The M6 is the longest and probably the most important motorway in the UK. It links traffic from London with Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and then Scotland, before the A74(M) takes traffic up to Glasgow.
There are several busy stretches of the M6, most notably the section from junction 8 to 11 near Wolverhampton. The main reason for this northbound is that nearly all traffic from the M5 unloads itself onto an already busy M6 without any lane gains. This often results in long queues on the M5 at peak times, sometimes as far back as junction 2. Southbound, the M54 does exactly the same, except that all of its traffic heading past junction 1 to the M6 must head south, clogging up the same area.
The M6 Toll was built to bypass the M6 through the West Midlands conurbation but it has not been a huge success both because people refuse to pay the toll charges, and also because of its poor connectivity to M5 and M54. This means that the M6 from junction 3a to 11a is still a big bottleneck for long-distance traffic who don't want to pay the toll charges. The section through Staffordshire and Cheshire up to junction 19 (where most traffic for Manchester turns off) is also very busy and widening this section (which may or may not be tolled) has been proposed.
The A74(M) and M74 were planned to become part of the M6 when the Carlisle - Glasgow route was finished. Several signs pointing to the A74(M) have patches saying 'A74(M)' on them that would be removed to reveal 'M6' underneath. When the Cumberland Gap was finished in 2008, the Scottish Government decided not to enact the renumbering. For more see M74 and A74(M) History.
- 1 Junctions
- 2 Services
- 3 Structures
- 4 History
- 5 Streetlighting
- 6 Opening Dates
- 7 Photos
- 8 Links
The Catthorpe Interchange is the meeting point of the M1, the M6 and A14 as well as an unclassified road. It was reconstructed to allow for the A14 with a low budget, resulting in an entire motorway's traffic funneling into one lane, resulting in a notorious bottleneck. A major scheme is presently under construction to provide freeflow links from the M6 to and from the A14, and from the A14 to and from the M1 north. Access to the unclassified road, and between the M6 and M1 north has now been removed. The scheme is due to be completed in late 2016.
The famous Spaghetti Junction, Gravelly Hill provides the interchange between the M6, A38(M), A38, A5127 and an unclassified road. It does this by means of a complex array of slip roads and a roundabout. All movements are possible except between the unclassified road and the A38(M), and between the A38(M) and the southbound A5127.
Samlesbury Interchange, informally referred to as the Tickled Trout by locals, has the honour of being the UK's first grade separated motorway junction, opened in December 1958. Originally opened as a partial cloverleaf interchange with two roundabouts to avoid extra bridges over the River Ribble, it was completely rebuilt between 1993-95 when the M6 was improved between junctions 30 and 32.
Hilton Park services
Hilton Park services are located between junctions 10a and 11 near Wolverhampton. They are one of the busiest services on M6, and have a distinctive tower on the northbound side. Its future is, however, under threat as one of the options for a future M54 - M6 Toll Link Road involves the removal of the services.
Lancaster services, also known as Lancaster (Forton) or just Forton is probably one of the most distinctive on the British motorway network. The tower at Forton was the inspiration for the similar, smaller tower at Hilton Park, though in both cases the tower is no longer used for a restaurant.
Todhills rest area
Todhills is the first of a the new, smaller rest area services, although Sedgemoor services opened as Brent Knoll Rest Area in the 1970s. It is basically a petrol station with a small separate restaurant, and originally opened on the A74.
Thelwall Viaduct carries the M6 over the Manchester Ship Canal near Warrington. It originally opened in 1963 as part of the Warrington to Preston section of the motorway. Major improvement works were required in the early 1990s, and a second viaduct was constructed alongside the original.
See M6-1972 for a strip map of the M6 upon full opening in 1972.
The earliest section of the M6 to be opened was the Preston Bypass (junctions 29 - 32), which opened in December 1958 and is the oldest stretch of motorway in Britain. It was followed by bypasses for Lancaster (April 1960) and Stafford (1962). By July 1963, the Stafford bypass had been linked to the Preston bypass, and the whole section was linked up to the Lancaster bypass by January 1965.
Extensions to the north and south followed so that by 1972 the motorway was continuous from the M1 at Catthorpe to junction 44 at Carlisle. Things remained this way for many years, although sections were widened to accommodate increasing volumes of traffic. The Preston bypass, which opened as dual two-lane motorway with soft shoulders, gained hard shoulders and a third lane each way in the early 1960s, and a fourth lane each way in the early 90s. The Thelwall Viaduct section was also widened to dual 4 lanes in the 1990s by the construction of a second parallel viaduct.
In December 2008, 50 years to the day after the first section of M6 opened, the M6 was extended north to meet the A74(M) at Gretna, thus creating a continuous motorway route from the Channel Tunnel to Cumbernauld (following the M20, M26, M25, M40, M42, M6, A74(M), M74, M73. The M80 completion in 2011 extended this route further north to Dunblane via the M80 and M9.)
|M1-J2||No||Conventional SON||Lit around Catthorpe Interchange complex|
|2||Yes||Conventional SON||Lit through entire Ansty Interchange complex|
|15-16||Yes||Conventional SON||Lit for 2 miles either side of Keele Services only|
|20-32||Yes||Mix of conventional SOX and SON||Some sections switch off between midnight-5am|
|32-45||No||Some disused lighting at emergency crossovers|
- Motorway Database: M6
- Histories: Preston Bypass
- Futures: M6 Carlisle - Gretna
- Futures: M6 Widening J11a-19
- Futures: M6 Junction 32 Improvement
- Futures: M6 Active Traffic Management J's 13-19.
- Futures: M6 Active Traffic Management J's 25-30.
- Futures: Birmingham Box ATM.
Motorway Services Online
- Unbuilt Services: Stretton-under-Fosse
- Services List: Corley
- Unbuilt Services: Perry Barr
- Services List: Hilton Park
- Unbuilt Services: Doxey
- Services List: Stafford South
- Services List: Stafford North
- Services List: Keele
- Services List: Sandbach
- Services List: Knutsford
- Services List: Lymm
- Unbuilt Services: Haydock Park
- Services List: Charnock Richard
- Services List: Lancaster
- Services List: Burton-in-Kendal
- Services List: Killington Lake
- Services List: Tebay
- Unbuilt Services: Melkinthorpe
- Services List: Southwaite
- Services List: Todhills
- The M6 Motorway: Widening between Junctions 20 and 21A (Thelwall Viaduct) and Connecting Roads Scheme 1990
- The M6 Motorway (Widening and Improvements Between Junctions 30 and 32) and Connecting Roads Scheme 1991
- The M6 Motorway (Saredon and Packington Diversions) Scheme 1998
- The M6 Motorway (Junctions 4 to 5) (Actively Managed Hard Shoulder and Variable Speed Limits) Regulations 2009
- The M6 Motorway (Junctions 5 to 8) (Actively Managed Hard Shoulder and Variable Speed Limits) Regulations 2013
- The M6 Motorway (Junctions 8 to 10A) (Actively Managed Hard Shoulder and Variable Speed Limits) Regulations 2010
- The M6 Motorway (Junctions 10a to 13) (Variable Speed Limits) Regulations 2015
- The M6 Motorway (Junctions 16 to 19) (Variable Speed Limits) Regulations 2018
- The M62 Motorway (Junctions 9 to 11) (Eastbound) and the M6 Motorway (Junction 21A) (Variable Speed Limits) Regulations 2016
- The M6 Motorway (Carlisle to Guards Mill Section) and Connecting Roads Scheme 2006
New Civil Engineer
- M6 Extension Carlisle to Guards Mill Video
- Esk bridge move
- Junction 9 - Under construction 1968 - 69