M6 Birmingham Box Phase 3: Smart Motorway

Project status:   Current
Region:  Midlands

Start date:   April 2012
End date:  April 2014

Type:   Major Scheme
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Major Scheme

Part of our programme of improvements (value >10m)

Cost:  £115 million


October 2014

The scheme is now fully operational and the hardshoulder is opened to traffic at peak times between M6 junctions 5 and 8

You can read the full press release for the operational launch.

Removal of traffic management

The traffic management has now been removed.

Free recovery

The free recovery service on the M6 between junction 8 and junction 5 and on the adjoining M5 links has finished following removal of the traffic management.

Variable speed limits

Variable speed limits are now in operation on the M6 between junction 8 and junction 5 as well as the previously completed adjacent schemes. These enforceable variable speed limits are indicated on the overhead signs above each lane in a red ring and are introduced to help ease congestion during busy periods or if an incident occurs.

To find out about the var­i­ous fea­tures of a smart motor­way – including how the variable speed system works – visit our Smart Motorways homepage.

What is happening?

We have improved the M6 by making it a "smart motorway" (previously known as managed motorways) between junctions 5 and 8, including M5 link roads. Smart motorways help relieve congestion by using technology to vary speed limits. They also allow the hard shoulder to be used as a running lane at peak times to create additional capacity. They deliver these benefits at a significantly lower cost than conventional motorway widening and with less impact on the environment during construction. Find out more about Smart Motorways

When and where is this happening?

Work began in April 2012 and the Smart Motorway was fully operational from April 2014. The Birmingham Box Phase 3 Smart Motorway scheme is the link between junction 5 at Castle Bromwich and junction 8 M6/M5 interchange, serving Walsall, Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield.

Why is this happening and what will it cost?

This work was needed as the route currently suffered from:

  • heavy congestion
  • unpredictable journey times
  • higher than average accident rates

Research carried out on the M42 and M6 has proven smart motorways reduce accidents, and improve journey times. Similarly, journey times have improved between the M40 junction 16, near Lapworth, and M6 junction 5, near Birmingham, since the  introduction of two sections of hard shoulder running. Evidence also shows that roadusers say hard shoulder running has improved these sections of the ‘Birmingham Box’ motorways. Road users reported that when smart motorways are in operation there is an average daily saving of about 2 minutes per vehicle for a return journey in peak periods.

The estimated outturn cost for this scheme is £115 million.

How will the scheme be carried out?

The Birmingham Box Phase 3 Smart Motorway is now open for traffic.

What are the benefits?

This project will relieve congestion and smooth the flow of the traffic, improving safety and journey times. These benefits will also support economic development in the region.

We already have evidence of the benefits that a smart motorway scheme can bring. The first smart motorway scheme opened to traffic on the M42 motorway in 2006. Recent analysis of the data gathered since opening has found that journey time reliability improved by 22 per cent and reduced emissions by up to 10 per cent due to traffic flowing more smoothly.

In addition, personal injury accidents have reduced by more than half (55.7%) since hard shoulder running was introduced. There was also an overall reduction in the severity of accidents with zero fatalities and fewer seriously injured.

How do I find out more information ?

More information will be posted on this project page as it becomes available. You can subscribe to be alerted when updates are made.

If you have any queries about this project you should contact the Highways Agency Information Line by emailing ha_​info@​highways.​gsi.​gov.​uk or calling 0300 123 5000.

For more information on Smart Motorways in the Midlands, please view our facebook page.

Details of scheduled roadworks are provided to help you plan your journey. Please note that works are weather- and resource- dependent and may need to be cancelled at short notice. This information is not updated in real time so please check Traffic England for current traffic conditions. Diversion timings are approximate and act as a guide only.

Will there be roadworks?

Not Applicable

How will you manage traffic?

Not Applicable

Will there be diversions?

Not Applicable

Business Case

M6 Birmingham Box Phase 3 Managed Motorways - Business Case
M6 Birmingham Box Phase 3 Managed Motorways - Business Case - Information correct as at December 2010


M6 Birmingham Box Phase 3 Managed Motorways - Public Exhibition Material - June-July 2011
M6 Birmingham Box Phase 3 Managed Motorways - Public Exhibition Material


M6 Birmingham Box Phase 3 Managed Motorways - Summary of Consultation Responses
M6 Birmingham Box Phase 3 Managed Motorways - Summary of Consultation Responses


What we have done

  • Provided new overhead gantries and refurbished exisiting gantries
  • Provided new information signs, variable message signs and signals;
  • Installed CCTV traffic surveillance cameras;
  • Provided new emergency refuge areas;
  • Improved carriageway drainage;
  • Replaced the existing screen fencing;  and
  • Re-aligned the motorway locally north of junction 6.

These works are now completed