The UK Highways Agency has started construction on the M6, between junctions 5 and 8 near Birmingham, in the West Midlands, to increase the capacity of the section, reduce congestion and improve safety.

The agency will upgrade the M6 motorway as a part of the government’s strategic £2.1bn road improvement programme, aimed to boost the economy.

The highways agency will construct a hard shoulder as an extra traffic lane on the stretch, as well as setting different speed limits to allow smoother vehicle movement and reduced travel time.

Highways Agency chief executive Graham Dalton said: "The managed motorway scheme will provide much-needed additional capacity on the M6 for more than 160,000 road users who travel on this section of the motorway every day."

The upgraded scheme will connect two existing stretches of managed motorway on the M6 – junctions 4 and 5 and junctions 8 to 10A – and will also improve the M6 carriageway over the Gravelly Hill ‘Spaghetti Junction’ Interchange.

The construction work will include building emergency refuge areas, installing gantries and electronic signs, as well as sensors in the road to measure traffic flow and installing CCTV cameras.

Highways Agency project manager Rob Edwards said that in order to minimise delays to road users, the agency is carrying out this work in phases, starting with junctions 6 to 8.

"Our plan is to start work on junctions 5 to 6 in January next year," Edwards added.

The construction of the scheme is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2014.

Research has suggested that the construction of the hard shoulder as a part of the managed motorway scheme has reduced the number of accidents by half.