Motorway closed as police declare ‘major incident’ and check lorries

Motorists are stuck between junction 15 and 16 near Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, and many are thought to be heading to Manchester City’s Caraboa Cup semi-final against Burton Albion

A “major incident” has tonight shut the M6 near Stoke-on-Trent.

Hundreds of motorists are trapped in the closure, said to have happened as police “check lorries”.

Police, believed to be looking for migrants, shut the motorway – one of the UK’s busiest – between junction 15 and junction 16.

It shut the southbound and northbound carriageways for three hours, but the southbound side reopened at around 7.30pm.

Football fans travelling to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium to watch their Carabao Cup semi-final against Burton Albion were caught in the queues – meaning some arrived late to the match.

Motorists have reported on Twitter they’ve seen officers, from 22 police cars, remove migrants from the HGVs but this is unconfirmed.

A Staffordshire Police spokeswoman said: “Both northbound and southbound carriageways of the M6 between J15 and J16 are completely closed due to an ongoing police incident. Please avoid the area.

Cops later added: “Officers stopped a vehicle on the M6 bet (between) J 15 and J16 this evening and a number of people exited the back of the vehicle. A man has been arrested at the scene and is currently in police custody.

“Colleagues from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and West Midlands Ambulance Service are also in attendance.

“Police and partners are assessing the welfare of the people who exited the vehicle and we will be liaising with our colleagues in Immigration Enforcement.”

Police told the BBC they are “investigating after a call about concerns for the welfare of people travelling on the motorway.”

Martin Kavanagh was on his way home from Coventry when he got caught in the tailback.

He told Sky News: “It looks to me like east African refugees, one lying on the hard shoulder, several have been taken into ambulances, there was one at large on the far side of the opposite southbound carriageway and police apprehended that individual and brought him back over.

“There are multiple lorries involved. There are lots of police and paramedics here and they’ve done a super job, but we have not been given any communication from the police.”

A Central Motorway Police Group spokeswoman said: “Ongoing major incident on the M6 near Stoke-on-Trent.”

Football fans stuck in the queue have tweeted of their woe.

Some have even pleaded for the match to be postponed.

“Apparently it’s a lorry load of illegal migrants that has closed the M6 around Stoke. I think if they’ve got this far they should be allowed to stay, it must be some life they’re escaping from,” one Twitter user wrote.

Queues are also developing on nearby major roads, including the A500.

Motorists have reported seeing at least six police vehicles and a police helicopter.

Highways England is currently reporting delays of two hours.

One witness, Robson, said: “Everyone has turned their engines off. ”

“A couple of people have got out of vehicles just looking ahead and talking to each other,” he told Daily Star Online.

Junction 15 of the M6 is for Stoke-on-Trent, and areas south of the city.

The next junction north – junction 16 – is for the Tunstall area and Nantwich.