EXTRA lanes of the M6 will open from today, Friday, as part of a major upgrade to the motorway.

A fourth lane has now opened on the northbound carriageway of the M6 between junction 19 at Knutsford and junction 18 at Holmes Chapel.

The fourth lane on the southbound route in the same area is also due to open overnight tonight.

A 60mph speed limit will remain in place in both directions of the upgraded eight-mile stretch for the next few weeks while contractors test new technology included in the ‘major upgrade project’.

But it is planned that the route will be fully-operational as a ‘smart motorway’ by early February.

Works have also seen the installation of new overhead electronic signs displaying live information – including incidents, lane closures and variable speed limits.

Around 120,000 drivers use this stretch of the M6 in both directions every day, with roadworks increasing the motorway’s capacity by a third.

The overall 18-mile upgrade between Knutsford and Crewe is now nearing completion – earmarked to be finished by the end of March.

Highways England project manager Arun Sahni said: “We’re on schedule to complete the upgrade of the M6 through Cheshire by the end of March, and we’ve now reached the stage where we can open extra lanes on almost half of the scheme.

“The additional lanes we’re introducing will significantly increase the motorway’s capacity, and will improve journeys on the key route between the West Midlands and north west.

“We’re continuing to do everything we can to minimise disruption while the work takes place, and would like to thank drivers for bearing with us during the final few weeks of the project.”