M1 Pacific Motorway
The M1 Pacific Motorway is one of the busiest roads in New South Wales (NSW), linking Sydney to the Central Coast, Newcastle and the Hunter regions. It carries more than 75,000 cars and 7,000 heavy vehicles between Sydney and the Central Coast every day. Delays for motorists are unavoidable if a major incident occurs on the M1, so it's important to know what to do if there is a major incident.
Traffic will be diverted around an incident site and then back on to the original carriageway. This may involve northbound and southbound traffic travelling in opposite directions on the same side of the road.
A contra flow can be up to 10 kilometres in length. For a contra flow to occur Roads and Maritime Services and emergency services must:
- Merge the affected carriageway from three lanes to two – before the crossover point approaching the incident site.
- Merge the opposing carriageway from three lanes to one (where possible).
- Lay traffic cones and other traffic control devices for the length of the contra flow in order to keep the two directions separate.
The contra flow can only be activated once all traffic control devices are in place.
A reduced speed limit must be used in both directions for the safety of drivers and emergency service workers. There will be extensive delays because of the reduced number of traffic lanes and the reduced speed limit. Roads and Maritime Services will do its best to minimise these and any inconvenience to motorists.
When contra flow won’t be used
There are instances where a contra flow would not be an acceptable option for managing traffic around an incident. These include incidents that:
- Do not close the entire carriageway.
- Are unlikely to close the carriageway for more than two hours, such as crashes with no or only minor injuries for those involved.
- Occur during a period of low traffic volumes (late at night). Motorists will be detoured.
- Occur in the opposite direction to the peak flow of traffic. This is because a contra flow reduces the number of lanes for that side of the M1, which would cause even more delays for heavy traffic travelling in the opposite direction.
There are 28 crossover points along the motorway and more are being built. The crossover points are used as part of the contra flow traffic management plan.
All crossover points are numbered and marked with a sign. If you breakdown near a crossover point you can use the number on the sign to advise emergency services.
Detour routes have been signposted along the M1 as part of the plan to manage major incidents and are used if a major incident will cause extensive delays.
The M1 does not have to be completely closed for the detour routes to be activated. If a major incident happens, large yellow and black signs near exit ramps will be uncovered, showing you which exit you need to take and which signs you should follow.
During peak periods motorists who have been diverted onto the detour routes should still expect delays as these roads have a much lower capacity than the M1.
Traffic incident response
A number of field resources are used on the road, ready to provide support as incidents occur. They protect an incident scene until police and/or other necessary emergency services arrive, minimise risk to others, manage traffic and provide assistance to other agencies requiring access to the site.
Their primary role is to manage traffic around incidents, return roads to normal operating conditions and assist in clearing incidents and repairing roads.
Traffic Emergency Patrols (TEP Crews)
There are fully equipped, road based crews in key locations across Sydney and a dedicated team in the Hunter region. They provide support to emergency services and motorists, help maintain traffic flow by setting up traffic controls and assist in clearing incidents and repairing roads.