Dalton Square part on the original A6The A6 in Lancaster

The A6 has changed its route through Lancaster over the years due to change in traffic systems, house clearances and other factors. Originally the A6 entered Lancaster from the north as it does today along Slyne Road, made its way through Beaumont then into Skerton where to turned left then right into Owen Road then along past the junction with the A589 the main road to Morecambe through to Skerton Bridge. Coming off Skerton Bridge the A6 then turned right along Kingsway being joined by the A683 from Kirkby Lonsdale and into Parliament Street, then turning right again along to Stonewell curving left up by the Town Hall into Thurnham Road the left into South Road where the A588 to Cockerham and Blackpool forked off. The road continued as it does today through Greaves and into Scotforth before leaving Lancaster to the South.

A6 through Lancaster

Map of the Original A6 through Lancaster



Chapel Street in the 1950's and 60's this now quite street was part on an early one way system carring the A6 northboundEarly Changes and the Coming of the M6

One of the earliest changes to the A6 in Lancaster was the straightening out in Skerton by knocking down several houses the A6 could be straightened improving access into the city. By the 1950's the first bit of a one way system had come into being, traffic going north from Stonewell now went along Chapel Street then turned right at a junction with Cable Street before merging with southbound traffic at Parliament Street. By the 1950's there was 6 sets of traffic lights on the A6 in Lancaster at the A589 and A683 junctions either side of Skerton Bridge, at each end of Chapel Street in Dalton Square and at White Cross. However by this time Lancaster's traffic system was reaching saturation point. Relief came in 1960 with the opening of the M6 Lancaster Bypass. The situation had improved so much that the traffic lights at the A683 junction where switched off! to be replaced by a simple T junction. However there was still queues at peak times.


King Street now part of the one way systemBuilding of the One Way System

Today all the main roads though Central Lancaster are one way, however this system was not built all at once but piecemeal as we have already said there was a tiny one way system in place as early as the 1950's however it was the late 1970's when this system started. By then the M6 had extended north to Carlisle, meaning that most people used Junction 34 and the A683 to come into the city from the northFirst One Way system meaning that the A683 was a lot busier but the A6 was quieter. In an effort to improve traffic flow where the two met it was decided to use a little used road, back Caton Road and effectively make a roundabout with the idea that traffic would merge into each other as they joined. So now instead of A6 southbound traffic turning right of Skerton Bridge they turned left, merged with A683 traffic going out of Lancaster then swung right to merge with A683 traffic coming into Lancaster before dividing, City Centre traffic would turn left along the original A6, traffic to Morecambe would turn right to be joined by A6 Northbound Traffic along the original A6 turning left into Skerton Bridge.


The next section to become part of the One Way system was thecity centre one way system

city centre, after leaving the previous system southbound traffic would continue as before on the original A6 however up until White Cross this was now one way. There traffic had a choice of continuing South on the original A6 or turning right continuing through the one way system to be joined by A6 northbound traffic along King Street and China Street into Cable Street to pick up the original 50's system back before joining the early scheme (above).


The final section came about in the late 1970's, by that time a Railway Line that had ran from Wennington where to joined the line to Leeds, through Lancaster crossing under the A6 at Skerton Bridge, before crossing the Lune on its own Greyhound Bridge to Run alongside the A589 to Morecambe. This line was closed as part of the 1960's Beeching Cuts leaving the Greyhound Bridge redundant. It was decided to use this for road traffic and extend the one way system to the north of the River northbound traffic would now use this bridge, either joining from the A6 Northbound from the city centre or the A6 Southbound as it came out of Back Caton Road, crossing A683 traffic and forcing the use of a traffic lights at the junction.


he final section of the one way systemGreyhound Bridge was wide enough for 3 lanes a traffic, another lane then joined after the bridge before dividing the 2 left hand lanes following the old railway line to join the A589 to Morecambe the right hand two going in a semi circle to join the A589 traffic coming from Morecambe before dividing the A6 northbound traffic turning left back into the old A6 through Skerton. City Centre traffic would merge with the A6 southbound traffic before crossing Skerton Bridge now one way and continuing round the one way system.


The One Way System in Action

In this section we will look at how the one way system works in practice. We are going to split this section into 2, first of all looking at the 2 River Crossings and the large roundabout made by using the two bridges. Later we will look at the city centre. Unusually in Lancaster these two road systems have little relation to each other in terms of traffic flow. Someday's queue's can form to get onto the 2 bridges, where as the city centre can flow quite freely. On other days the reverse is true. The bridges can be free flowing, whilst queue's can form in the City Centre.


The River section has 4 points on entry. The busiest being the A683/A589 combination bringing traffic in from Morecambe and Heysham. Most days queue's form from at least the Ovangle Road roundabout near to the Lancaster and Morecambe Boundary. On coming into Lancaster and joining the one way system traffic immediately faces a problem. The vast majority of this traffic crosses Skerton Bridge meaning towards the end of Morecambe road traffic needs to cross from the left lane to the right. Meanwhile traffic coming off Greyhound Bridge going to Carnforth joins from the right, most of this traffic needs to cross over the Morecambe traffic to use the left hand lane to continue onto the A6 as shown right. The Morecambe traffic shown as a blue arrow can be seen crossing the Carnforth Traffic represented by the red arrow. The crossover almost always occurs as the Carnforth traffic come off greyhound bridge. This tend to cause little problems when traffic is light. When busy in most instances drivers let each other in. However when traffic is moving moderately a driver needs to judge the gap carefully. A wrong move has resulted in an accident as shown below:-

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Moving eastward the next junction is the Morecambe Road/Owen Road junction at Skerton shown below. The Morecambe traffic is shown in the blue, after this junction about half the traffic crosses the Carnforth traffic shown in red. To use the left hand lane across Skerton Bridge to go onto the M6. The rest stay in the right hand lane for the city centre. Carnforth traffic predominately cross to the right lane for the city centre. However this junction is safer than the previous junction (above), as there is a set of pedestrian traffic lights on Morecambe Road and a set of traffic on Owen Road for movement of buses means there is some gaps made in the traffic meaning that gaps come regularly in the traffic which helps movement across the lanes.

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Kinsway Junction LancasterThe next junction is across the city side of Skerton Road, (shown right). This is entirely protected by traffic lights. The Carnforth is in Orange, the Morecambe traffic is in Blue. These leave Skerton Bridge and turn left, into Kingsway where the road divides into 4 lanes. 2 on the right going to the city centre, the next on going out to a minor road, the left hand lane going on the A683 to the M6. The traffic that crosses with the black arrow is city centre traffic going to the M6 and A683 out the the small Cumbria town of Kirkby Lonsdale.




A few yard further along Kingsway is the next junction as shown below the junction is safe as it is again protected by traffic lights at either side. However it is here that other problems start. Notice the Morecambe traffic (Blue) and the Carnforth traffic (Red) is joined by traffic from the A683 and M6 (grey). Here in effect 4 lanes of traffic go into 2 causing a bottleneck, note in the movie below how quickly traffic builds up, this simulation is very close to the reality of this junction which can at busy times be the cause of queues as far back as the M6 on the A683, Beaumont on the A6 and almost into Morecambe on the A683. It is likely this part that is responsible for a large part of Lancaster's traffic problems.


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This bottleneck is made worse by two sets of traffic lights at the end of back Caton Road, the first is Parliment Street Junctionto let local traffic out of Bulk Road, the second which works in conjunction with this divides the City Centre traffic from the Morecambe Traffic. The result is an interruption of the traffic flow not too bad during normal running but exasperating the queues at peak times. At the first set of Lights traffic joins from Bulk Road (brown). Most of which either heads straight on for Carnforth or turns right at the next junction for the M6. Traffic from the M6, divides at the second set of lights, some continuing on to Morecambe, the rest turning left for the City Centre. Most of the Carnforth traffic turns left to the City.


Northbound traffic join the system at this junction, some going to the M6, having to stop at the lights, although 2 lanes have been provided traffic often queues can intrude onto the A6. The rest of the traffic goes onto the Greyhound Bridge, Carnforth traffic using the right lane where they have to merge with traffic out of Bulk Road and are crossed by M6 traffic going to Morecambe. Queues are often formed on Greyhound bridge caused by the Morecambe traffic merging from 2 lanes to one as they come out onto Morecambe Road


Improving the River Section of the One Way System

The River section of the one way system seems to have been built piecemeal, contains at least one dangerous crossover and 2 bottle necks that cause queues. A scheme is in the planning stage for a new road connecting Morecambe with junction 34 of the M6, details of which can be found here.

However rather than making a new road, could anything be done to improve the existing system like has been done 20 miles north in Kendal recently? It is noticeable that Kendal has in part reverted to 2 way traffic, could this benefit Lancaster? In Lancaster the River Section of the one way system does 4 jobs. Takes traffic from Morecambe to the M6, Morecambe traffic, Carnforth traffic & M6 traffic to the city centre. Could this be done with as little disruption as possible. The answer is yes. Quite simple by reverting to the original 2 way A6, across Skerton Bridge turning right into Kingsway then into parliament Street. the A683 Morecambe & M6 traffic could the use a 2 lane Greyhound Bridge, crossing the A6 then continuing along a two lane Caton Road as shown below:-

Possible design for river section of A6/A683

The biggest feature with this system, is the design of the junction where the A6 and A683 cross, the ideal would be a flyover/underpass combination with a central roundabout, however this would mean the knocking down of several buildings and a great deal of expence. Traffic Lights could be used but would cause queues, the easiest answer would be a simple roundabout. It is quite possibe that a 2 way system could be interduced thoughout the city centre, with the signs favering the present one way system, ie southbound via Dalton Square and Northbound via King Street. This may cause as much problems as it solves, however it would have the advantage that is one road was blocked by roadworks or an accident, the other road could be used to take the traffic.