A6/Manchester - Preston
|Meets:||A56, A6041, A34, A6042, B5461, A5066, A5063, B6186, A576, A5186, A580, A666, B5228, A572, B5231, A575, B5323, A5082, M61, A579, A58, B5235, B5236, B5239, A6027, B5408, B5238, B6227, A673, A5106, B5252, B5251, B6228, A581, B6229, A674, B5428, B5256, M6, A49, B6258, A582, M65, B5257, B6230, A675, A59, A6063|
|Route outline (key)|
Following the confusion in Manchester city centre, where it has been impossible to follow the official route of the A6 since the late 1980s, the next 'proper' section resumes having crossed the A6042 - itself a massively confused road in this tangle of city streets - as a continuation of Chapel Street. This length of the A6 until the mid-2010s was extremely tatty, with derelict buildings and burned out remains on both sides, and must have been one of the least inspiring gateways to a city centre in the entire UK. At great expense, Salford City Council modified the road using numerous public realm tactics but at the expense of capacity, making this section somewhat congested during the day. Alternatives, albeit not much better, exist via nearby roads. The improved street scene has frequently sparked heated debates about quality of space versus capacity, and it is unlikely this debate shall be settled. In the meantime, Chapel Street remains a 20 mph thoroughfare with bus lanes. This situation continues until the junction with the A5063 Albion Way, where Broad Street takes over.
Broad Street is completely different to what it used to be. Completed in 1971 and completely obliterating shopping streets, homes, and virtually the entire district of Pendleton, numerous tower blocks, and an underpass with the A576 are all that is left of most of this area of 'old' Salford. It is unfortunately rather neglected and whilst the tower blocks of the Pendleton Estate have seen significant investment, none so far has been spent on the concrete underpasses and retaining walls of the A6. This has often given rise to the joke that Salford is the only city to have destroyed itself in order to build a road into the next city.
When opened, Broad Street was subject to a 50 mph speed limit but this was reduced in 2011 at the behest of local politicians and today the speed limit is an extremely inappropriately set 40 mph from the A576 underpass through to the Wigan boundary on the A580 at Boothstown. Enforcement is infrequent and therefore travelling speeds vary wildly. After about a mile and a half, the A6 leaves this urban expressway at Irlams o'th'Height Roundabout spawning the A666 as it does at a complex mix of a roundabout and a gyratory. The A6 itself returns to being a humble urban single carriageway passing through Swinton and Little Hulton. There used to be a 40 mph speed limit as the route passed under the M60 and M61, with no junction, but since the completion of new development this is now 30. Eventually Salford is left behind and a short semi-rural section towards M61 Junction 4 commences. Originally National Speed Limit, development and safety concerns have seen this part reduced to 40 mph. There appears to be a lack of maintenance on the carriageways too, which means the old fashioned dotted edge lines still exist for vast lengths up to Blackrod. This is as close to the original feel of the 1960s trunk road drivers will get. Despite the M61 barely leaving visual contact from Junctions 4 to 6, the A6 itself remains remarkably busy as it passes Westhoughton and through to the A6027 to Horwich and Middlebrook Retail Park. Traffic does not let up, as the M61 lacks a Junction 7 meaning all Chorley traffic now joins here.
The next interesting length of road is ahead, the 1930s Blackrod By-pass Road. This pre-dates plans for the M61 and as such is the only bona-fide bypass between Manchester and Preston. It used to be marked as two wide lanes with dotted edge lines but following a safety scheme it has been reduced to 50 mph speed limits and central hatching. Large yellow signs warn of the risks of flooding from the surrounding steeply sloped fields and the fact that flooding can become ice. The old A6 is now the B5408.
This marks the only truly rural section between Manchester and Preston and it is over in less than 3 miles. Adlington is a continuous urban sprawl into Chorley, with only a small gap through the Yarrow Valley to break it up - which surprisingly has a very short length of National Speed Limit too! The junction with the A673 occurs in this length, and until 2016 was adorned with a restored pre-Worboys direction sign which has since been destroyed in a car collision and replaced with a modern sign. The next two major junctions are with the A5106 to Standish, and the B5252 western relief road. Most of the time it's quicker to stay on the A6, as an aside.
Chorley town centre now enjoys reduced traffic by way of the inner relief road, which despite being barely a mile long manages to have no fewer than eight roundabouts, including one for the A581 towards Southport, and the curious B6229 which simply returns to the A6 further north as a result of the re-routing of other roads to facilitate the M61. This chain of roundabouts must be some kind of record. Traffic rejoins the old A6 alignment eventually and meets the B5252 again by the hospital, before immediately sending the A674 off towards Blackburn and M61 Junction 8.
Continuing ever northwards, and still within spitting distance of the motorway, a relatively new junction with an unclassified road takes traffic to the new town of Buckshaw Village, built on the former Royal Ordnance Filling Factory at Euxton and oddly spanning two local authority districts which presumably will change in the future. The original link to the A49, the B5248 still exists and is accessed further north near Whittle-le-Woods and Clayton-le-Woods, which along with Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Seed Lee, and Walton Summit, form some of the only areas of the long since abandoned Central Lancashire New Town to have been completed as originally intended. Most of the expansion around Chorley came later and only loosely follows the original vision.
An odd situation occurs at Walton Summit, where the A6 becomes arbitrarily primary at a roundabout. This is a hangover situation prior to the completion of the M65, which the A6 lacks direct access to. In 1987, a spur of the A6 was built to meet the M61 and was allocated Junction 9. This was a simple bridge and two south-facing slip roads. When the M65 was completed, a new motorway link road was built as the M65 itself was on top of the line of this Walton Summit link road - but the link between the motorway spur and the A6 remains unclassified. This leaves a mess of primary and non-primary signing between the Four Oaks Road roundabout and the M6.
M6 Junction 29 marks the start of the original 1958 Preston Bypass, although no original features here remain. The bridges are from 1963, and the A6 itself is now immediately diverted west of the roundabout to form a southern bypass of Bamber Bridge. Originally the A49 ended on a large roundabout with the A6 at the end of Church Lane, but this has been modified so the A6 and A49 meet at a large signalised crossroads, with the old A6 through Bamber Bridge now being the B6258. The Bamber Bridge bypass itself was originally single carriageway, completed in the mid-1980s, and converted to dual carriageway in 1997 to take traffic from the M65 directly into Preston.
North of Bamber Bridge the A6 rejoins its original alignment at the junction with the now A675 from Blackburn, and becomes a mix of four-lane single carriageway and dual two-lane carriageway up into Preston city centre. The Preston inner relief road, Ringway, collects the A59, and the two part ways at the large North Road junction, which in 2015 was extensively maintained and given improved public realm works to prevent it being so much of a barrier between the city centre and areas to the north.