6,000 chickens who escaped a lorry crash on the M62 near Irlam has topped the Highways England list of ‘strangest spills’ on the country’s motorway network.
The crash in May 2014 closed the M62 between Junctions 11 at Birchwood and 12 for the Eccles interchange for several hours, causing traffic chaos for thousands of early morning rush-hour commuters.
Tragically around 1,500 birds were killed, but hundreds of surviving chickens were herded up an embankment and later rehomed at a nearby pet sanctuary.
Highways England published the list – which ranges from the strange to the dangerous – after drivers faced a slippery situation in early November when a lorry carrying 24 tonnes of lard crashed on the M1 near London.
The authority said the list highlighted the challenges it faces in clearing incidents which can cause hours of disruption to road users.
Some of the oddest items to cause major traffic problems in the past year include 20 tonnes of Marmite, refrigerated liquid oxygen, raw human sewage and 10 tonnes of salmon.
In some cases, thousands of objects had to be picked up by hand after spreading across several lanes of the motorway.
Melanie Clarke, director of customer operations at Highways England, explained: “Our roads are among the safest in the world, and safety is our number one priority.
“We know drivers get frustrated when their journeys are disrupted but we do all we can to clean the road quickly after an incident – and it’s often much more complicated than simply moving the vehicles off the road to reopen it.
“That’s why it can often take longer for us to safely reopen roads when a potentially dangerous substance is spilled in an incident.
“Our teams expect the unexpected, but of course, when you’re dealing with dangerous toxic chemicals, or emulsion paint, the clean-up operation is somewhat complicated.”
While unusual shed loads can cause a huge challenge, even everyday spills can pose complications for Highways England’s clean-up teams.
Diesel, which is often spilled after an HGV incident, creates a chemical reaction with asphalt that causes the road surface to rot.
Teams have to use highly-specialised hydroblasters to completely clean the road. If the road is badly damaged, it may have to be totally relaid so the surface maintains its integrity.
Main image: Highways England