|Part of E05 and E24|
|Maintained by Highways England|
|Length:||232.2 mi (373.7 km)|
|History:||Opened in 1958, completed in 2008|
J2 → M69 motorway
J3a → M6 Toll
J4 → M42 motorway
J4a → M42 motorway
J6 → A38(M) motorway
J10a → M54 motorway
J11a → M6 Toll
J20 → M56 motorway
J21a → M62 motorway
J26 → M58 motorway
J29 → M65 motorway
J30 → M61 motorway
J32 → M55 motorway
J35 → A601(M) motorway
J45 → A74(M) motorway
The M6 motorway runs from junction 19 of the M1 at the Catthorpe Interchange, near Rugby via Birmingham then heads north, passing Stoke-on-Trent, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Lancaster, Carlisle and terminating at the Gretna junction (J45). Here, just short of the Scottish border it becomes the A74(M) which continues to Glasgow as the M74.
As of 2016, the M6, as well as combining with the length of the A14 from Brampton from junction with A1(M), the A74(M) and M74 to the junction with the M8 in Glasgow, forms the longest non-stop motorway in the United Kingdom and one of the busiest. It incorporated the Preston By-pass, the first length of motorway opened in the UK and forms part of a motorway "Backbone of Britain", running north−south between London and Glasgow via the industrial North of England. It is also part of the east−west route between the Midlands and the east-coast ports. The section from the M1 to the M6 Toll split near Birmingham forms part of the unsigned E-road E 24 and the section from the M6 Toll and the M42 forms part of E 05.
The M6 motorway runs from junction 19 of the M1 and from the beginning of A14 in Catthorpe near Rugby in central England, passes between Coventry and Nuneaton, through Birmingham, Walsall and Stafford and near the major cities of Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent. The motorway has major junctions with the M56 and M62 at Warrington, giving access to Chester, Manchester and Liverpool. The M6 then heads north past Wigan, Preston and Lancaster. After the latter two cities it passes through Cumbria with some parts very close to the edge of the Lake District with a short stretch within the national park boundaries and then passes Carlisle on its way to Gretna, before the motorway becomes the A74(M) a few hundred metres (yards) short of the Scottish border.
Planning and construction
The first section of the motorway and the first motorway in the country was the Preston By-pass. It was built by Tarmac Construction and opened by the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan on 5 December 1958. In January 1959 the Preston by-pass was closed because of rapid surface deterioration over a stretch of 100 yards (91 m) "due to water freezing and then thawing". Motorists were diverted to the old road while the UK road research laboratory at Harmondsworth pondered the importance of surface water drainage.
The second phase of construction was completed in 1960, forming the Lancaster by-pass. Some 100 miles (160 km) south, the Stafford by-pass was completed in 1962. By 1965, the remaining sections of motorway Stafford–Preston and Preston–Lancaster had been completed. 1968 saw the completion of the Walsall to Stafford link as well as the Penrith by-pass some 150 miles (240 km) north in Cumberland. In 1970, the Lancaster–Penrith link was completed, along with a short section of motorway by-passing the south of Walsall. The most northerly section of the motorway also opened in 1970, running to the designated terminus north of Carlisle. By 1971, the full route was completed between the junction with the M1 motorway at Rugby and the A38 road several miles north-east of Birmingham city centre, including Bromford Viaduct between Castle Bromwich (J5) and Gravelly Hill (J6), which at 3½ miles is the longest viaduct in Great Britain.
Junction 6 in Birmingham is widely known as Spaghetti Junction because of its complexity. On the elevated ground between Shap and Tebay, the north- and south-bound carriages split apart. At this point a local road (to Scout Green) runs between the two carriageways without a link to the motorway.
The section of the M6 that runs over Shap Fell in Cumbria is 1,050 ft (320 m) above sea level, one of the highest points on any motorway in the UK (junction 22 of the M62 on Saddleworth Moor is higher). The motorway engineers here chose to follow the route of the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway engineered by Joseph Locke (now part of the West Coast Main Line) where the motorway runs in a split-level cutting above the railway in the descent from Shap Fell through the Lune Gorge into southern Cumbria.
The northbound entry slip road at Lancaster (junction 34) was unusually short, presenting problems for traffic joining the motorway. The M6 crosses the River Lune at this point and unless the bridge had been made wider, there was no space to build a longer slip road. This junction was upgraded from an earlier emergency-vehicles-only access point, which explains the substandard design. The construction of the Heysham to M6 Link Road (The Bay Gateway) has completely re-modelled this junction with a wide additional bridge over the River Lune and other works repositioning slip roads with new acceleration lanes to modern standards.
The route was originally intended to replace the old A6, which it does along the northern section starting with the Preston Bypass. However, a much closer approximation to the overall actual route of the M6 (heading north from its southern terminus) is provided by following the A45, A34, A50, A49, then the A6. South of Preston, the A6 route is instead supplemented by the M61 as far as Manchester, with the M60 acting as a bypass around the city. South of Manchester, there is no true motorway replacement for the old road. The M1 acts as a bypass for long-distance traffic in the south, from the Kegworth junction near Nottingham, to Luton and St. Albans near London; but, it is not an alternative for local traffic as the routes diverge by more than 15 miles while passing through Northamptonshire. Across the Pennines, the old road remains the main local through-route, and long-distance fast traffic between Derby and Manchester must instead take either the A50 and M6, or M1 and M62.
In July 1972 the UK Minister for Transport Industries announced that 86 miles (138 km) of UK motorway particularly prone to fog would benefit from lighting in a project which "should be" completed by 1973. Sections to be illuminated included the M6 between junctions 10 and 11, and between junctions 20 and 27.
In March 2006, after 15 years of debate, the government authorised the construction of a 6-mile (9.7 km) extension of the M6 from its then northern terminus near Carlisle to the Anglo-Scottish border at Gretna (the so-called "Cumberland Gap"), where it links into the existing A74(M). The road opened on 5 December 2008, the 50th anniversary of the M6 Preston By-pass. The project, which was a mixture of new road and upgrade of the existing A74, crosses the West Coast Main Line and had an estimated costs of £174 million. It completed an uninterrupted motorway from just south of Dunblane (via the M9, the recently opened M80 section near Cumbernauld and the M73) in the north to Exeter (via the M5) and to London (via both the M42/M40 and the M1) in the south.
The M6 Toll, Britain's first toll motorway, which bypasses the West Midlands conurbation to the east and north of Birmingham and Walsall and was built to alleviate congestion through the West Midlands, and opened in December 2003. Before the opening of the toll motorway, this section of the M6 carried 180,000 vehicles per day at its busiest point near Wolverhampton (between the junctions with the M54 and M5 motorways), compared with a design capacity of only 72,000 vehicles. Usage, at about 50,000 vehicles, was lower than expected and traffic levels on the M6 were only slightly reduced as a result. The high toll prices, which were set by the operating company and over which the UK government has no influence until 2054, were blamed for the low usage. Much traffic continues to use the M6 or the continued on the M1 and took the A50 or A52. As of July 2012[update] the road between Junctions 3A and 11A now carries 120,000 motor vehicles every day.
A proposed extension to the M6 Toll known as the 'M6 Expressway', which would have continued from the M6 Toll as far as Knutsford, at which point much of the existing M6 traffic leaves the M6 for Manchester, was abandoned in 2006 due to excessive costs, anticipated construction problems and disappointing levels of use of the M6 Toll.
Hard shoulder running (junction 4–5 and 8 to 10a)
In October 2007, following a successful trial on the M42 in the West Midlands, the UK government have announced that two stretches of the M6 will be upgraded to allow the hard shoulder to be used as a normal running lane during busy conditions under a scheme called Active Traffic Management. The two stretches, between junctions 4 and 5 and between junctions 10a and 8, are two of the busiest sections on the entire motorway. The system could also be extended onto other stretches of the M6 as the government is going to undertake a feasibility study to determine other likely locations where this technology can be used.
Managed motorway J13 and J19
The government wishes to improve reliability and capacity between Junctions 11 by Cannock and Junction 19 near Knutsford. In 2004, it favoured a new motorway, 'The Expressway' following a roughly parallel course to the existing M6. In July 2006, the government announced its decision to abandon the Expressway proposal, and favoured widening accompanied by demand-management measures, and have launched a study to consider options for providing additional capacity. The current proposal is in introduce managed motorway between Junction 13 and 19.
Catthorpe interchange – (M6/M1/A14)
Highways England has developed proposals for a major upgrade to the overloaded Catthorpe Interchange where the M6, the M1 motorway and the A14 road meet at Catthorpe. Once complete, there will be new direct links between the M6 motorway and the A14 in both directions, as well as a new link road from the A14 to the M1 northbound. The improvements are expected to be complete by December 2016. 
Data from driver location signs are used to provide distance and carriageway identifier information. Where a junction spans several hundred metres (yards) and the start and end distances are known, both distances are shown.
|mile||km||Northbound exits (A carriageway)||Junction||Southbound exits (B carriageway)||Coordinates|
|M6 continues as A74(M) to Glasgow, Edinburgh|
|313.2||504.3||Gretna (Green) B7076
|Todhills Rest Area||Services||Todhills Rest Area|
|Carlisle (North), Galashiels, Hawick A7||J44
||Carlisle A7, Workington (A595)
|Carlisle, Hexham, Newcastle A69||J43||Carlisle, Hexham, Newcastle A69|
|Carlisle (South) A6||J42||Carlisle (South) A6|
|Southwaite services||Services||Southwaite services|
|Wigton B5305||J41||Wigton B5305|
|Penrith, Workington, Keswick, Scotch Corner A66||J40||Penrith, Keswick, Brough, Scotch Corner A66|
|Shap (A6)||J39||Shap, Kendal (A6)|
|Tebay services||Services||Tebay services|
|J38||Kendal, Brough A685|
|Kendal, Sedbergh A684||J37||Kendal, Sedbergh A684|
|No access||Services||Killington Lake services|
|Kirkby Lonsdale, Skipton A65
Kendal, Barrow-in-Furness A590
|J36||Kirkby Lonsdale, Skipton A65
|Burton-in-Kendal services||Services||No access|
|Carnforth, Morecambe A601(M) (A6)||J35||Carnforth, Morecambe A601(M) (A6)|
|Lancaster, Morecambe, Kirkby Lonsdale, Heysham A683||J34||Lancaster, Morecambe A683|
|Lancaster (South) A6||J33||Garstang, Fleetwood A6|
|Lancaster (Forton) services||Services||Lancaster (Forton) services|
|Blackpool, Fleetwood M55, Preston (North), Garstang A6||J32
||Blackpool M55, Preston (North) A6|
|Preston (East), Longridge B6242||J31A||No access|
|Preston (Central), Blackburn (North), Clitheroe A59||J31||Preston (Central), Clitheroe A59|
|No access||J30||Manchester, Bolton M61
|Burnley, Blackburn, Preston (South) M65||J29||Burnley, Blackburn M65|
|Leyland B5256 (A49)||J28||Leyland B5256 (A49)|
|Charnock Richard services||Services||Charnock Richard services|
|Parbold, Standish, Chorley A5209||J27||Parbold, Wigan A5209|
Skelmersdale, Liverpool, Southport M58
St Helens Liverpool Southport (M58)
Kirkby, Fazakerley (M57)
|Wigan A49||J25||No access|
|No access||J24||Ashton-in-Makerfield, St. Helens A58|
|Haydock, Ashton-in-Makerfield, St Helens, Manchester, Liverpool, Newton-le-Willows A580||J23||Haydock, Ashton-in-Makerfield, St Helens, Manchester, Liverpool, Newton-le-Willows A580|
|Newton-le-Willows A49 Leigh A579||J22||Warrington A49|
|Manchester, Leeds M62||J21A||Liverpool, Southport M62|
|Liverpool, Southport M62||Manchester, Leeds M62|
|Warrington, Irlam A57||J21||Warrington, Irlam A57|
|185.6||298.7||No access||J20||Macclesfield, Warrington A50|
|185.3||298.2||No access||J20A||NORTH WALES, Chester, Runcorn, Manchester & Airport M56|
|184.5||296.9||NORTH WALES, Chester, Runcorn M56||J20||No access|
|Warrington, Lymm A50|
|Manchester & Airport, Stockport A556 (M56 east)||J19||Northwich, Knutsford, Macclesfield A556|
(Sign Posted No HGVs use Poplar 2000 Services (Lymm), but HGV fuel pumps and a small HGV parking area are provided)
|Holmes Chapel, Middlewich, Winsford, Northwich, Chester A54||J18||Holmes Chapel, Middlewich, Winsford A54|
|Congleton, Sandbach A534||J17||Congleton, Sandbach A534|
|Sandbach services||Services||Sandbach services|
|Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, Nantwich A500||J16||Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, Nantwich A500|
|Keele services||Services||Keele services|
|Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme A500||J15||Stoke-on-Trent, Stone, Eccleshall A500
|Stafford services||Services||Stafford services||North
|Stafford, Stone, Eccleshall A34||J14||Stafford (North) A34|
|Stafford A449||J13||Stafford (South & Central) A449|
|Telford A5||J12||Cannock, Wolverhampton A5, North Wales, Telford (M54)|
||The SOUTH, Lichfield M6 Toll|
|(M6 Toll), Cannock A460||J11||Wolverhampton A460|
|Hilton Park services||Services||Hilton Park services|
|NORTH WALES, Wolverhampton, Telford M54||J10A
J10A — M54
|Walsall, Wolverhampton A454||J10||Walsall A454|
|Wednesbury A461||J9||Wednesbury A461|
|119.9||193.0||The SOUTH WEST, Birmingham (West), West Bromwich M5||J8
||The SOUTH WEST, Birmingham, West Bromwich M5|
|Birmingham (NW), Walsall A34||J7
|Birmingham (Central & North) A38(M)
Sutton Coldfield A5127
Gravelly Hill Interchange
|Birmingham A38(M) & A38|
|Birmingham (NE), Castle Bromwich A452||J5
|No access||J4A||The NORTH (M1), Tamworth M42 (N), M6 Toll
The SOUTH, London (M40), Birmingham (S), N.E.C. & Airport M42 (S)
|Lichfield, Coleshill A446, The SOUTH WEST (M5)
Birmingham (South), Solihull M42(S)
|J4||Coventry, Birmingham Airport, NEC A446|
|The NORTH WEST (M6 Toll), Tamworth M42(N)||J3A||No access|
|Corley services||Services||Corley services|
|Coventry (North), Nuneaton A444, Bedworth B4113||J3||Coventry (North), Nuneaton A444, Bedworth B4113|
Leicester M69 (M1)
|J2||Coventry (East) A46, Leicester, Hinckley M69 (M1(N))|
|Rugby A426||J1||Rugby, Lutterworth A426|
|85.2||137.1||No access||M1 J19
||London, Northampton M1 (South)|
|Start of motorway||M6 continues as A14 to Brampton and A1(M)|
Each motorway in England requires that a legal document called a Statutory Instrument is published, detailing the route of the road, before it can be built. The dates given on these Statutory Instruments relate to when the document was published, and not when the road was built. Provided below is an incomplete list of the Statutory Instruments relating to the route of the M6.
- Statutory Instrument 1987 No. 252: County Council of West Midlands (M6 Motorway Junction 10) (Connecting Road) Scheme 1985 Confirmation Instrument 1987
- Statutory Instrument 1987 No. 2254: M6 Motorway (Catthorpe Interchange) Connecting Roads Scheme 1987
- Statutory Instrument 1990 No. 2659: M6 Motorway: Widening between Junctions 20 and 21A (Thelwall Viaduct) and Connecting Roads Scheme 1990
- Statutory Instrument 1991 No. 1873: M6 Motorway (Widening and Improvements Between Junctions 30 and 32) and Connecting Roads Scheme 1991
- Statutory Instrument 1993 No. 1370: Lancashire County Council (Proposed Connecting Roads to M6 Motorway at Haighton) Special Roads Scheme 1992 Confirmation Instrument 1993
- Statutory Instrument 1997 No. 1292: M6 Birmingham to Carlisle Motorway (At Haighton) Connecting Roads Scheme 1997
- Statutory Instrument 1997 No. 1293: M6 Birmingham To Carlisle Motorway (at Haighton) Special Roads Scheme 1997 Transfer Order 1997
- Statutory Instrument 1998 No. 125: The M6 Motorway (Saredon and Packington Diversions) Scheme 1998
- Frommer's Short (22 December 2011). "4". The Borders and Galloway Regions, Scotland: Frommer's ShortCuts. 1. I (I ed.). London: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 56–. ISBN 978-1-118-27111-7.
- Highways Agency, ed. (2004). "1". M6 Route Management Strategy: Warrington to the Scottish Borders : Final Strategy Summary Brochure, January 2004. 1. 1 (I ed.). Scotland: Highways Agency. p. 54.
- Lesley Anne Rose; Michael Macaroon; Vivienne Crow (6 January 2012). "36". Frommer's Scotland. I. I (I ed.). London: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 424–. ISBN 978-1-119-99276-9.
- Baldwin, Peter; Porter (M.S.), John; Baldwin, Robert (2004). "72". In Thomas Telford. The Motorway Achievement. I. I (One ed.). London: Thomas Telford. pp. 836–. ISBN 978-0-7277-3196-8. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- Highways Agency, ed. (2004). "1". M6 Route Management Strategy: Warrington to the Scottish Borders : Final Strategy Summary Brochure, January 2004. 1. 1 (I ed.). Scotland: Highways Agency. p. 73.
- Frommer's Short (22 December 2011). "3". The Borders and Galloway Regions, Scotland: Frommer's ShortCuts. I. I (I ed.). Scotland: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 56–. ISBN 978-1-118-27111-7. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "Preston Bypass Opening (Booklet)" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2008.
- "The Preston By-pass-Enquiry Needed". Practical Motorist and Motor Cyclist. Vol. 5 no. 57. March 1959. p. 803.
- Surveyor. The St. Bride's press. 1978. p. 21.
- British Information Services; Great Britain. Central Office of Information (1 January 1970). "I". Survey of British and Commonwealth affairs. One. I (I ed.). England, United Kingdom: Published for British Information Services by Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- Great Britain. Central Office of Information. Reference Division; British Information Services (1979). Inland transport in Britain. H.M.S.O. ISBN 978-0-11-700989-9. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- Institution of Highway Engineers (1981). The Highway engineer. Institution of Highway Engineers. p. 23. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "III". Surveyor. 1. XII (XII ed.). London: The St. Bride's press. 1978. p. 35.
- "''ciht.org.uk''". Ciht.org.uk (Self-published). Retrieved 31 December 2011.[unreliable source?]
- John Porter (M.S.) (2002). The Motorway Achievement: Frontiers of Knowledge and Practice. Thomas Telford. pp. 539–. ISBN 978-0-7277-3197-5.
- T. G. Carpenter (27 January 2011). Construction in the Landscape: A Handbook for Civil Engineering to Conserve Global Land Resources. Routledge. pp. 143–. ISBN 978-1-84407-923-0. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "2". The Spectator. 245. F.C. Westley. 1980. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- Great Britain. Ministry of Housing and Local Government (1965). The Municipal Journal. 73. Municipal Journal.
- Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons: Transport Committee; Parliament Transport Committee Great Britain House of Commons (2 August 2005). Road Pricing: The Next Steps; Seventh Report of Session 2004–05. The Stationery Office. pp. 46–. ISBN 978-0-215-02566-1.
- Peter Baldwin; John Porter (M.S.); Robert Baldwin (2004). The Motorway Achievement. Thomas Telford. pp. 469–. ISBN 978-0-7277-3196-8.
- "M6". The Motorway Archive. Midland Links Motorways. Self-published. Retrieved 9 July 2012.[unreliable source?]
- "News: Motorway lighting". Autocar. Vol. 137 no. 3978. 13 July 1972. p. 19.
- "M6 Carlisle — Gretna". CBRD. Self-published. Retrieved 20 January 2008.[unreliable source?]
- "M6 Carlisle to Guards Mill Extension". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
- "M6 North Extension, United Kingdom". Road Traffic Technology. Retrieved 20 January 2008.
- Royal Town Planning Institute (2006). "I". Planning: for the natural and built environment. I. I (1 ed.). London: Planning Publications. p. 14.
- "one year after study" (PDF). Highways Agency. 11 August 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 November 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
- Highways & road construction international. 41. 1973.
- Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons (2012). Parliamentary debates: Official report. H.M. Stationery Off.
- "Decision on M6 Upgrade Announced". News Distribution Service for the Government and Public Sector. Archived from the original on 4 May 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
- "Hard-shoulder scheme to go nationwide". The Independent. 27 October 2007. Retrieved 25 January 2007.
- Baldwin, Peter; John, Porter (M.S.); Baldwin, Robert; Thomas Telford (2004). "XIV". In Thomas Telford. The Motorway Achievement. I. I (I ed.). London: Thomas Telford. p. 693. ISBN 978-0-7277-3196-8.
- Baldwin, Peter; John, Porter (M.S.); Baldwin, Robert; Thomas Telford (2004). "XV". In Thomas Telford. The Motorway Achievement. I. I (I ed.). London: Thomas Telford. pp. 694–. ISBN 978-0-7277-3196-8.
- "Encouraging better use of roads and the M6". Department for Transport. Archived from the original on 11 August 2007. Retrieved 20 January 2008.
- Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons: Welsh Affairs Committee (22 December 2010). The Severn crossings toll: third report of session 2010–11, report, together with formal minutes and written evidence. The Stationery Office. pp. 58–. ISBN 978-0-215-55570-0. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "M6 Jct 11A – 19 (Increasing Capacity) Study". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 10 August 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
- "M6 Junctions 13–19 Managed Motorway".
- "M1 Jct 19". Retrieved 31 October 2016.
- Driver Location Signs, M6 J4-18(map) Highway Authority 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- Driver Location Signs, Highway Agency Area 10 (map) – Highway Authority, 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "S.I. 1987/252". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "S.I. 1987/2254". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "S.I. 1990/2659". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "S.I. 1991/1873". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "S.I. 1993/1370". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "S.I. 1997/1292". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "S.I. 1997/1293". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "S.I. 1998/125". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- Lancashire Historic Highways – a page supplied by Lancashire County Council detailing the history of the M6 in North West England, and the construction of Preston Bypass, the UK's first motorway.
- Route 6
- The Motorway Archive