Chaos and misery on M62

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Motorists have faced hours of misery on the M62 in recent months after a number of 
accidents have brought the region to a standstill.

Traffic has been held on the motorway for as long as seven hours while police and the Highways Agency have cleared up after incidents.

Now, the shocking number of accidents on the notorious stretch of motorway through West Yorkshire between 2007 and 2012 has been revealed.

The Highways Agency said that over the five years there was an average of 13 accidents per month on the M62 in our region, resulting in 1,503 casualties. Of these, 106 were killed or seriously injured.

The vast majority of them occurred between junction 22 at Rishworth Moor and junctiion 34 at Whitley Bridge.

Antony Firth, asset management team leader at the Highways Agency, said: “We are always looking at the causes of road accidents – are there certain patterns, certain locations? – we look for trends over a long period of time to see what can be done.

Chief Inspector Mark Bownass from West Yorkshire Police

Chief Inspector Mark Bownass from West Yorkshire Police

“But there’s one common factor with 90 per cent of crashes and that’s humans drive cars and humans make errors.”

Ch Insp Mark Bownass (right) of West Yorkshire Police’s road policing unit said the police regularly patrol the motorway looking for drivers who aren’t giving the road their full attention and he agreed with Mr Firth on the cause of accidents.

He said: “There are four major contributing factors to accidents on the motorway that lead to people being seriously injured or killed – excessive speed, drink and drug driving, failure to wear seatbelts and in-vehicle distractions like mobile phones.”

“We’ve even caught people driving with their mirror down, putting lipstick and mascara on.

“That kind of thing is dangerous – they’re not concentrating on the road so how can they be fully aware of what’s going on?” Since 2012, the M62 has gone through drastic changes, with the section between junction 25 at Brighouse and junction 30 at Rothwell being turned into a managed motorway.

Work to upgrade the carriageway between junction 30 and junction 32 at Pontefract is also underway.

The £20m scheme – due to be completed by the end of the year – aims to relieve congestion by sending CCTV footage to the agency’s regional control centre in Wakefield who can apply temporary speed limits to help the flow of traffic.

But there are concerns the figures used by the Highways Agency to inform policy are for motorway conditions that are no longer relevant.

Mr Firth added: “We have to make sure that the data is accurate and validated.

“The most recent annual report is for casualties in 2012, and the initial headlines for that were published in July 2013 and the final report wasn’t updated until February 2014 – so we’re two years behind.”

Mr Firth said some of the incidents that cause long delays are as a result of lorries shedding their loads onto the motorway and the complexity involved in cleaning it up.

He said: “There was an incident on the M6 on March 14 where a truck shed its load of milk across the carriageway.

“You’d think something like milk would be harmless and simple to clean up, but milk actually attacks the stuff our roads are made of – we had a similar thing last year on the M62 with orange juice.

“So, you have to clean up the road, get the lorry recovered and make sure it’s safe.

“You might have to replace barriers, resurface the road – there are all manner of reasons why there might be a delay.”

Luke Bosdet, spokesman for the AA, said delays on the motorways are a common gripe among motorists but added the emergency services have a difficult job to do.

He said: “When you have considerable disruption on a piece of road, the authorities are held to account on performance – they need to answer to the public whether the incidents were just an unfortunate event or whether there is a need to assess the way that road is run.

“If it was a member of your family who died in an accident, would you not want a full analysis of the circumstances?

“Half of the problem is about the flow of information at the time of the incident.

“If there’s information coming about what’s going on and when things will be cleared, that will cool some of the tempers.”