Where is it?
It's the so-called Liverpool Outer Ring Road, here!
Erm, isn't it a bit difficult to have an Outer Ring Road of a city that's on the coast?
You would have thought so, wouldn't you?
In practice, it doesn't even go all the way around the land-side of Liverpool - which to be fair was only ever the plan. I rather doubt that anyone intended to build a really big bridge to the west of Liverpool...
So what was the plan?
Well, the original plan for a motorway Outer Ring Road was proposed in 1965 (though a non-motorway version was mentioned in the 1949 Lancashire Roads Plan).
It would have gone from the most westerly major route in the area, the A565 to Southport, via all the major Liverpool radial routes such as A59, the proposed motorway to Skelmersdale (now M58), A580, A57, the then-proposed M52 South Lancashire Motorway, to the most southerly, the A562 to Widnes.
Well, as with pretty much all motorways, construction began in stages. First came the section between A59 and A580, then the section between A580 and the M62 (nee M52). Then.... nothing. The sections at either end didn't happen - meaning that the M57 is one of those occasional motorways (like M67) that are uncompleted at either end. A map can be seen here showing the entire M57 route
In 1996, however, the southern section of M57 to A562 was finally constructed. Except, of course, that things weren't as simple as that. As "motorway" is a dirty word these days, it was completed as a non-motorway, the A5300.
There has also been speculation regarding a "secret unbuilt extension" of M57...
Sounds fun - tell me more!
Well, if you continue the line of the M57/A5300 south, then you cross the Mersey and reach the M56. Now, there's nothing terribly exciting about that you might think. However, the point you reach is between junction 12 and junction 14. There is no junction 13...
Unfortunately for that little bit of fun, it doesn't seem very likely at all. The Mersey at the relevant point is about a mile and a half (2.25 km) wide, and then you'd also have to get across the Manchester Ship Canal just to the south, meaning you'd need a massive tall bridge get across - very similar to the Second Severn Crossing is size. That sort of thing is rather expensive, especially for a route that wouldn't really be of any great national importance.
Alas, the most likely answer to the M56's missing junction is something to do with the local industrial base rather than anything to do with the M57.
That's a nice story. Anything else?
Well, the M57 has one other piece of trivia associated with it. It used to one of those rare motorways that aren't connected to any other motorways...
Yes, it is! There's junctions with both the M58 and M62!
True, but to travel between the M57 and either of those motorways involved a short trip along non-motorway roads - about 120 yards (110m) between the M57 and M62 eastbound, and 200 yards (180m) between the M58 and M57. Which let's face it, is just a tiny bit pathetic, eh?
Alas, it lost its rather magnificent trivia point in December 2008, when a rather snazzy set of free-flow sliproads were put in place, though rather disappointly, not the originally planned set, which were to head between Liverpool and its airport, rather than Manchester and Aintree.
That's true. So what's the motorway itself like?
Do you really want to know?
Would I have asked the question if I didn't???
It all looks so promising, doesn't it. Unfinished ends, great big junction with the A580, a little spur motorway at junction 3...
It somehow manages to transcend all that and be really, really dull. It's not boring, like the M180 or M49, it's just dull. If you wanted to show someone what a generic motorway looked like, take them to the M57.
Well, there is that spur!
Yeah, it's dull too. However, there is a slight mystery about it.
Oh, what's that?
Why? I mean, what's the point in the existence of the spur? It just kind of leaves you in the middle of a Liverpool housing estate, and doesn't connect with any roads of any seeming importance - just a tiny A road and a spur of a B road...
Perhaps the clues are given on several contemporary maps, which show an interesting mapping error - that of the spur continuing south of its current end, right the way down to the A57 along the route of A526 Seth Powell Way, a single carriageway road with suspicious looking gaps around it which are the right width for a much larger road. In addition, the northern end of Seth Powell Way meets the roundabout in a very strange way, almost as if it is a bit bodged together. It's also slightly bizzare how Seth Powell Way has such an important sounding number, and indeed is the only part of A526 and is under a mile long.
Either way, there's no flaring on the end of the spur, no space that would indicate thoughts of it continuing south, so the above paragraph is speculation and thinking aloud!
So it's dull, eh? Well, let me make my own mind up!
Can I comment on this motorway?
Of course! Contact me and I'll put them here!
Have any other visitors commented?
David Brown has some information on the spur:
Regarding the little spur. If you look at an ariel photo of the area (such as Windows Live Local), there is a clue that could help solve this little mystery. The old through road (abandoned when the motorway was built?) is a little to the south of the current roundabout. Given that there is a little bit of space either side of the spur, and a lot of space south on the A526, could a simple diamond interchange have been planned? There is probably even room for a standard roundabout interchange if the roundabout was on the old road.
Oh, and as for the contemporary maps you mention, one of them can be seen here
Paul Martin adds an interesting piece of information:
Just to add to your comments about the spur. For many years it was closed. Fully built, with fork signs, but closed. Like it was waiting for something to connect to it.
Nick J adds:
I'm so pleased to finally see the M57 featured on your site, as it truly is a pathetic motorway in my opinion, although I suppose it does get busy enough (unlike the M58), so maybe it's not that pathetic to the people that have to use it every day.
Nevertheless, it holds happy memories for me, as childhood journeys from Liverpool to visit my grandparents in Nottingham used to begin with us turning onto the M57 at the now numbered junction 2. In the first decade or so of it's life, the junctions weren't numbered at all, making the motorway even more pathetic than it is now.
The spur at junction 3 was for many years shown as "under construction" on road maps - when the motorway first opened in the 1970s (when I was just a wee boy), I understand that either this junction didn't actually open, or, if it did, it was quickly closed again, as there was concern that it would generate too much traffic in the delightful estate of Cantril Farm (now renamed Stockbridge Village). So for years, there were badly positioned grey panels over the road signs, both on the motorway itself, and on the local roads leading to the roundabout. As a child, I remember walking along the sliproads and feeling very excited that I was walking along tarmac over which cars had not driven for many years, if at all. It was only when Seth Powell Way (the A526) opened, I think some time in the late 1980s, that the junction was once again reopened.
I remember reading, years ago, a book that made reference to a southern extension of the M57, that would have indeed crossed the M56 at the "missing" junction 13, but there was also suggestion that the M57 would have continued all the way to Stockport(!) - so I'm not sure how much truth there was in it. Considering the A5300 is virtually motorway standard, I do think it was a pity that it wasn't opened as M57, which might have made it less pathetic. Certainly, it's a bit strange that going southbound over that bridge, the road is not under motorway restrictions, but northbound, it is.
There are still plans to extend northwards from Switch Island to link up with the A565, somewhere north of Thornton (possibly to the point at which the A565 becomes dual carriageway bypassing Formby), but again, whether these plans will ever be realised is anyone's guess. I very much doubt that any new road would be built to motorway standards.
There are also plans to improve the junction with the M62, by providing direct spurs from the M57 southbound onto the M62 eastbound and from the M62 westbound onto the M57 northbound, so that will finally see the M57 truly linking up with the rest of the national motorway network. I believe this is a firm proposal on the DfT website.
I was only thinking the other day while driving down the A5300 that it was almost a motorway, except for having no hard shoulders along it.
The north start of the M57 is one of the most complicated junctions, as the M58 also starts from there, and many a time cars dive across lanes to get on the right motorway. A number of times I have turned right too early and got on the M57 instead of the M58!!
Also I now work off the M57 at the A580 (East Lancs Road) junction and getting on the M57 southbound from the A580 away from liverpool involves a bizarre swing to the left then the right then downhill to a roundabout where the actual junction is.
Nice to see Switch Island before it got re-modelled! The first few images are now officially out of date!
The thing about the Spur is that it connects Knowsley Village, Cantrill Farm (or to be politially correct, Stockbridge Village!) and via Seth Powell Way, the A57 to the M57 without having to go out of your way to Prescot. At the other end of Seth Powell Way, there is a lot of space for a dual carrageway to follow the route of the A526 without requiring too much hard work. This route probably isn't a motorway as we have to let the Cantrill Farmers out somehow!
I have to say it's the most over-engineered, dull motorway in the country! They still claim to have a ring road in the A5080, although I agree with you that it can't physically go all the way around Liverpool! It would be better if there was a link between Switch Island and the coast road up to Formby - it would be so much quicker getting to Southport.
The "Hillside Avenger":
Like Nick J, I too have fond childhood memories of the M57. My family escaped from Liverpool to Scotland in 1974 but we sneaked back south a few times a year to visit my Grandparents. My mother's folks lived in Litherland (at the top end of the '57) and my dad's lived in Widnes, hence my rose-tinted view of this bleak road.
Now, I've been into roads since a very early age, probably bourne out of these exact journeys and I blame the M57 in particular for this! Being an only child, I was probably spoiled rotten at both ends of this road so more reason for happy memories..
While I could gaze whistfully at the M9, M80, M73 and what there was then of the M74 (not much) and the wonder of 3 lanes of the M6 once we were into England, it was the '57 that really held my fascination.
I mean what a start from Sefton! A gargantuan roundabout (as was), an invisible motorway merging from the right, a motorway sign with my birthplace on it (Fazakerley), a mysterious closed bit in the middle (the spur) and back then it was just SO empty.
As we barrelled along in my Dad's pride and joy, I scanned my young eyes over three empty lanes of tarmac and bear in mind there wasn't much greenery on this then newish road which only added to it's emptiness. And it ended at a roundabout, as all pathetic motorways should.
I'm so glad your readers discussed the spur bit. Ever since I first stumbled across your awesome website I've been troubled by the memory of this spur. Was it closed? Was it a never built extension? Did phase 1 of the road end here? And what was Stockbridge village previously called? Who is Seth Powell? This beats The Samaritans any day!..
I've never understood why the motorways, both 57 and 58 were never extended to reach the A565. Southport's road links are truly awful, frozen in time and bereft of any decent access to the motorway network. There is only open country between Switch Island and the A565 and as you can see the ramps are already in place frozen in time, waiting with outstretched arms for a tarmac hero to stir them from their sleep.
And to get a shedload of traffic away from that damn junction..
So is the M57 pathetic? For me, no. Too many happy memories going to my Gran's house (Hillside) in my Dad's Hillman Avenger.
Ian reminds us of something [March 08]:
Your comment about no direct connection with the M62 will need amending once work is complete on the new slip roads.