There is currently 69 Motorways on the Uk mainland, covering well over 1000 miles. For a road to be a motorway it must have an 'M' number either as its first digit such as M1, M6 or M50 or where it is an upgrade of an A road in brackets at the end of the number such as A1(M), A66(M) or A601(M).
For a road to be classified as motorway a number of conditions must be fulfilled. The following conditions generally apply:
Accessed at junctions by slip roads off the sides of the main carriageway;
Joined by link-roads at an interchange, the object of which is to allow traffic to change route without stopping or slowing significantly;
Traffic lights are not permitted (except at toll booths and certain interchanges)
Have signposted entry and exit points at the start and end;
Certain types of transport are banned, typically pedestrians, bicycles, learner drivers, horses, agricultural vehicles, underpowered vehicles (e.g. small scooters, invalid carriages).
The central reservation remains unbroken (2 exceptions being the Aston Expressway in Birmingham, and part of the A601(M) near Carnforth Lancashire)
Emergency telephones (which connect directly to the police) are provided at a regular intervals
No roundabouts apart from at the start and finish and some motorway interchanges
Hard shoulder available most of the time
Other roads are connected at motorway interchanges only. No roads join at any other point except for maintenance access.
Most junctions are numbered
What is Britains oldest motorway? The M1? The M4? Actually it is a 9 mile stretch of the M6, between junctions 29 and 32 and including a tiny bit of the M55, this was the Preston Bypass a two lane road similar to the motorway pictured left. This first section was opened on 5th December 1958. This little section expanded over the next 13 years to become Britain's longest Motorways and one of the busiest. In time most motorways where built 3 lane with the Preston bypass being converted to 3 lanes in the mid 1960's and 4 lanes in the late 1990's
M6 Route - Start of Britains Motorways
After World War 2 Traffic started to increase on Britain's Trunk road network on some day to almost saturation level. The government felt they had to either radically improve or replace the network. In 1937 Lancashire County Council had recommended to the Minister of Transport that the North-South Route through Lancashire should be replaced an entirely new road restricted to the use of motor traffic only, it was not until 1949 that the Special Roads Act made available the legal powers necessary for the construction of a motorway. In May, 1953, the Minister of Transport intimated his intention to make a Scheme under the Act for the Preston By-pass, i.e., the part of the North-South Motorway from Bamber Bridge to Broughton and in December of that year the Minister outlined in Parliament his expanded road program which provided for the Preston Bypass to be commenced in 1956-57. This small start was going to become Britain's longest Motorway. What route would this goliath of motorways take?
The Route of the M6
The M6 replaces the A6 right? Only partly, at least for its northern 90 miles. Starting at just north of Carlisle the route follows much as would have been expected to replace the A6. Bypassing the City to the east the M6 then crosses the A6 for the first time, both roads running roughly parallel with each other, the A6 passing through Penrith, the M6 bypassing the town to the west. Both roads then start there climb into the fells, the A6 looping west of the M6 near Lowther then crossing to the east of the motorway, before passing under the motorway near the end of the old Penrith bypass, both roads then staying parallel with each other, the A6 passing through Shap Village. Just north of Shap Village the roads start to separate, the A6 climbing to Shap Summit before dropping taking a slightly westerly course to Kendal. To avoid high ground the M6 takes ann easterly course following the railway line through the Lune Gorge then turning west, thus passing about 8 miles to the east of Kendal. Both roads meet at Carnforth then continue roughly parallel the A6 going through Lancaster, Garstang and Preston, the M6 keeping slightly to the east to bypass the urban areas, both meeting at the junction at the end of the old Preston Bypass.
From the end of the Preston Bypass the A6 continues a easterly course through Manchester, Derby and Leicester. The motorway planners decided to take the M6 further west to avoid the pennine's and to serve the city of Birmingham. Thus after leaving Preston the M6 passes Wigan to the west, Warrington to the east, then crossing the Thelwall Viaduct, it passes Stoke on Trent/Newcastle under Lyme and Stafford to the west, before making tits way to Birmingham , where it turns easterly passing through the famous spaghetti junction just north of Birmingham City Centre before passing Coventry and Rugby to the north. It ends just north east of Rugby with a junction with the M1 and A14
In this section we look at the history of the M6 along with other roads that effectively replaced the A6 including the M61, M60, M40, parts of the M1 and A50 and how these roads have become to be used in preference to the older A6. This over the years has lead to many parts on the A6 become a non primary local route rather than one of the countries main Trunk Roads.
Even before the motorways came travellers rarely used all of the A6. The A6 was one of the most urban roads on the trunk road network, it also climbed over shap fells and the pennines around Buxton. In preverance to using the A6 northern drivers heading for London often headed for either the A1 or the A5 we also track these routes in this section