The A6144(M) was no ordinary motorway, and its unusual status made it one of Britain's most famous motorways. It its fame was not down to its length, nor for the number of vehicles using it. In fact, its fame was due to its unique status. This was Britain's only motorway that was completely single carriageway.
Bucking the trend, this was the only single carriageway road in the country where motorists could travel at 70mph, and do so legally. This is a story of a legend: the story of how the motorway was born, the ambitious plans for it, and what led to the motorway coming to a sad demise.
The birth of a spur
The need to get bypass for Sale built was highlighted during the 1980s. The growth of the industrial estates around Carrington, Trafford meant that large numbers of lorries were using the A6144 and A56 through Sale in order to reach the M63 to the north of the town. So it was decided that a link road would be built to the west of Sale to link the A6144 to the M63.
However, the initial idea of a motorway along this route was conceived as far back as the 1950s, when highways officials planned to build a motorway to link central Manchester with the M6 at Knutsford, numbered M60. However, the idea of building this motorway was rejected during the 1970s.
Despite the rejection of the original scheme, the need for the motorway to be built never faded. It was later decided that bits of the project should be considered - the first segment being the A556(M) to link the M6 with the M56 south of Altrincham, whilst the second was a bypass for Sale. It would be the second segment that would be built first, due to the urgency of relieving Sale of the pressures of traffic congestion.
A 1.5 mile long route was chosen, and subsequently work began on building the road in February 1986. There were difficulties in its construction, due to the poor soils that lay beneath the line of the road. As a result, over 38.2 million litres of peat had to be removed and replaced with selected fill. In other areas, a two feet thick drainage blanket had to be installed with a series of vertical drains beneath them, in order to allow the alluvial flood plains to drain better. And on top of that, the construction company had to monitor a fuel pipeline to ensure it didn't move!
The Carrington Spur, as the road was to be known as, opened in October 1987, some ten months ahead of schedule. It was opened as a single carriageway route, but designated as a motorway - the A6144(M) - as traffic joining the road could go nowhere else but the M63 (the junction at the other end was a "dumbbell interchange", but it would be difficult for big vehicles to turn round!).
The plan was for the motorway to be possibly extended, not as part of the M60 as mentioned above, but to ultimately provide a bypass for the A56 around Sale and Timperley, meeting the A56 just to the north of Altrincham. If required, the existing road would be upgraded to a dual carriageway, in order to suit the traffic capacity requirements should the industrial parks be expanded further.
However, this extension would not materialise, and the A6144(M) would remain as the unusual little motorway it became famous for. It was a single carriageway road, with a set of traffic lights at one end, and a couple of emergency lay-bys instead of a hard shoulder.
Death of a legend
Despite being a motorway, the A6144(M) was one of a small number of such roads that were not a trunk route. Responsibility for the road lay with Trafford Council, who decided they wanted the motorway to be downgraded and its special status revoked. This would only be accomplished with the widening of the M60 Manchester Ring Road, as the existing roundabouts would have to be replaced; a single large roundabout was constructed in their place, so large, prohibited vehicles could turn around to avoid joining the motorway.
So at midnight on 24 May 2006, the Special Road status was revoked, and the A6144(M) became plain old A6144. The speed limit was reduced to 50mph. Yet certain groups of road users were still banned from using the road, making the downgrade seem pointless. Either way, it was seen as the end of an era by fans and road enthusiasts across the UK.