Motorway changed the way we travel

Part of the M6 construction work.

Part of the M6 construction work.

With this week marking the official start of work on constructing the new Heysham-M6 link road, we look back at the beginnings of the M6 in the Lancaster district.

Although the first section of the motorway – which was the first motorway in the country – was the Preston by-pass, which was opened by the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in December 1958, the stretch of road which takes traffic past Lancaster was built as part of the second phase of construction, and was completed in 1960, forming the Lancaster by-pass.

By 1965, the remaining sections of motorway Stafford–Preston and Preston–Lancaster had been completed, and 1968 saw the completion of the Walsall to Stafford link as well as the Penrith by-pass some 150 miles north in Cumberland.

In 1970, the Lancaster–Penrith link was completed, along with a short section of motorway by-passing the south of Walsall.

The most northerly section of the motorway also opened in 1970, running to the designated terminus north of Carlisle.

By 1971, the full route was completed.

The northbound entry slip road at Lancaster (junction 34) is unusually short, presenting problems for traffic joining the motorway.

The M6 crosses the River Lune at this point and unless the bridge had been made wider, there was no space to build a longer slip road.

This junction was upgraded from an earlier emergency-vehicles-only access point, which explains the design.

The route was originally intended to replace the old A6, which it does along the northern section, starting with the Preston by-pass.

These old Guardian archive photographs show the start of construction work on the Lancaster stretch of the M6.

- See next week’s Guardian for more old pictures of the M6’s early days.




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