Fears as lights go out on M6 Hanchurch stretch
HUNDREDS of streetlights are to be switched off on the M6 through North Staffordshire – to reduce pollution.
A three-mile section just north of junction 15 at Hanchurch will be plunged into darkness from Wednesday.
The Highways Agency is permanently switching off the lights to reduce carbon emissions and light pollution.
But the move has been criticised by safety campaigners and motorists' groups who fear the decision will have devastating consequences.
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Figures show 231 accidents were recorded on the eight-mile stretch between junctions 15 and 16 from 2006 to 2011.
Ninety-six accidents happened in daylight on the three-mile stretch north of Hanchurch. Twelve happened at night when the streetlights were switched on.
A further 43 accidents happened at night on the stretch with no streetlights.
It is estimated that around 160,000 motorists travel on that stretch of the M6 every day.
Haulier Barry Proctor, who runs Talke firm Barry Proctor Services, pictured below, said: "If there's one stretch of motorway the Highways Agency should leave alone, it's this one.
"It's really bad, especially towards Keele Services. It will definitely put lives at risk.
"I think the main reason is to save money. I don't think it's anything to do with the environment.
"But you can't justify that against the cost of losing just one life."
Paul Biggs, county co-ordinator for the Association of British Drivers, said:
"The Government imposes all sorts of road safety legislation such as fines and speed cameras to curb the number of accidents. And then the Highways Agency removes a vital safety resource like streetlighting. It's ridiculous."
Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, said: "We would prefer the Highways Agency to keep the provision.
"The jury is out until we see the next lot of accident statistics."
Figures also show there were 356 accidents between junction 16 and junction 17 at Sandbach over the same period.
Streetlights are already switched off permanently on six other stretches of motorway, including part of the M1.
Highways Agency official Tim Harbot said: "Evidence so far indicates that switching off lights hasn't had an impact on safety.
"On this stretch of the M6, we expect to reduce annual carbon emissions by about 148 tonnes.
"We will also use the money we save where it would have a more significant safety benefit."