|East Lancashire Road|
|Distance:||33.8 miles (54.4 km)|
|Meets:||A57, B5186, A5048, A5047, A5049, A5050, A5089, A5058, B5187, A59, M57, B5194, A5207, A5208, B5202, B5203, A570, A571, A58, M6, A49, A573, A572, A579, A574, A577, B5232, A575, M60, M61, A5185, A6, A666, B5228|
|Route outline (key)|
Opened in 1934, the A580 East Lancashire Road (always referred to as the East Lancs Road) was the single biggest pre-motorway road project in Britain. It was intended to provide a new, high-quality trunk road (until detrunking on 1 April 2004) between Liverpool and Manchester, superseding the indirect and heavily built-up A57 through Prescot, Warrington and Eccles. Its main purpose was to speed the flow of goods between the factories of East Lancashire and the Liverpool docks. However, its usefulness was undermined by the fact that it just dissolved into dense urban areas at either end and didn't fully integrate with the rest of the road network.
An earlier plan for a new road from Liverpool to Salford was numbered A563. Although this would have had a similar, if not identical, route, the A580 has always had that number.
Section 1: Liverpool – Kirkby
At the Liverpool end the A580 has two branches. The main one starts on the A59 at the north end of Scotland Road, then runs up Everton Valley and along Walton Lane, snaking alongside Stanley Park and the Anfield Cemetery. The Liverpool and Everton football grounds are both very close to this section, one on each side of the road. It crosses the A5058 Queen's Drive – Liverpool's 1930s outer ring road – by a signalised crossroads and then runs along the wide, straight Walton Hall Avenue through characteristic 1930s council housing.
The second branch starts on the A57 in the city centre and follows a rather indirect course along Islington, Brunswick Road and Everton Road, then TOTSOs right to head east along Breck Road and Townsend Lane. It crosses Queen's Drive and becomes Townsend Avenue, which has an unusual double roundabout half-way along with a disused railway bridge running across the middle of it. Shortly afterwards it joins the main route at an oblique angle. Much of this section is non-primary.
The A580 now heads east towards the M57 through a run-down area which was once a trading estate, but where most of the factories appear to have been demolished. It crosses the motorway at the unusual double Junction 4 and 5. Junction 4 is a roundabout interchange to the south of the East Lancs, while J5 is a free-flowing east to north connection to give direct access to Switch Island and the Liverpool Docks. We now leave the 40 mph limit and are into NSL territory.
Section 2: Kirkby – Haydock
The road skirts the southern outskirts of the notorious overspill suburb of Kirkby and then enters its most rural phase, with the expansive parkland of Knowsley Park (famous for its Safari Park) to the south, and flat agricultural land to the north. There's a staggered junction with the B5203, with two rather alarming uncontrolled T-junctions with central reservation gaps. Over the years most of the central reservation gaps have been closed and these are two of the very few that remain. Then we approach the northern outskirts of St Helens, and intersect the A570 at a crossroads. To the north of here, the A570 Rainford bypass is another characteristic stretch of 1930s road, in this case a purpose-built dual carriageway.
The A580 runs through a cutting with a distinctive overbridge carrying a minor road giving access to Windle Hall. Then comes a more built up area around the staggered junction with the A571. Although none of the houses have direct access onto the main road, it is perhaps surprising that this section remains NSL. The road goes under a railway bridge and emerges into a more rural environment.
The A58 is crossed at a signalised junction, and the A599 is bridged without a junction, before we reach junction 23 of the M6, where we also cross the A49. This junction effectively marks the half-way point. It is of hamburger layout with the main line of the A580 going through the middle of the roundabout and the M6 passing above on an overpass.
Section 3: Haydock – Astley
Heading east, the road crosses the A573 by a roundabout – one of only two on its entire length – at Golborne, and immediately afterwards crosses the West Coast Main Line by an elevated bridge. Just prior to the roundabout, the only NSL section ends, and the speed limit falls to 60 mph (although this entire section was originally NSL too). There are then two closely-spaced crossroads with the B5207 and A572 at Lane Head, followed by a T-junction with the A579 Atherleigh Way, which follows the line of an abandoned railway.
Although the environment around here is rural, its a very flat and unappealing stretch of countryside. To the north, the forest of mill chimneys in the town of Leigh used to be a famous sight, but most of them have now been demolished. The A580 encounters its second and last roundabout at Lately Common, by the Greyhound roadhouse, where it crosses the A574. There follows one of its longest stretches without a junction, roughly paralleling the more twisty A572 to the north. Looking at the map around here it is clear how the new road cut across the grain of the existing road system.
Section 4: Astley – Salford
Approaching Astley, the A580 enters a more built-up environment and the speed limit drops to 50 mph – it was originally 60 mph from this point, but following a number of fatal accidents involving young pedestrians, the limit was cut following pressure from residents. There is a complex jug-handle junction with the A572, then more straightforward crossroads with the A577 and A575. Next comes the famous Worsley Braided Interchange. There is only limited access between the A580 and M60 (formerly M62) – a free-flow west to north link (M60 J14) and a direct link between the westbound A580 and M61 heading towards Bolton, with corresponding on-slips. To access the southbound M60 from the A580, the signing takes you along the A575, although leaving the A580 earlier and taking the non-primary A572 route through the centre of Boothstown is more direct.
The road now enters the Greater Manchester conurbation proper at Swinton, with the road opening out to three lanes each way. There are houses along most of this section, but they have separate access roads and don't have frontages on the main road. There are more signal-controlled crossroads – with an unclassified road and then with the A572 again – followed by a T-junction with the A5185. The A580 ends at a grade-separated TOTSO with the A6 at Pendlebury, with the main line continuing through an underpass and heading towards Salford and Manchester on what is virtually an urban motorway.
Cutting boldly across the flat South Lancashire countryside, it was originally mostly a three-lane single-carriageway road, although the sections within Liverpool were dual from the start. In the 1950s and 60s it was entirely remodelled into a dual carriageway, but retains entirely at-grade junctions, mainly signalised crossroads. However, its very straight alignment still has a distinctive 1930s flavour, and there are a few characteristic roadhouses of the period. Most of the original 1930s bridges – generally “railway style” steel ones – remain, as they were built to allow for later expansion.
As with other arterial roads, such as London's Eastern Avenue and the A2 at Gravesend, the road was mostly new-build but it used the alignments of pre-existing roads in a few places, such as the B5187 in Liverpool, and most of the B5202.
Although not a scenic or challenging road, the A580 remains an interesting drive for anyone interested in the history of our road network. In the mid-2000s, Knowsley, St Helens and Wigan councils removed the national speed limit from virtually all of the route, apart from a short section east of the M6 junction, and replaced it with a mixture of 50 and 60 mph limits. Previously it had been NSL from the M57 junction to the edge of the Greater Manchester conurbation at Astley. The mainline of the A580 is primary throughout, although it was detrunked in 2003 (except for Haydock Island and the road through it). However, the southern branch in Liverpool is non-primary.
- The A580 Trunk Road (Liverpool-Salford) (Detrunking) Order 2003 - This order removes trunk status from the A580 following the publication of the 1998 consultation A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England