THE Highways Agency is advising motorists of a series of planned overnight closures on the M6 in Birmingham, as part of the M6 J5 to J8 smart motorway scheme, so overhead gantry equipment can be installed and a new road surface laid.

The closures between junctions 5 and 8 will take place from next Tuesday until Friday, February 28.

The scheme represents the third phase of improvements planned to the Birmingham motorway network, known as the “Birmingham Box”. It links to the already completed smart motorway schemes between junctions 4 and 5 and junctions 8 to 10a.

The closures have been planned to be completed over a seven-week period and will occur on both the northbound and southbound carriageways but, where possible, that will be limited to one direction at a time.

Complete closures in both directions will occasionally be required but have been programmed to take place at weekends, when traffic levels are lighter and there is likely to be less impact on road users.

Closures on Friday and Saturday nights will start at 10pm, if traffic flows are low enough, through to 8am the following day. Closures from Monday to Thursday nights will be implemented from 10pm, if traffic flows are low enough, through to 5.30am the following day.

The third lane of the M6 southbound at junction 8, the junction with the M5, was reopened to traffic before Christmas to ease flows over the busy period, although a 50mph limit remains in place.

Construction work on the junction 5 to 8 project is almost complete, with the last of the gantries which hold the electronic signs being installed before Christmas.

Cabling work on the signs will be carried out to connect them to the network, with testing work on signs between junctions 6 to 8 being carried out in January and February, with the signs going "live" by March.

Tests on the signs between junctions 5 and 6 will take place in March, going live around one month later. The whole project should be completed by Easter weekend, weather permitting.

Rob Edwards, project manager for the scheme, said: “Using overnight closures minimises disruption to the public while, at the same time, giving us full access to the motorway. It means we can carry out the work as quickly and efficiently as possible, while resurfacing the road at the same time.

“The scheme is currently on track to open fully by Easter but we’re in the hands of the weather. Should we have a spell of particularly cold wintry weather, the completion date could move back.

“Although the closures will be in place overnight when there is less traffic on the M6, we do advise road users to allow more time for their journeys and to follow the clearly signed diversion routes.”

All closures are subject to cancellation at short notice due to inclement weather or for other operational reasons.

Once completed, the £126.4 million smart scheme is intended to cut congestion, make journey times more reliable and improve safety through the use of variable mandatory speed limits and by opening the hard shoulder as an extra running lane.