M6 Junction 21a

Sign at junction 21a

 

Junction 21a as its number suggests is a latecomer to the M6, it was first opened in 1973 ten years after this stretch of the M6. The original road from Liverpool to Manchester was the A57, but this soon ran into problems as a main trunk road going straight through the towns of Warrington and Irlam. In 1934 a replacement for the A57 was opened the A580 or the East Lancs Road, an early for runner of the motorways. In time this road was dueled however it too became conjested so in the late 1960's plans where drawn up for its replacement. The M62 would not just connect Liverpool and Manchester but would in time run across the Pennines to Leeds and Hull. The junction where the M62 crossed the M6 called the croft interchange became a motorway across a motorway arrangement with interconnecting link roads, the original configuration is shown below:-

 

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In 1974 the M62 was opened through to Manchester resulting in the junction being extended as shown below:-

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Known os the croft interchange this was quite a complex junction with connections between both of the motorways in both directions. However the predominating interchange of traffic at this junction if from the M62 (eastbound) to the M6 Southbound and vice versa. This is one of the main traffic feeds for the M6 southbound brining the traffic from Liverpool the second largest city within 70 miles of the M6. To appreciate the importance of this junction look at some of the key junction feeds further north and the cities and towns that feed them:-

Junction 43 Carlisle (100,000)

Junction 36 Barrow (72,000), Kendal (22,000)

Junction 34 Morecambe (42,000)

Junction 33 Lancaster (50,000)

Junction 32 Blackpool (142,000)

Junction 29 Preston ( 129,000)

Junction 25 Wigan (100,000)

Junction 21a Liverpool (600,000)

In other words it is likely that 4 more times the traffic joins at this junction than any further north, by the mid 1990's the stretch of the M6 from here over the Thelwall Viaduct to junction 20 just south of the viaduct was reaching breaking point. The decision was taken to widen this stretch to 4 lanes meaning a building of a second Thelwall Viaduct, this necessitated slight alterations to junction 21a as shown below:-

 

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This junction today is one of the busiest on the M6, go past this junction before nine oclock on a weekday morning traffic can be queued on the M6 southbound as well as in both directions on the M62.

 

Northbound sign at junction 21a