POLICE were called to more than 500 incidents on a troublesome stretch of motorway last year, figures obtained by the Guardian have shown.

Officers attended 548 ‘damage only’ incidents within the smart motorway roadworks between junction 19 at Knutsford and 16 at Crewe in 2016, as well as 85 collisions causing injury, although a police spokesman said some figures – taken from two separate data systems – may overlap.

This surpassed the 2015 total of 511 damage only incidents, while figures up to June 30 of this year show that 234 have been attended.

In total, from the start of 2015 through to the end of last month, police were called out to 1,293 damage only incidents, with 208 recorded injury road traffic collisions attended.

Highways England’s smart motorway project, which will see the hard shoulder converted to a fourth driving lane when traffic builds up, began in December of 2015, ushering in temporary 50mph speed limits.

The work between junctions 19 and 16, encompassing junction 18 for Holmes Chapel and 17 at Sandbach, is set for completion in March 2019 at a cost of between £192 and £274 million.

A Highways England spokesman said: “Safety is our top priority and we are urging drivers to stick to the temporary 50mph speed limit on the M6 in Cheshire for their own and our road workers’ safety.

“Narrow lanes are currently in place while work is carried out to upgrade the M6 to a smart motorway.

“The scheme involves adding an extra lane in each direction to increase capacity and introducing variable speed limits on new overhead electronic signs to keep traffic moving at a steady speed.

“We would like to thank drivers for their patience while the upgrade work takes place.”

Crewe Guardian:

Smart motorway roadworks have required central reservation upgrades, leading to smaller temporary running lanes.

The northbound was the more perilous of the two carriageways, racking up 656 damage only incidents and 129 involving injury, compared to 634 and 79 heading south.

With police being called to an average of 1.2 incidents per day over the past 36 months, problems including town centre and link road traffic, as well as stretched police resources, have reared their heads.

2015 saw fewer damage only incidents than 2016, 511 compared to 548, although eight more incidents in 2015 than 2016 involved injuries.

Figures revealed that, in 2015, 261 damage only road traffic collisions occurred on the northbound carriageway, 249 heading south and one without a recorded direction of travel.

In 2016, there were 279 northbound incidents and 267 southbound, with two marked as unrecorded.

From January through June of 2017, there have been 116 collisions heading north and 118 south.

Separate data showed that 93 injuries occurred from collisions in 2015, with 56 of them on the northbound carriageway and 37 southbound.

In 2016, there were 55 injuries for drivers heading north, compared to 30 travelling south.

Up to June 30 of this year, 18 people have been injured on the northbound stretch and 12 in the opposite direction.