|From:||Sutton Weaver (SJ536788)|
|To:||Rainhill Stoops (SJ504899)|
|Distance:||9.7 miles (15.6 km)|
|Meets:||A56, M56, A5126, A533, A562, A5080, M62, A57, A570|
|Route outline (key)|
The A557 is a road which over the years has dramatically changed its course, increased in width and importance, and eventually doubled in length. It started off as a short link between the A56 at Sutton Weaver, near Frodsham, and the A533 in the centre of Runcorn. It changed route slightly when the Runcorn-Widnes Bridge opened in 1961, and then more dramatically when the Weston Point Expressway was opened in the 1970s, linking it directly to the southern end of the bridge. The original route of the A557 is just visible as the unclassified road to the north of the junction with the Weston Link, although the southernmost section of the A557 still follows its original route.
When the Widnes Eastern Bypass was opened in the mid-1990s, it was extended over this road as well to a new northern terminus at Junction 7 of the M62. This section may originally have had another number (A568 or A569) but I can't find any direct evidence of this. The A557 is currently primary throughout its entire length.
Sutton Weaver - Rainhill Stoops
The A557 starts where it always has, at a signalised T-junction with the A56 by Sutton Weaver Swing Bridge, which crosses the Weaver Navigation Canal. The A56 is primary to the east of here as far as the A533 – the A56/A557 is the signposted primary route between the A533 and M56 Junction 12.
The A557 passes under the impressive Weaver Railway Viaduct, swings sharp left away from the canal and shortly becomes dual carriageway as it threads through the extensive partial cloverleaf Junction 12 of the M56. The surprisingly under-appreciated Weaver Viaduct on the M56 is clearly visible. This junction, opened in 1971, obliterated a fine 1930s-built three-lane straight which bypassed the small village of Clifton.
The A557 then becomes part of the Runcorn Expressway system and follows a spectacular course along the western side of Runcorn Hill, with views over extensive chemical works to the River Mersey, passing through no less than four grade-separated junctions. It joins the Runcorn-Widnes Bridge by a trumpet interchange where the A533 has a TOTSO. On the A557, you need to turn left to get on the bridge – carry straight on and you are on the A533. Incidentally, the A557 is the signposted route through Runcorn for A533 traffic.
The A557 multiplexes with the A533 over the magnificent steel arch Silver Jubilee Bridge, then leaves the A533 by a fork GSJ and runs along an elevated dual-carriageway section through a rather grim area of south Widnes, with an underposted 40 mph limit, to join the A562 which trails in from the left at a signalised junction. It multiplexes with the A562 for a short distance until the A562 TOTSOs to the right at another set of traffic lights.
The A557 then enters the Widnes Eastern Bypass proper, much of which was built over the trackbed of the former St Helens Junction Railway. This is an excellent stretch of dual carriageway, all still (July 2009) NSL, mostly in cutting, which takes it up to the large signalised roundabout at Junction 7 of the M62, encountering two further GSJs on the way.
A recently-built dual carriageway stretch of the A570 will take you north from here to the centre of St Helens, although unfortunately it only has at-grade roundabouts.
Original Author(s): Peter Edwardson