NEW timelapse footage has been released showing a giant gantry being lifted over the M6 as part of a major technology upgrade which is expected to help improve journeys for tens of thousands of drivers every day.

The huge 40-metre-wide structure, spanning the width of the motorway, will hold 10 large electronic signs and is the biggest single structure being installed by Highways England during a £274 million smart motorway project in Cheshire.

When the scheme is complete, a total of 258 electronic signs, 104 traffic sensors and 70 CCTV cameras will help keep traffic moving and provide better information for the 118,000 drivers who travel along the 20-mile route every day.

The upgrade between Crewe and Knutsford also involves converting the hard shoulder to a permanent extra lane to increase capacity by a third.

It is one of four smart motorway schemes due to be completed on the M6 in the next few years to add extra lanes and better technology to 60 miles of the motorway between Coventry and Wigan.

READ > Your questions answered about the M62 roadworks

The new timelapse footage shows the superspan gantry being lifted into place between junctions 18 and 19 during an overnight closure of the motorway in June.

The 20-tonne gantry was constructed off-site and lowered by a crane onto two pillars on either side of the motorway.

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Arun Sahni, Project Manager at Highways England, said: “The timelapse footage provides a glimpse of the technology transformation currently taking place on the M6 to significantly improve journeys on the vital route between the north and south of the country.

“The smart motorway in Cheshire will provide much-needed extra capacity and improve journey times for all road users, reducing congestion and connecting families, friends and businesses more quickly.

“We’re on schedule to complete the upgrade by spring next year, providing quicker and more reliable journeys for the tens of thousands of drivers who travel along the motorway every day.”

Around 500 people are currently working on the project to upgrade the M6 to a smart motorway through Cheshire.

When will the roadworks be completed?

The scheme will be completed in phases starting with the northern section between junctions 18 and 19, with all of the roadworks due to be removed by spring 2019.

When the smart motorway is complete, electronic signs will alert drivers to changes in the speed limit, lane closures and incidents ahead.

New CCTV cameras will also provide 100% coverage of the route and allow Highways England’s traffic officers and the emergency services to respond quickly to incidents.

A total of 18 emergency areas will be created alongside the motorway to provide drivers with a safe place to stop if they break down.

A similar smart motorway scheme on a stretch of the M62 in West Yorkshire has resulted in commuters saving an average 30 minutes each week, despite an increase in the number of vehicles using the route.