|North Cheshire Motorway|
|Part of E22|
|Maintained by National Highways|
|Length||33.3 mi (53.6 km)|
|Counties||Greater Manchester, Cheshire|
The M56 motorway, also known as the North Cheshire motorway, serves the Cheshire and Greater Manchester areas of England. It runs east to west from junction 4 of the M60 at Gatley, south of Manchester, to Dunkirk, approximately four miles (six kilometres) north of Chester. With a length of 33.3 miles (53.6 km), it connects North Wales and the Wirral peninsula with much of the rest of North West England, serves business and commuter traffic heading towards Manchester, particularly that from the wider Cheshire area, and provides the main road access to Manchester Airport from the national motorway network.
Between junctions 9 and 16, the motorway forms part of the unsigned European route E22 on its route in the UK between Holyhead in Anglesey and Immingham in Lincolnshire.
Although the main line of the motorway starts as a continuation of the A5103 Princess Parkway, the M56 begins on the Sharston Spur (also known as the Sharston Bypass)[according to whom?] where it leaves the M60 motorway at its junction 4 (clockwise exit and anticlockwise entry), adjacent to where the slip roads for the A34 to and from Manchester merge and diverge. After passing through junctions 1 and 2, the spur joins the main line at junction 3, increasing the motorway from two lanes to four in each direction.
The motorway then heads south to the west of Wythenshawe and Manchester Airport until it reaches junction 6, where it turns west before crossing into Cheshire at the River Bollin underbridge. It runs to the south of Hale before reaching junctions 7 and 8 which are part of the same interchange complex. Junction 8 was planned to be used by the proposed A556(M) but is now a single 270 degree loop between the southbound onslip from Bowdon roundabout to the westbound carriageway since the A556 towards the M6 motorway was upgraded to dual carriageway in 2017. Traffic destined for the southbound M6 is directed to leave here (because there are no corresponding slip roads at its own junction) and so the junction can suffer from congestion.[according to whom?] Traffic levels on the mainline drop significantly as the motorway begins to assume a more traditional feel (three lanes and a hard shoulder per direction) whilst passing between Broomedge and High Legh.
After meeting the M6 at junction 9, the motorway passes south of Appleton Thorn and Stretton before reaching the outskirts of Runcorn at junction 11, near to where it also crosses over the Bridgewater Canal and the West Coast Main Line. On the other side of the town lies junction 12, whose northern roundabout morphed into a signalised hamburger junction when the Mersey Gateway bridge was built. The concrete multi-span Weaver Viaduct (crossing both the river and its navigation course) immediately follows junction 12 and offers views of the town of Frodsham and its railway viaduct, along with the INEOS chemical plant and Rocksavage Power Station on the opposite side. Between junctions 12 and 14, it runs parallel to the River Mersey, Manchester Ship Canal, a 400kV overhead power line and the Chester-Warrington railway. 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 destined for North Wales can use either the M53 or the A494 to reach the A55.
The motorway is fully lit between the M60 and junction 6 (including all of its spurs) along with the junctions with both the M6 and M53.
There are two motorway service areas on the M56: Chester (operated by Roadchef) and Lymm (operated by Moto, also accessible from the M6).
The first proposal for a motorway across north Cheshire was mooted in 1947 in a report commissioned by Cheshire County Council, with a line for the route of the motorway being agreed in 1958 between the council and the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation. The first section, announced in November 1963 by the transport minister Ernest Marples, was a southwards extension of the Princess Parkway from Wythenshawe in Manchester to the A56 and A556 at Bowdon which entered the Trunk Road Programme for 1967/1968. Construction began in 1968, and the motorway opened in stages between 1971 and 1981:
Proposals existed for an extension into North Wales across the proposed Dee Barrage, but as of the 2020s these have never materialised.
The carriageway between junctions 4 and 6 was widened from the original dual 3 lane configuration to dual 4 lanes during the 1990s as part of a nationwide motorway widening programme first proposed in the 1989 Roads to Prosperity white paper. Junction 5 became a lane drop/gain in both directions whereas junction 4 was reconfigured from a two-bridge roundabout to a signalised half-diamond with a single bridge.
Prior to 2008, the western end of the motorway terminated at a roundabout on the A5117. Work began in 2006 to grade-separate this junction (and others) to allow free-flowing traffic between the motorway and the A550 at Deeside in North Wales, meaning that the mainline motorway no longer connects to the roundabout (it meets the extended A494 head-on 235 metres east), with the former eastbound carriageway retained as an on-slip.
Data from driver location signs is 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|
|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)|
|Princess Parkway Spur ↓|
|End of motorway
Road continues as A5103 towards Manchester
|J3A||Sharston, Altrincham, Baguley A560|
|Altrincham, Wythenshawe, Wythenshawe
||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|
|Airport Spur ↓|
|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
|Ellesmere Port A5117, Whitchurch (A41)
|End of motorway |
Road continues as A494 towards North Wales
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi|
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.
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 (2019)||Count point data|
(Princess Parkway Spur)
The government announced in August 2015 that the motorway between junctions 6 and 8 would be upgraded to a smart motorway as part of its Northern Powerhouse strategy; work began in 2020 with completion anticipated by the end of 2021. The project will with the exception of the slip roads at the airport junction give the motorway four running lanes on each carriageway between junctions 3 and 7, a distance of seven miles.
The Minister of State for Transport however ruled out similar work being undertaken between junctions 12 and 14 before 2020, despite pressure from MPs whose constituencies lie near the motorway.
There was also to 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. However, this project was cancelled by Highways England in Spring 2020 as it didn't represent value for money.
"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.
((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)