Council leader expresses “major concern” after M62 lorry fire causes traffic chaos across West Yorkshire

The leader of a West Yorkshire council has called for a meeting with Highways bosses after major disruption to traffic during key commuter times on Wednesday.

The clean up operation following the M62 lorry fire on December 16. Picture: Highways England
The clean up operation following the M62 lorry fire on December 16. Picture: Highways England

“Significant work” was undertaken to repair the M62 after a lorry fire, closing the motorway for much of the day and causing misery for thousands of motorists.

Motorists faced severe traffic disruption during both morning and evening rush hours after a lorry fire closed a stretch of the M62 yesterday.There were long tailbacks in the morning after both carriageways were shut to deal with the blaze, which happened shortly after 6.30am, between Junction 29 at M1 Lofthouse and Junction 30 at Rothwell.

The leader of Wakefield Council, Coun Peter Box, who is also chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority has called for a meeting with the Highways Agency to review the response to yesterday’s traffic disruption and to see what lessons can be learnt.

The carriageways were initially cleared at around 11.45am after skips and tipper trucks were used to clear "vast amounts of debris" away from the carriageway, a statement from Highways England said.

But after diesel had been cleared up by 1.45pm, contractors were able to fully assess the damage and deemed that all four lanes required plaining and full resurfacing.

The traffic problems were exacerbated by a collision on the Leeds inner ring road at a time when the city’s roads were busy with Christmas shopping traffic and people heading to a performance by magician Dynamo at the First Direct Arena. Drivers in Wakefield also had to contend with a major city centre route being closed due to an accident. Doncaster Road was closed for more than four hours after a woman was hit by a car shortly after 1pm, affecting rush hour traffic.

Coun Box expressed “major concern” at the severe disruption that was caused as a result of the road closures to West Yorkshire’s road network and the local economy.

He said: “Unfortunately incidents like these are beyond our control, but we need to make sure that we learn lessons from incidents such as these so we can act quickly and efficiently in any future incidents.

“The impact that closing a major motorway like the M62 is huge and combined with another incident on a major road resulted in gridlock in the city centre and surrounding areas.

“The closures were unavoidable due to the severe nature of the incidents, but we need to make sure that it is an absolute priority of the Highways Agency to reopen roads far quicker.

“This disruption had a massive impact on commuters in West Yorkshire and also on our local businesses that rely on this busy Christmas shopping period. Having our town and city centres gridlocked means that many independent traders would have seen huge losses.”

Coun Box is calling for a meeting with the Highways Agency and other members of the Combined Authority so that we can work together more closely to minimise the disruption in any future incidents. He added: “We will be seeking assurances from the Highways Agency that lessons have being learnt from this incident and that operational responses are put in place as soon as possible.”

Drivers took to social media to share their frustrations about the road closures yesterday, which Highways England said were required so that a “significant” amount of repair work could take place.

Highways England said: "As con­trac­tors had resources in place, plain­ing work com­menced straight away and once com­pleted resur­fac­ing work started at 18:23 hours. White lin­ing and stud replace­ment work was required once resur­fac­ing of all 4 lanes had been com­pleted. After a sig­nif­i­cant amount of work to restore the car­riage­way, it was con­firmed by our North East Regional Con­trol Cen­tre that all works had been com­pleted and the road clo­sure was removed at 23:22 hours."