MOTORISTS could be facing three years of delays after work started this week on a £208 million project to turn parts of the M60 and M62 into a 'smart motorway' by 2017.

The aim of the project on a 17-mile stretch of the network between junction 8 at Sale and taking in junctions, which feed both Old Trafford and the Trafford Centre, up to junction 20 at Rochdale.

The Highways Agency says that when the works are fully complete in the autumn of 2017, it will help cut journey times and ease congestion.

The work will include the latest technology and involve the installation of more than 200 electronic signs to monitor traffic levels, provide traffic information to road users, and ease congestion by using variable speed limits on overhead message signs and bringing the hard shoulder into use during peak times.

The hard shoulder being earmarked for development is a five-mile stretch of the M62 between junctions 18 and 20.

Stephen Greenhalgh, project manager at the Highways Agency, said: "All of the lanes on the motorway will remain open during the day throughout the roadworks but some overnight closures will be required later in the project.

“We will do everything we can to keep disruption to a minimum but motorists are still well advised to leave enough time for their journeys, especially during the busy morning and evening peak periods, and to drive safely through the roadworks."

Once completed, in autumn 2017, the new electronic signs on the M60 and M62 will warn drivers of changes in the mandatory speed limit, lane closures, and incidents ahead.

New CCTV cameras will also be used to monitor traffic levels from the Highways Agency’s regional control centre at Newton-le-Willows in Merseyside.

Mr Greenhalgh added: “It is great news that we are starting work on these vital improvements.

“Once completed, the smart motorway will tackle the congestion and unpredictable journey times that users of the M60 and M62 experience every day.”

The project is being carried out by Balfour Beatty in partnership with Costain, Carillion and a BAM Morgan Sindall Joint Venture.