Five people were injured in a two car smash on the M6 northbound near Burton services.
Firefighters rescued two women, who were trapped in a Suzuki Baleno, by removing the doors and roof from the vehicle.
Police said five people were treated at the scene by paramedics, fire and police before being taken to hospital, some with serious injuries.
The motorway was closed for six hours until the hard shoulder could be re-opened releasing vehicles caught in the tail back.
One woman who was caught up in the tailbacks said they were stuck for nearly seven hours. She said: “The earlier diversion off at Carnforth resulted in a lorry getting stuck under a bridge on the A6 and causing gridlock there too. Not a great journey home, but obviously better than for some.”
A spokesman for Highways England said: “We had reports just after 8pm of an accident on the M6 northbound between J35 and J36. There was damage to the central reservation and two cars were involved. There were serious injuries and there was also an incident on the diversion route.
“The motorway was reopened by 4am.”
A spokesman for North West Ambulance Service said: “Five ambulances were sent to the scene and four people were taken to hospital, three with major trauma and one with injuries to their ankle and wrist.”
Police are appealing for anyone who may have witnessed the collision at 7.15pm on February 23 or can provide information about a Suzuki Baleno or a BMW 520 involved to call 101 .and ask for PC Simon Smith.