Britain By Car - A Motoring History

M6, junctions 29-32

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Britain’s first motorway 

Location
Junctions 29 – 32, M6 motorway 

Date
1958 - present

Commentary Britain’s first motorway was opened by the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, on 5th December 1958.

It consisted of an eight-and-a-quarter mile, two-lane stretch of motorway designed to bypass the busy town of Preston.

Work on the project began in June 1956, but the winter of 1956-7, and the summer rains that followed, delayed construction and completion by about five months.

The Preston Bypass was also the site of the UK’s first motorway accidents.  Jo Moran (see below) reports that within a week of it opening, a stolen Ford Zephyr had been crashed at speed by its 22-year-old driver and, in a separate incident, a 14-year-old boy, driving his father’s Vauxhall Velox, left the road at 70 mph, ending up in a field.  Both cars were write-offs, but neither driver was seriously injured.

Over the next 13 years, new sections of motorway were built, and the original bypass widened to three lanes in each direction.  By 1971, the M6 was virtually complete.

Further details 
• On roads: a hidden history, Joe Moran, Profile Books Ltd, 2009
www.cbrd.co.uk - histories