Work at M6 Junction 10 now in 'final stages' but more disruption to come next week
Work on a major £78 million revamp of a busy motorway junction in the Black Country is now in its "final stages" after several delays, officials have said.
The congestion-busting overhaul of the M6 Junction 10 for Walsall started in 2020 and had been due for completion last year, before it was pushed back.
Highways chiefs blamed a "number of unexpected, external factors" including Covid-19, material shortages and a sub-contractor going bust during the project.
It promises a better experience for motorists attempting to negotiate one of the busiest motorway junctions in the country.
But the roadworks above Junction 10 have caused a major headache to those trying to traverse it – and there will be more potential disruption in the next week as the works move towards the final stages.
National Highways insists work on the £78 million revamp is now in its “final stages” after several delays.
New bridges have been put in place to create a larger junction. The work was due to end last autumn and then again in January, but the pain for motorists continues.
While work has ceased for the Easter break, it will be in full force later next week, with slip lane closures and the full closure of the Black Country Route from 10pm next Thursday to 5am on the Friday.
National Highways has apologised for the disruption and says it will aim to open closed sections earlier than advertised if the overnight works go well.
Ashfaq Hussain, manager for National Highways, said: “We’re in the final stages of the project and the roundabout will be open to its full capacity during the daytime this spring.
“The upgraded junction will provide significant improvements compared to the previous layout and will improve journey times.
“We’ll complete the remaining work on the roundabout – which includes installing the permanent traffic signals – overnight, when the roads are quieter.
“We’re currently assessing our programme of work and will provide an update on the rest of the scheme, including the aesthetic work such as fencing and landscaping, when all lanes on the roundabout are open to traffic.”
High-friction surfacing and permanent road markings on the M6 junction 10 exit slip roads has been carried out, and around 80 per cent of the permanent traffic signals and CCTV cabling across the scheme has been completed.
Workers will begin surveying and testing the new traffic lights on the roundabout and some of the surrounding roads this month, whilst some repairs will take place on the road surfacing at the bottom of the M6 Junction 10 slip roads.
Other work includes landscaping, drainage work, and installing telecommunications cables along the M6.
Despite the upbeat assessment from National Highways, no firm date has been set for the project’s completion.
The works have proved to be a logistical challenge. A fleet of machines were brought in to “nibble away” at existing bridges and weekend closures of the motorways were put in place so that massive cranes could position new bridges into place.
The oval shape of the previous junction roundabout has now been replaced by a circular island with wider lanes for traffic travelling to the M6 and between Walsall and Wolverhampton.
The delays have angered businesses in the area that have been impacted by road closures and constant congestion in the roadworks.
Councillor Doug James, who represents Darlaston South, spoke out earlier this year, describing delays to the completion date as “inexcusable” and said they were as a result of procurement problems for wiring and installation of the traffic lights and link to the national network for traffic information.
He claimed the cost of the project would be going well over the advertised budget, but said he had not been able to find out the real cost, adding: “The additional cost information I requested from National Highways was deemed to be 'commercially sensitive' – despite the money coming from the public purse. The sum will far exceed the £78 million.”
The Black Country Chamber has spoken of its concern over the impact of the roadworks on business in the area.
But it has also welcomed the improvements to a “critical” junction that provides a gateway to Walsall and Wolverhampton. Chief executive Sarah Moorhouse said Junction 10 was of strategic importance to businesses and that congestion had been impacting negatively on investment in the region, including within the nearby Black Country Enterprise Zone.