M56 motorway

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M56 shield

North Cheshire Motorway
Looking east from Junction 14
Route information
Part of E22
Maintained by Highways England
Length33.3 mi (53.6 km)
HistoryOpened: 1971
Completed: 1981
Major junctions
East endCheadle
 Junction 1.svg UK-Motorway-M60.svg
J1 → M60 motorway
Junction 9.svg UK-Motorway-M6.svg
J9 → M6 motorway
Junction 15.svg UK-Motorway-M53.svg
J15 → M53 motorway
West endMollington
CountiesGreater Manchester, Cheshire
Manchester Airport
Ellesmere Port
Road network

The M56 motorway, also known as the North Cheshire motorway, is in Cheshire and Greater Manchester, England. It runs from Junction 4 of the M60 to Dunkirk, near Chester. With a length of 33.3 miles (53.6 km), it is often busy with long-distance commuter traffic towards North Wales. It serves commuters heading to Manchester, particularly those from the wider Cheshire area, and gives access to Manchester Airport from the national motorway network.[1]

The road forms part of the unsigned Euroroute E22.


Although the main line of the motorway starts as a continuation of the A5103 Princess Parkway, the M56 begins on Sharston Spur (also known as the Sharston Bypass) where it detaches from the M60 motorway. After passing through junctions 1 and 2, the spur joins the main line at junction 3, increasing from two lanes to four to accommodate Manchester Airport traffic.

The road then heads south to the west of Wythenshawe and Manchester Airport until it reaches junction 6, where it turns west. It runs to the south of Hale, reducing to three lanes. It passes junctions 7 and 8 which are part of the same complex. Junction 8 was planned to be used by the proposed A556(M).[2] The A556 was upgraded to dual carriageway in 2018, [3] Traffic for the southbound M6 leaves here and so the junction can suffer from congestion. The motorway then enters a more rural setting between Broomedge and High Legh.

After meeting the M6 motorway, it passes south of Appleton Thorn. After reaching junction 11, it runs through the outskirts of Runcorn and Frodsham. Between junctions 12 and 14, and the missing junction 13, it runs parallel to the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. After meeting the M53 motorway, the road finally returns to two lanes, it proceeds between Chester to the south and Ellesmere Port to its termination at Dunkirk, Cheshire, where it becomes the A494.

Traffic for North Wales can take either the M53 or the A494 to reach the A55.

The motorway services on the M56 are Chester (Run by Roadchef) and Lymm (Run by Moto, also accessible from M6)


The first proposal for a road along this route was agreed in 1958 and it entered the Trunk Road Programme for 1967/1968.[4] Construction began in 1968[5] and the motorway opened in stages between 1971 and 1981:[6]

  • Junctions 1 to 3 opened in 1975.
  • Junctions 3 to 7 opened in 1972.
  • Junctions 7 to 9 opened in 1974.
  • Junctions 9 to 11 opened in 1975.
  • Junctions 11 to 14 opened in 1971.
  • Junctions 14 to 16 opened in 1981.

Proposals existed for an extension into North Wales across the proposed Dee Barrage,[7] but these have not happened.[8]

Until 2008 the M56 terminated at a roundabout at the west end. Work started in 2006[9] to grade-separate this junction (and others) to allow free-flowing traffic to North Wales. The project was completed in 2008.


Data[10] from driver location signs are used to provide distance information.

M56 motorway junctions
mile km Eastbound exits (B Carriageway) Junction Westbound exits (A Carriageway)
Motorway merges onto M60 continuing towards Stockport M60 J4 Start of motorway
(Sharston Spur)
Manchester City Centre, Didsbury A34 J1 No access (on-slip only)
No access (on-slip only) J2 Altrincham, Wythenshawe A560, Liverpool (M62), Bolton (M61) (M60)
End of motorway Mauritius Road Signs - Information Sign - End of Motorway.svg
Road continues as
A5103 towards Manchester
J3A Sharston, Altrincham, Baguley A560
Altrincham, Wythenshawe, Wythenshawe UK traffic sign 827.2.svg, Cheadle A560 Start of motorway
(Princess Parkway Spur)
UK motorway symbol.svg
Manchester City Centre, (M60(N&W)), (M62(W)), (M61) (A5103) J3
No access (on-slip only)
7.2 11.6 No access (on-slip only) J4 Wythenshawe
End of motorway Mauritius Road Signs - Information Sign - End of Motorway.svg
Wilmslow, Wythenshawe A555 (B5166), Business Park, Terminal 3
Terminal 1,
UK traffic sign 543.svg Start of motorway
(Airport Spur)
UK motorway symbol.svg
Terminal 2 No access (on-slip only)
7.8 12.6 Manchester Airport interchange J5 Manchester Airport interchange, Quarry Bank Mill
8.9 14.3 Hale, Wilmslow, Macclesfield A538 J6 Wilmslow, Hale, Macclesfield, Manchester Airport Freight Terminal A538
Entering Greater Manchester River Bollin
River Bollin Entering Cheshire
12.4 19.9 Northwich A556, Altrincham A56 J7 Birmingham (M6(S)), Northwich A556,

Lymm A56

No access J8 No access (on-slip only)
17.6 28.3 Preston, Birmingham M6, Leeds, Manchester (N) (M62), Lymm (A50)
Lymm Truck Stop
Preston M6, Liverpool (M62), Warrington, Lymm (A50)
Lymm Truck Stop
20.8 33.4 Warrington, Northwich A49 J10 Northwich, Warrington A49
23.8 38.3 Runcorn (East), Warrington A56 J11 Preston Brook, Daresbury A56
A533 J11A A533
26.8 43.1 Liverpool Airport interchange, Runcorn, Widnes A557 J12 Liverpool Airport interchange, Frodsham, Runcorn, Widnes A557
Weaver Viaduct
31.9 51.4 Stanlow, Helsby A5117
Chester services
Helsby, Stanlow, Chester Zoo A5117
Chester services
34.5 55.6 No access (on-slip only) J15 Chester, Wrexham M53
No access (on-slip only) Ellesmere Port, Birkenhead M53
Start of motorway UK motorway symbol.svg J16 End of motorway Mauritius Road Signs - Information Sign - End of Motorway.svg
Road continues as
A494 towards North Wales
Ellesmere Port A5117, Whitchurch (A41)
Non-motorway traffic
Hoylake, Chester A540, Birkenhead (A550)
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi


Junction 7 slip closures[edit]

At junction 7 in July 2009, the slip road letting traffic come in southbound along the M56 and turn onto the A556 southbound was closed while the bridge where it crosses the M56 (the Bowdon View Bridge), which for many years had had a weight restriction, was worked on; traffic intending to use it had to carry on to junction 10 and there turn round, or go through the centre of Altrincham; traffic for the nearby Tatton Park Flower Show, and the resulting closure to through traffic of the minor road along the southwest edge of Tatton Park from Ashley, Cheshire to Mere, Cheshire (which would otherwise have acted as a bypass for people living in the area), added to the resulting congestion.

In October and November 2010, the bridge was demolished and replaced.[11][12][13][14]

Thorley Lane bridge replacement[edit]

On Saturday 28 February and Sunday 1 March 2015, the new concrete girders of the Thorley Lane bridge a little north of Manchester Airport were put in. (The old bridge was demolished because it was found to be cracking.) The M56 was closed over that weekend for this. This caused much traffic congestion from M56 traffic diverted through Altrincham and Wythenshawe and along Styal Road and Kingsway, starting on Thursday 26 March because of work putting cones on the carriageway.

Traffic counts[edit]


Section Capacity AADT (2016) AADT (2017) Data
J1-J2 D2
93,185 Increase 109,037 6046, 73773
J2-J3 69,287 Increase 71,224 36045
(Princess Parkway Spur)
J3-J4 D4
J4-J5 146,415
Airport Spur D2
J5-J6 D4
J6-J7/8 D3
J7/8-J9 83,512
J9-J10 118,553
J10-J11 125,832
J11-J12 100,518
J12-J14 120,243
J14-J15 109,465 7831
J15-J16 D2


The Government announced in August 2015 that the motorway would be upgraded to a smart motorway as part of the Northern Powerhouse strategy.

There will also be a new junction 11a at Runcorn between the existing Junctions 11 and 12 to relieve heavy congestion on this stretch and serve the new Mersey Gateway bridge. Work is due to commence on the new junction in Spring 2020. [17][18]

M56 corridor[edit]

"The M56 corridor" is a term used by estate agents and social geographers to describe what is considered to be a relatively affluent area of North West England, within easy reach of the M56. The area includes the cities of Manchester and Chester, and commuter towns and villages in rural Cheshire. It also includes Warrington and Runcorn where the chemical and pharmaceutical industries are prominent.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Motorway Database » M56". CBRD. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  2. ^ Steven Jukes. "Pathetic Motorways - A556(M)". Pathetic.org.uk. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  3. ^ "Highways Agency Press Release". Highways.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  4. ^ "The Motorway Archive - M56 Scheme Introduction". Iht.org. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  5. ^ "The Motorway Archive - M56 Dates Page". Iht.org. Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  6. ^ "CBRD Motorway Database - M56 Timeline". cbrd.co.uk. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  7. ^ "The Motorway Archive - M56 J16 to J14". Iht.org. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  8. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 23 July 1993 - Column 403". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 1 January 2012.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ "Highways Agency - A5117 / A550 Deeside Park Junctions Improvement". Highways.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  10. ^ Driver Location Signs, Highway Agency Area 10 (map) - Highway Authority, 2009
  11. ^ "Bridge repair work on M56 extended to three weekends". BBC News. 18 October 2010. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  12. ^ "M56 Bowdon View Bridge successfully demolished". Fidgetwith.com. 18 October 2010. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  13. ^ "M56 Junction 7 Bowdon View Bridge Replacement and Junction Improvement". Highways.gov.uk. 4 July 2011. Archived from the original on 27 August 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  14. ^ "M56 bridge repair works continue near Bowdon". BBC News. 23 October 2010.
  15. ^ "Stockport Traffic counts". www.dft.gov.uk. Department for Transport. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g "Traffic Flow Ranges for Use in the Assessment of New Rural Roads" (PDF). www.standardsforhighways.co.uk. p. 19. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  17. ^ http://www.chesterchronicle.co.uk/news/chester-cheshire-news/building-new-m56-junction-cheshire-13579959
  18. ^ "A Highways England road project - M56 new junction 11a". highways.gov.uk. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  19. ^ "M56 corridor dated 2008-09-17". Property Week article. 19 April 2002. Retrieved 1 January 2012.

External links[edit]

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata