Highways England is using rapid assistance motorbikes carrying emergency fuel to tackle breakdowns on a major repair scheme for the first time.
The fuel bikes are being deployed to ease congestion on the M5 Oldbury scheme, where there have already been 17 fuel-related incidents recorded since the beginning of August.
The major scheme, costing more than £100m, includes concrete repairs and waterproofing on the ageing M5 Oldbury Viaduct in the West Midlands. It is the largest concrete repair project by value ever carried out in Britain.
To keep the motorway open, a contraflow system is in place with traffic currently using the northbound carriageway and two lanes operating in each direction, with a 30mph speed limit.
Highways England said this means motorcycles can get to motorists who have run out of fuel faster. It said it is the first time it has used fuel bikes while a major repair scheme is underway.
Project manager Alastair Warnes said: ‘Since the contraflow came into effect, we’ve already seen a number of fuel-related breakdowns in the roadworks section. In fact, on the very first day of the contraflow coming into effect, the first breakdown was caused by someone that had run out of fuel.
‘This type of situation can cause delays for fellow motorists. Safety is our top imperative and we’re calling on motorists to do their bit and ensure they have plenty of fuel for the journey before setting off.
‘We’re always there to help motorists who need it in an emergency and by offering this type of assistance we’re able to minimise disruption to others driving through the roadworks.’
The Government-owned company is working with Egertons Recovery to manage the service.
It is encouraging drivers to take alternative routes such as the M6 and M42 to ease congestion.
It said the dynamic hard shoulder sections on either side of the M42 and on the M6 are currently being opened much earlier than usual and left on later to see if this helps traffic.