A LORRY fire caused chaos across Lancashire's motorways during rush hour this morning.

An articulated trailer set alight around 3.20am on the hard shoulder of the M6 underneath the Higher Walton Bridge between junctions 30 and 31.

Approximately 15 firefighters spent several hours tackling the fire and police had to close all four lanes northbound.

Sergeant Sean Cunningham, from the motorway policing unit, said the likely cause was an overheated wheel bearing or drum, which set fire to the curtain-sided trailer and mixed load of industrial goods and pallets inside.

He said: “Because of where the vehicle ended up, there was a question mark over the structural integrity of the bridge.

“That location is where two lanes of the M61 join four lanes of the M6 and it is a bit of a bottleneck anyway.

“100m further up and the impact on the roads may not have been as severe. The pleasing thing is there were no casualties.”

Work to transfer the load and shovel debris by hand into skips to clear the carriageway took several hours.

Highways engineers were also on the scene until mid-morning.

That had knock-on effects on the M61, with the northbound carriageway closed at junction nine and motorists diverted off on to the M65.

Queues went back to past junction eight at Chorley.

The M65 westbound traffic was also prevented from joining the M6 causing delays between junction three at Riley Green and junction one at Lostock Hall.

The motorway gridlock caused many major routes around Lancashire to grind to a halt with people looking for alternative ways of getting to work.

Two foam hose reel jets were used to control the flames and the urban search and rescue team used a forklift type piece of machinery to move the load.

Progress was delayed because of initial fears that the burning load could be hazardous.

The driver had stayed with his vehicle, but later left the scene.

Lanes three and four of the northbound M6 were re-opened at 7.30am and the M61 at Junction 9 is now open, but with only one lane running on to the M6.