BARROW and Furness MP John Woodcock has called for explanations as to why the number of serious accidents and lengthy road closures on the M6 has risen in the past three years.

Figures obtained by Mr Woodcock through a parliamentary question show that the number of accidents which led to a closure of the motorway in Cumbria and Lancashire rose from 14 in 2010 to 25 in 2013.

The total time that the M6 was closed in at least one direction rose by more than 550 per cent from 24 hours in 2010 to over 133 hours in 2013, said Mr Woodcock.

The figures also showed that the average time taken by Highways Agency and the police to re-open the motorway after an accident rose from 103 minutes in 2010 to 321 minutes in 2013.

Mr Woodcock said: “The M6 is central to the region’s transport network, so safety on the road and reliability for its users is absolutely essential – these worrying figures show big steps backwards in both those respects.

"Ministers made a lot of noise about getting motorways re-opened more quickly after accidents, yet in the north west at least, it seems to be taking longer and longer, increasing delays and damaging the local economy.

“The lack of reliability on the M6 will also be having an impact on our local emergency services and needs to be considered when proposals are made to centralise services – last year vascular services were moved from Lancaster to Preston, relying on the motorway being open to transport very ill patients from south Cumbria.”

John Woodcock has written to the secretary of state for transport to ask for explanations for the change in the figures and for an action plan to reverse the trend.

He has also written to Richard Rhodes, the Police and Crime commissioner for Cumbria, to seek details of how local police are working with the Highways Agency to reduce motorway closure times.

The information above is broken down on a year-by-year basis as follows:

2009: 18 road traffic collisions, total impact duration 44 hours 50 minutes

2010: 14 road traffic collisions, total impact duration 24 hours 9 minutes

2011: 17 road traffic collisions, total impact duration 69 hours 27 minutes

2012: 16 road traffic collisions, total impact duration 72 hours 8 minutes

2013: 25 road traffic collisions, total impact duration 133 hours 36 minutes.