There's light at the end of the tunnel


Having faced six and a half months of long delays, motorists will be delighted to hear that roadworks on the A538 will come to an end this week.

Work commenced at the runway tunnels in early May to enable energy efficient, low maintenance and controllable lighting to be installed in the four tunnels and the walls to be repainted.

In order to carry out these works the tunnels needed to be closed and the road was reduced to a single lane in each direction so traffic will share the same tunnels.

A spokesperson from Manchester Airport said "There will be a short closure between 22:00 hrs on 15th November and 05:00 hrs on 16th November for northbound traffic (it will be a lot shorter than this).

"The southbound tunnels will open overnight 15th/16th November and from 05:00 hrs on 16th November traffic will be back in the correct tunnels and all four road tunnels will be in use."

He added "Between 16th and 19th November a lane in each direction will be closed to allow 'reinstatement' works (pedestrian barriers to be replaced, bus stops returned etc) and the replacement of some fire doors in the tunnels.

"On Monday 20th November all lanes will be open and the road will have been reinstated to the same layout as before works commenced."

The work was initially scheduled to be completed in September but delayed as a result of a van fire on February 28th, which meant that soot that was lining the tunnels had to be cleaned from the walls before paint could be applied.

A spokesperson for Manchester Airport said "Although the damage to the concrete was superficial (matching the assessment made in February) the damage caused by smoke/soot throughout the fabric of the tunnel was extensive. Before the 'bore' could be treated with a new surface treatment this 'soot' had to be cleared. The machinery first deployed was ineffective and failed to remove the 'soot'. It took time to source specialist advice and locate alternative equipment and then longer than had been planned to remove the soot."

Work on the A538 junction improvement scheme to provide additional capacity on the road and improve access to Sunbank Lane is anticipated to continue until December or January.

Wendy Sinfield, of Manchester Airport Group, confirmed at the Wilmslow Town Council meeting on Monday, 16th October, that traffic disruption along the stretch of road adjacent the Amazon and DHL warehouses will continue until the lights come down in the early part of next year.

She explained "The junction near Amazon was always planned to happen but when the site was built we didn't anticipate Amazon and all those people coming so quickly. So unfortunately what that meant was that the junction and the widening of that junction had to happen more quickly than anticipated so we anticipate the junction being finished in January, or it could be December but that sort of time it will be finished."

On completion, the road will be widened to a dual-carriageway and the existing Sunbank Lane junction upgraded to signal control to access the Runway Visitor Park and the World Logistics Hub.

A538, Runway Tunnels


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

John Clegg
Wednesday 15th November 2017 at 4:26 pm
"...anticipated to continue until December or January."

So January, then.
Howard Piltz
Wednesday 15th November 2017 at 4:54 pm
Tunnel works are having a beneficial effect on traffic, one lane each way lets traffic flow seamlessly. The problem is with the Amazon/DHL work further up. When two lanes are open each way the faster, selfish motorists charge to the other end, cut in and start bunching that eventually starts the queues. For me keep the tunnels to one lane each way please.
James Lamplugh
Wednesday 15th November 2017 at 5:09 pm
2 lanes for a reason Howard, blame the Highway Code if you like but not the drivers who are abiding by it!
Drew Donaldson
Wednesday 15th November 2017 at 5:25 pm
Howard I agree with your observations. That is the nub of the problem, speeding motorists, ie those exceeding the 50mph limit (when there are no temporary speed restrictions), overtaking law abiding motorists and then cutting in. James the Highway Code is more than dual carriageways, exceeding the speed limit is an offence but sadly too often ignored by drivers and rarely enforced by the authorities.
Mark Russell
Wednesday 15th November 2017 at 5:41 pm
Great, so I might get to the roadworks at Amazon a couple of minutes quicker. This country’s planning is an utter shambles with not an ounce of thought for us very high tax paying motorists
Peter Evans
Wednesday 15th November 2017 at 5:46 pm
John Clegg- January? I'll raise you Feb or March if the delays to the promised layouts last week / this week / if ever is an indication.
And I'm with James - 2 lanes for a reason, and the drivers are very rarely speeding or reckless - there usually too much traffic for that. Sensible considerate merging would help - if you want to queue in the inside lane then fine, but don't whine about it, drive in the other (legitimate) lane
Richard Minton
Wednesday 15th November 2017 at 8:55 pm
Single lanes in the tunnels has no significant effect on traffic throughput.Its the disaster that’s been built on the farm land ie DHL and Amazon creating crossing traffic , which needs a bridge or a tunnel to fix the issue it has created.IMHO
Alan Brough
Wednesday 15th November 2017 at 10:09 pm
@James Lamplugh,

I suggest that YOU look at the Highway Code again.


163 which states - Stay in your lane if traffic is moving slowly in queues.
167 which states - DO NOT overtake where you might come into conflict with other road users. For example where traffic is queuing at junctions or road works.

No need to thank me.
Oliver Romain
Thursday 16th November 2017 at 7:04 am
It may annoy but drivers who zip are correct.

Have a look at this.

Zip-merging: why drivers who merge at the last minute are right | RAC Drive

What is needed is some signs and driver education to inform drivers of zippping. This does not excuse drivers from attacking the zip at dangerous or intimidating speeds.
Stephen Hunter
Thursday 16th November 2017 at 9:21 am
Just to put these delays into some perspective, the impressive 30 storey Changsha Hotel in China was constructed in just 15 days. In the UK we get a coat of paint in a tunnel and some new light bulbs for 6 month of delays and poor planning.
Alan Brough
Thursday 16th November 2017 at 10:15 am
@Oliver Romain,

I think that zip rules apply when (like a zip) drivers are converging on the same point, at the same time and they (like a zip) merge in turn.

The Airport tunnel scenario is generally different in so far as cars will pull out, overtake a half mile of standing traffic to "merge" at the front.

Quite apart from the rules offered in The Highway Code (above) - general rules of common courtesy should apply.
Vince Chadwick
Thursday 16th November 2017 at 10:26 am
Alan, the only reason cars 'pull out and overtake half a mile of standing traffic to merge at the front' is that zip merging is not being applied by those in the LH lane. If it was, both lanes would be full, and both would move at the same speed as vehicles merge in turn at the point where two lanes become one, as Oliver describes in his post.

The rules of common courtesy are usually flouted by the LH lane queuers in my experience, who will sometimes position their vehicles in an attempt to physically prevent the movement of vehicles in the RH lane. Not only an offence (deliberate obstruction), and not courteous, but also potentially dangerous driving.
Richard Bullock
Thursday 16th November 2017 at 10:32 am
If you want to start quoting bits of the highway code then how about rule 134;

"Merging in turn is recommended but only if safe and appropriate when vehicles are travelling at a very low speed, e.g. when approaching road works or a road traffic incident."

Merging in turn is the official UK term for zip-merging.
Alan Brough
Thursday 16th November 2017 at 1:06 pm
Hi Vince,

I do see where you are coming from and I agree that zip merging / merge in turn is the correct course of action as two lanes of moving traffic converge to form a single lane.

However, where there is a long queue, I (and the Highway Code) suggest that it is wrong to pull out and overtake in order to "jump the queue."

I accept that it is equally wrong for a driver in the LH lane to pull out in order to block the progress of the queue jumper....though I do smile to myself when I see this happen (am I a bad person?)

I like the current situation with each tunnel bore down to a single lane - as others have correctly said, it's not the work in the tunnels that's causing the delay it's the Airport City development and the appallingly bad planning of same. The tunnel work has (IMHO)served to marshal the traffic through in the correct order and at appropriate speed.
Pete Taylor
Thursday 16th November 2017 at 2:04 pm
How about some signs saying USE BOTH LANES at the entrance of the tunnels and then MERGE IN TURN at the end?
Mark Russell
Thursday 16th November 2017 at 6:58 pm
Not sure why the cones have been moved. All It’s it’s done has taken the contra flow out, ques are still all the way back to wilmslow. Is anybody doing anything about all this?
Oliver Romain
Thursday 16th November 2017 at 7:08 pm
@Pete that would be perfect. The worst danger here is road rage plus fumes from staying in the tunnel too long. Simple signage would work very well and perhaps longer merge in turn markings.
It’s not a post office queue, it’s a dual carriage way. I have changed my mind on this following research. I used to belong to the angry camp. That said, I don’t bother changing lanes or consider my self cheater if i end up in the left hand lane.
If we all planned ahead and set off in plenty of time to obey the speed limit and rules of the road less people would die and be injured.
Dave Cash
Friday 17th November 2017 at 1:06 am
Oliver, you are supposed to be in LH lane of any road unless overtaking the vehicle in front.