Highways England has put back the start of two major smart motorway schemes around Manchester.
The agency claims the decision to delay smart motorway starts by at least 12 months is needed to reduce congestion caused by roadworks in the region.
Galliford Try’s £90m M56 job near Manchester Airport and Costain’s £150m M6 contract between Warrington and Wigan had been due to start this spring.
Its decision to delay starts will hit project teams who were being assembled for the major projects.
Under the new timetable, the project to upgrade a four-mile-stretch of the M56 near Manchester Airport will now start by spring 2020 after the M62 scheme has been completed.
Work will begin as planned this autumn to upgrade another stretch of the M62 between Rochdale and Brighouse in West Yorkshire.
Other major motorway projects, including the scheme on the M6 between Warrington and Wigan, will be staggered to start between 2020 and 2025.
Highways England has also set out plans to improve how smart motorway projects are carried out on the North West’s motorways in the future.
They include changes to the layout of roadworks to reduce the need for overnight diversions and finish schemes sooner.
Contraflow roadworks layouts, where one lane is moved onto the opposite carriageway with a temporary barrier between traffic, will also be introduced where possible to cut the duration of schemes.
The change to the road layout will allow bigger construction areas to be created at the side of motorways so that more work can be carried out in one shift. Traffic will also be able to continue to travel in both directions on the motorway when one carriageway is closed for major construction work overnight, reducing the need for diversions.
Temporary speed limits will also be increased to 60mph when it is safe for drivers and road workers, and three lanes will be maintained in each direction during the day throughout upgrades.
Mike Bull, Highways England’s smart motorways programme manager for the North West, said: “We’ve listened to what people have been telling us about roadworks and have decided to reschedule two major schemes, benefitting drivers who use our roads to get to work and businesses who deliver goods across the region. We’re committed to the upgrades; we are simply changing the timetable for projects on the M56 and M6.
“We’re also reviewing how we carry out major upgrades so that we can minimise disruption as much as possible and maintain connections for drivers using the road network.”