variable messaging signs (in relation to the operation of the motorway)


Strategic diversion



Junction 5 Westbound entry slip

Junction 6 Westbound entry slip

Junction 6 Eastbound exit slip

Junction 6 Eastbound entry slip

Junction 7 (A556) Eastbound entry slip


Traffic information

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

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