The Secret History of the Motorway

Much Ado Over Nothing Much: 1999 - 2008

Not quite everything was killed off in 1997.

In 1999, the M1 extension to the east of Leeds opened, as did the last section of A74(M) - meaning that at last there was a motorway link from the English border to Glasgow. Finally in 2000, the M60 Manchester Outer Ring Road was completed, having been first mooted way back in World War II.


Nothing. For the first time since motorway construction began nearly fifty years before, there was no new motorway under construction in the United Kingdom.

Or was there?

Huh? You're in riddle mode again.

Well, there was no Government funded motorway under construction. Just as the last bit of the M60 was being opened, the first work started on the M6 Toll, which was to be a bypass for the M6 motorway through the West Midlands conurbation. This was a completely new venture, privately funded and that charged tolls for its use.

Once again, we're back to the earliest days of motorway proposals back in the 1920s - private companies planning to construct motorways, and then charging tolls in order to pay for the construction costs.

Has it worked? Well, time will tell. The M6 is still congested and the Toll is generally almost empty, even at peak hours...

As for the rest of the country, a partially independant Scotland is getting on quite nicely with its construction programme, with completion of the M77, and plans for completing the M80 and M8, and extending the M73. Construction has also started on extending the M74 through Glasgow to meet the M8 south of the Kingston Bridge - the kind of urban motorway construction utterly unthinkable in England.

Speaking of England, the A1 has been upgraded (or is in the process of so doing) to A1(M) thoughout Yorkshire, and finally, 50 years after it all started, the M6 was completed, with the Cumberland Gap section between Carlisle and the Scottish border opening, rather pleasingly, on 5 December 2008.

What of the Future? >>

The Secret History of the Motorway



Early Struggles

Indifference to Acceptance

The Tide Turns

The Special Roads Act

The Preston Bypass

The M1, M10 and M45

The Motorway Age

Plans, Big Plans

Low Priority

Last Hurrah

Much Ado About Nothing Much

What of the Future?




Maps and Plans


Further Reading


See Also:

50 years of Motorways