All lanes are now open on the M56 after more than three years of work to turn it into a smart motorway outside Altrincham.

The work, worth more than £80m, started in 2020 and aimed to improve the area between the exits for Bowdon and Hale for the tens of thousands of drivers who use it every day.

On Monday, National Highways announced all lanes are now open on the M56, although a maximum speed limit of 60mph is still in place to allow for the calibration of the smart motorway.

This includes the technology to alert the control centre to breakdowns in live lanes.

National Highways said the maximum speed limit will be restored this spring and the road will be resurfaced this summer. It means there are more closures to come, although these are to be overnight only, according to the agency.

At the start of 2022, the transformation of any motorway into a smart motorway was paused by the government to allow for several years of data to be collected.

It came after concerns arose from several, serious incidents where drivers were hit from behind due to the lack of a hard shoulder, which is the case on the M56.

The transformation of this motorway into a smart motorway continued as it was more than half complete at the time and to leave traffic management in place for several years was not sustainable.

National Highways reassured drivers there are multiple locations to stop in emergencies with someone travelling at 60mph reaching one of them every 74 seconds.

For information on the M56, go to For information on smart motorways, go to

This article was written by Jack Tooth. To contact him, email or follow @JTRTooth on Twitter.