A huge project to upgrade a very old gas main located beside the A580 East Lancashire Road reaches a key phase this weekend and will cause disruption for motorists.
Since September last year, specialist teams have been replacing a two-mile stretch of leak-prone pipe which is as old as ‘the East Lancs’ itself.
For most of the project, an off-peak-only lane closure – westbound only – is in place from 0930 to 1530, giving the team six hours every day to make progress.
But now they’ve reached a phase which needs different traffic management.
Work must take place on the section which runs directly under the crossing where Newton Road meets the A580 at Lowton.
The team, working on behalf of gas network Cadent, which manages the North West’s gas mains, needs to restrict traffic arrangements at this junction.
The A580 stays OPEN in both directions, but motorists will not be able to turn off it, or onto it, at this junction [this only applies to the junction on the south side].
In consultation with highways officers at Wigan Council, it has been agreed to do this in school holidays. The closure starts 6th April and ends on 14th April.
This is all part of a multi-million-pound upgrade of a main that carries gas to heat thousands of local homes. The metallic main – installed in the 1930s – is being replaced with a tough, durable plastic pipe that will ensure reliable, safe supplies into the next century.
Every year, Cadent invests around £77.5m upgrading around 310 miles of its older gas mains in the North West region.
Craig Horrocks, who heads Cadent’s gas mains replacement programme in the North West, said: “This is a big engineering project, and, to date, we’ve been able to keep the road open by working – in agreement with Wigan Council – only in off-peak hours, Monday to Friday.
“But we now need to work on the pipe that’s directly under the crossing at Newton Road and cannot do that safely without closing this junction. We know this is not ideal, but hope people appreciate it’s been planned in during school holidays, when roads are usually quieter.”
A diversion route will be signposted. Letters have been sent to homes in a two-mile radius and warning signs have advised of the measures for the last week.
Cadent is the UK’s biggest gas network. Across its full UK footprint, it maintains and upgrades a network of more than 80,000 miles of pipes, including around 22,000 miles in the North West. If placed end-to-end, that North West amount would stretch from the East Lancashire Road to Sydney, Australia, and back again.