|North Cheshire Motorway|
Looking east from Junction 14
|Part of E22|
|Maintained by Highways England|
|Length||33.3 mi (53.6 km)|
J1 → M60 motorway
J9 → M6 motorway
J15 → M53 motorway
|Counties||Greater Manchester, Cheshire|
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.
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). The A556 was upgraded to dual carriageway in 2018,  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.
The first proposal for a road along this route was agreed in 1958 and it entered the Trunk Road Programme for 1967/1968. Construction began in 1968 and the motorway opened in stages between 1971 and 1981:
- 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.
Until 2008 the M56 terminated at a roundabout at the west end. Work started in 2006 to grade-separate this junction (and others) to allow free-flowing traffic to North Wales. The project was completed in 2008.
|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|
|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
Road continues as A5103 towards Manchester
|J3A||Sharston, Altrincham, Baguley A560|
|Altrincham, Wythenshawe, Wythenshawe , Cheadle A560||Start of motorway|
(Princess Parkway Spur)
|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
Wilmslow, Wythenshawe A555 (B5166), Business Park, Terminal 3
|Start of motorway|
|Terminal 2||No access (on-slip only)|
|7.8||12.6||Manchester||J5||Manchester , 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,|
|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|
|26.8||43.1||Liverpool , Runcorn, Widnes A557||J12||Liverpool , Frodsham, Runcorn, Widnes A557|
|31.9||51.4||Stanlow, Helsby A5117
|Helsby, Stanlow, Chester Zoo A5117|
|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||J16||End of motorway |
Road continues as A494 towards North Wales
|Ellesmere Port A5117, Whitchurch (A41)
|Hoylake, Chester A540, Birkenhead (A550)|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi|
Junction 7 slip closures
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.
Thorley Lane bridge replacement
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.
|Section||Capacity||AADT (2016)||AADT (2017)||Data|
(Princess Parkway Spur)
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. 
"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.
- "Motorway Database » M56". CBRD. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Steven Jukes. "Pathetic Motorways - A556(M)". Pathetic.org.uk. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Highways Agency Press Release". Highways.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "The Motorway Archive - M56 Scheme Introduction". Iht.org. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "The Motorway Archive - M56 Dates Page". Iht.org. Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "CBRD Motorway Database - M56 Timeline". cbrd.co.uk. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
- "The Motorway Archive - M56 J16 to J14". Iht.org. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- 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)
- "Highways Agency - A5117 / A550 Deeside Park Junctions Improvement". Highways.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Driver Location Signs, Highway Agency Area 10 (map) - Highway Authority, 2009
- "Bridge repair work on M56 extended to three weekends". BBC News. 18 October 2010. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
- "M56 Bowdon View Bridge successfully demolished". Fidgetwith.com. 18 October 2010. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "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.
- "M56 bridge repair works continue near Bowdon". BBC News. 23 October 2010.
- "Stockport Traffic counts". www.dft.gov.uk. Department for Transport. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
- "Traffic Flow Ranges for Use in the Assessment of New Rural Roads" (PDF). www.standardsforhighways.co.uk. p. 19. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
- "A Highways England road project - M56 new junction 11a". highways.gov.uk. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
- "M56 corridor dated 2008-09-17". Property Week article. 19 April 2002. Retrieved 1 January 2012.