cumberland gapM6 Extension Carlisle to Grenta

For the first time in 35 years the M6 has been extended. In May 1972 the last piece of the M6 was added near Birmingham, however it was envisaged that one day the M6 would be taken further north into Scotland to as far north as Abingdon, then divide into 2 new motorways, the M74 going north west to Glasgow whilst the M7 would go north east to Edinburgh, anyway that was the theory.

 

 

cumberland gapThe Creating of the Cumberland Gap

What actually happened? Even before the M6 had reached Carlisle part of the M74 had been opened, in 1966 the section from Bothwell to Hamilton was opened, while in 1968 this motorway was extended north towards Glasgow. During the 1960's the A74 had been dueled from leaving the A7 just north of Carlisle to where it joined the new M74 at Bothwell, however this was becoming an increasingly busy road, with traffic and particularly heavy lorries at times being more than a 2 lane dual carriageway should cope with. In the 1980's it was decided to implement part of the original plan to build a motorway from Carlisle to Glasgow, starting in 1986 and running through to the last section opening in 1999 the A74 was gradually replaced with a motorway from the Scottish Border at Gretna through to link up with the original M74 just south of Glasgow. This motorway was numbered the M74 north of Abingdon, however south of Abingdon it was given the number A74(M) (confused, so am I!). This now left about 6 miles of A74 between junction 44 at the northern end of the M6 and the scottish border with some vague plans to close what became known as the Cumberland Gap at some stage in the future.

 

Emergancy Vehicles at site of Accident. Photo cortesy of the BBCWednesday 22nd December 2004

On this day gales blew across north cumbria, an HGV traveling south along the A74 just north of Carlisle overturned in the high winds, two other HGV's then crashed into this overturned lorries, forcing the police to close the A74, however things where made worse by the geography of the area, with no junction to bring traffic off that had backed up behind the accident some vehicles where trapped on the A74 for about 36 hours. The accident and the aftermath made national headlines, reopening the debate for the Cumberland Gap to the closed.

 

 

cumberland gapWork Starts on the Upgrading

Things moved on very quickly with an inquiry and then the go ahead to upgrade the A74 to become part of the M6 with work starting on the upgrade in 2006 with the work projected to finish in 2008. One question remains, what will happen to the A74(M) once the gap is closed will it as originally planned be renumbered M6? The authorities are keeping tight lipped about this at the moment.

 

M6 Northern EndOpening of the Extension

The road opened on 5 December 2008, the 50th anniversary of the M6 Preston Bypass. Giving Continues Motorway from the South Coast of England to Central Scotland. This extension is currently Englands newest Motorway.