The Motorway Archive
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What is the Motorway Archive?
Work on developing the UK Motorway system, which transformed British travel, started in the mid-1950s. The Motorway Archive celebrates the engineering achievement involved in the conception, planning, design and construction of this transport network by thousands of dedicated professionals. The Archive itself is a collection of as many of the documents and artefacts, which were associated with the development, as it has been possible to find. From this wealth of material has come the story of each motorway developed in Britain over the last 50 years. This is the story of one the first of them.

Region: North West

M63 (Now M60) Stretford Eccles By-pass and Carrington Spur (J13 to J7)

Although the completion of the M6 was a priority, the Lancashire County Council had given early attention to the needs of the other parts of the County where there were serious traffic problems. The 1949 Road Plan had identified the western sector of a proposed Manchester Outer Ring Road as one of the Express Routes to be constructed as a motorway, to bypass Stretford and Eccles and to serve the large Trafford Park industrial area.

It would also relieve the Barton swing-bridge which carried the busy A575 across the Manchester Ship Canal and where serious traffic delays occurred when the bridge was closed to allow shipping movements. Therefore, the main feature was to be a high-level bridge carrying the motorway over the Canal.

As the A575 was a Class 1 road the By-pass was eligible for a 75 per cent Government grant and, in 1953, it was included in the programme of grant-aided schemes.

In the same year a nearby steelworks was having difficulty in finding a disposal site for its slag and the County Council, therefore, made arrangements for this to be tipped and compacted on the site of the south approach embankment of the proposed bridge. A Public Inquiry into the proposal had been held, but the work was actually carried out in advance of the Minister's decision. In that a favourable decision might not have been forthcoming, the County Council undoubtedly took a risk in proceeding with this work at such an early stage. It would, however, have been economic to re-excavate the embankment and move the material to another site, instead of paying the cost of importing fresh material from other sources and the, not unreasonable County Council's view, was that the Minister was certain to give his assent. By using some 400,000 tons of 'free' material nearly 100,000 was eventually saved. This embankment, which was completed at insignificant cost, was the first physical step in the construction of a motorway anywhere in Britain - even in advance of Preston By-pass !

With four intermediate interchanges, giving an average spacing of only 1¼ miles, this was probably the first urban motorway in the Country. Standards for such roads had not yet been determined but, as some sections of the route passed through residential areas, the need to reduce land acquisition to a minimum was recognised in the designs which were adopted.

The County Council's traffic forecasts indicated that dual three-lane carriageways were needed, but the Ministry would only countenance the issue of grant for a dual two-lane scheme. The County Council, therefore, had no alternative but to proceed accordingly.

The construction of the 5 mile By-pass, which included a total of 22 bridges, started in April 1957 when work began on the first of several contracts.

Barton HLB on completion

Although shorter than Thelwall Viaduct, the 2425 feet long 18 span High Level Bridge was similar in many respects. With a maximum gradient on the approaches of 1 in 25 and rising to a height of some 100 ft above the level of the Canal, the piers varied in height from 30 to 80 feet above ground level.

The superstructure consisted of eight steel plate girders of riveted construction carrying a reinforced concrete deck. The major part of the splicing of the girders was carried out prior to lifting into position.

The length of the main span crossing the Canal was 310 feet comprising two cantilevers each of 77 feet 6 inches carrying a simply supported 155 feet long centre suspended span. The anchor arm spans were 175 feet long.

On the South side of the Canal, sections of the anchor arm and cantilever girders were lifted individually and supported on temporary trestles. Regrettably, the trestles formed of tubular steel scaffolding collapsed under the load and several lives were lost. Military trestling was used in subsequent operations.

A different method was employed on the North side in that each anchor arm and cantilever girder was spliced on the ground and lifted into position on the main pier. The steelwork sub-Contractor had been experiencing serious difficulties due to the demands of a militant group of his steel erectors, to the extent that he was forced into liquidation. Four of the girders had been erected and jacks were in position to enable fine adjustments to be made in line and level, in order that bracings could be fitted.

The main Contractor appointed a replacement sub-Contractor but, unfortunately, the arrangements for the 'hand-over' proved to have been unsatisfactory. A jacking operation was undertaken which caused the girders to fall over and several fatalities occurred.

The Inquest which followed not only examined the cause of death but also considered the responsibilities of the various parties involved in the Contract. In that respect, it was a 'test case' and led to some of the early Health and Safety legislation affecting the construction industry.

Neither the County Council as the Employer, not the County Surveyor as the Engineer under the Contract, were held to be in anyway responsible for the accidents.

Barton HLB under construction

Whereas in the case of the Thelwall Viaduct, the suspended span girders were lifted into position using a crane on the tip of the cantilevers, at Barton, a Bailey bridge launching nose was used.

The accidents caused a delay in the completion of the By-pass. In one respect the delay was fortuitous. Steelworks slag from a different source to that used on the south approach to the Bridge had been utilised in the construction of embankments in the Northern part of the By-pass. Prior to the final surfacing being carried out, it was found that the carriageway formation had 'heaved' and investigations showed that this was due to the ingress of water causing the particular slag to swell. During the period of delay, the effect dissipated and a stable formation was achieved before the surfacing was completed. Mining subsidence of up to twelve feet was expected and provision was therefore made for the decks of the bridges carrying the motorway over the Bridgewater Canal to be capable of being jacked-up to maintain the required headroom.

At the Public Inquiry objections had been made to the northern terminal roundabout at Worsley, because of the perceived detrimental effect on the surroundings. On completion of the work, however, the County Council received a Civic Trust award for the design and landscape treatment. When the By-pass, at that time numbered M62, was opened in October 1960 it represented another 'first' for Lancashire - the first 'county motorway' in Britain in that the County Council was the Highway Authority, not the Minister of Transport.

In the 1970's, the Ring Road south of the Eccles Interchange was redesignated M63, with this interchange numbered as Junction 1.

The Carrington Industrial Complex lies to the west of the motorway, and on the south side of the Ship Canal. For many years, serious concern had been expressed at the movement of heavy goods vehicles, some carrying hazardous substances, on residential roads in Ashton-on-Mersey, Flixton, Davyhulme and West Sale.

Carrington Spur interchange

It was, however, February 1986 before work began on a contract for the construction of a 1½ mile length of motorway, known as the Carrington Spur.

In order to provide a connection to the M63, it was necessary to construct an interchange, including Hallam Farm Bridge crossing over the heavily trafficked live motorway. The 100 feet long single span precast prestressed concrete beam and slab bridge was to be supported on a reinforced concrete substructure on piled foundations.

Designated as the new Junction 6 of the M63, the works also included a link road running parallel to it on each side. The provision of additional lanes north of this junction was the first Stage in the upgrading to dual three-lane carriageway standard.

Ground conditions along the line of the Spur were poor and nearly 50,000 cubic yards of peat was removed and replaced with selected fill. Elsewhere vertical drains were installed under a 2 feet thick drainage blanket to accelerate consolidation of the alluvium flood plain.

Special measures were taken to protect and monitor the movement of a high pressure processed fuel pipeline which crossed the site at five locations. This collects refined petroleum products from refineries at Milford Haven and Fawley for distribution throughout the Midlands and the Manchester area.

A two-span continuous composite steel and concrete bridge crossing the River Mersey, a footbridge and an underpass, together with steel sign gantries, were also required.

The design and supervision of the works was undertaken by the Manchester, Salford and Wigan Major Highways Consortium on behalf of Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council and the Department of Transport.

The Spur was opened to traffic as the A6144(M) in October 1987, 10 months ahead of schedule. As a single carriageway non-trunk motorway, with two-way traffic, it was, to some extent, unique. It was, however, intended that, in due course, it would be extended to the south and west and upgraded to meet the requirements of future development. In fact, in association with the widening works on the adjacent sections of the M60, the A6144(M) was downgraded from a motorway to an "A" road in 2006.

The second Stage in the upgrading of the M63 involved the widening and improvement of the section between Junctions 1 and 3. This included the Barton High Level Bridge which, by the early 80's was carrying traffic flows of 75,000 vehicles per day, some 50% in excess of the road's design capacity. Hold-ups at peak times were common due, in part, to the restraint imposed on heavy vehicles by the relatively steep approaches.

In 1967 the Ring Road had been designated a 'Trunk Road' and the Department of Transport appointed Mott Hay and Anderson, Consulting Engineers, to undertake the design and the supervision of the widening of the Bridge.

Barton HLB widening

In order to provide dual three-lane carriageways and hard shoulders, an additional welded steel plate girder was to be erected on each side of the existing deck. These were to be supported on new rectangular hollow reinforced concrete piers carried on large diameter bored piles.

The original 9 inch thick reinforced concrete deck was to be totally replaced and to be continuous across the full width of the bridge. Additional cross bracing was to be installed between the existing central girders to provide continuity.

The design and supervision of work on the other bridges in the interchange at Peel Green (Junction 2) was undertaken by Ward Ashcroft and Partners. This firm of Consulting Engineers was also responsible for the road works.

The reconstruction of Barton Old Hall Railway Bridge carrying the Manchester to Liverpool main line over the M63, was also necessary and this was carried out by British Rail Engineering.

The High Level Bridge is a major crossing of the Ship Canal and there are few suitable alternative routes available. The Contract, which was awarded in March 1986, included a series of detailed traffic management schemes. These were aimed at maximising the use of the motorway during the construction, whilst at the same time allowing the Contractor the necessary possession and lane closures to carry out the very complex and difficult work.

The Contract was completed in December 1988 and together with the other stages of the widening, and the construction of further By-passes referred to elsewhere, the M63 then had a dual three-lane carriageway standard as far as Portwood, beyond Stockport.

2003. A widening scheme.

In March 2003 AMEC-Alfred McAlpine joint venture was awarded a 102 million design and build contract to improve the section of the M60 between Junction 5 at Northern Moor and Junction 8 at Stretford. The joint venture was required to finalise design details before starting work in July 2003. Although completion was due by February 2006, the completed scheme did not open until (?)August 2006(?). The 7.4 kilometre section of motorway - which was originally part two lane and part three lane - was widened by one lane in each direction with the addition of a parallel link road between Junction 6 and 8, to reduce congestion on both the motorway and local road network.

In addition to widening the motorway, the existing parallel link road between Junctions 7 and 8 was extended to Junction 6 to improve safety and traffic flow for vehicles along this section. The four existing junctions were also improved.


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