The Secret History of the Motorway


1896 Locomotives on Highways Act passed. No more need for a person to walk in front of vehicles.
1902 First Motor Roads planned in Belgium and USA
1906 London - Brighton Motorway proposed
1910 Creation of Roads Board, predecessor to the Ministry of Transport
1919 Ministry of Transport formed
1922 Urban motorway in London proposed
1923 Northern and Western Motorway from Uxbridge to Salford proposed
1925 First Italian Autostrade opens
1926 London - Brighton motorway proposed once more
1927 Bimingham - Wolverhampton New Road (A4123) opens
1934 Liverpool - East Lancashire Road (A580) opens
1936 Institute of Highways Engineers proposes motorway network
1938 County Surveyors' Society proposes motorway network
1938 Lancashire County Council propose North-South Motorway through the county
1942 Internal Ministry of War Transport tentative proposals for motorway network
1943 County of London Plan proposes urban motorways for the capital
1949 Road Plan for Lancashire published
1949 Special Roads Act passed
1956 Work starts on the Preston Bypass
1958 Preston Bypass, Britain's first motorway opens
1959 First section of M4 (Chiswick Flyover) opens
1959 First section of M1 opens, along with M10 and M45
1962 Minister of Transport announces "1,000 miles of motorway by early 1970s"
1962 SELNEC Highways Plan proposes network of urban motorways around Manchester area
1962 First motorway in Northern Ireland (M1) opens
1965 First motorway in Scotland (M8 Harthill Bypass) opens
1966 First motorway in Wales (A48(M) Port Talbot Bypass) opens
1967 Road Construction Units created
1969 Roads for the Future published
1970 Second thousand mile target "by early 1980s" set.
1973 London Ringways cancelled
1973 Start of road budget cutbacks due to oil crisis
1986 M25 London Orbital completed
1987 A6144(M) Carrington Spur opens
1989 Roads for Prosperity published
1993 Protests at Twyford Down delay completion of M3
1997 New Deal for Transport cancels large numbers of schemes
2000 M60 Manchester Outer Ring Road is completed. No motorways under construction for first time since 1956
2003 M6 Toll opens, bypassing M6 through the Birmingham and Wolverhampton areas
2008 M6 Preston Bypass reaches 50.
Final section of M6, closing the Cumberland Gap, opens on same day


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