M6 motorway

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230 miles
368 km


South - North


Primary destinations: Rugby



Opening date:


Completion date:

Motorways junctioned:
M1 motorway
2 -
M69 motorway
3A -
M6 Toll
4/4A -
M42 motorway
6 -
A38(M) motorway
8 -
M5 motorway
10A -
M54 motorway
11A -
M6 Toll
20 -
M56 motorway
21A -
M62 motorway
26 -
M58 motorway
29 -
M65 motorway
30 -
M61 motorway
32 -
M55 motorway
35 -
A601(M) motorway

The M6 motorway is the longest motorway in England. It runs from a junction with the M1 near Rugby in central England, passes near Coventry, through Birmingham and near the major cities of Wolverhampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester, Liverpool, and Preston, and runs to the north of Carlisle, close to the Scottish border.

It is often claimed to be the busiest motorway in the country, although the M25 may also lay claim to this dubious distinction, depending on the measurement used. It is also sometimes referred to as the "Backbone of Britain" as it forms part of the central road corridor between Glasgow and London, connecting the industrial North of England to its financial and governmental heart in the South East.

From the M1 to the M6 Toll split near Birmingham, the M6 is part of the unsigned E-road E24. E5 joins the M6 Toll from the M42 and then uses the M6 to its north end at Carlisle, where it continues along the M74.


History and curiosities

The first section of the motorway, and indeed the first motorway in the country, the Preston by-pass, was opened by the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan on December 5, 1958. In subsequent years the motorway was extended piecemeal in both directions and is now 230 miles (370 km) long.

Junction 6 is known as Spaghetti Junction because of its complexity.

On the elevated ground between Shap and Tebay, the north and south-bound carriages split apart. Uniquely, at this point a local road runs between the two carriageways without a junction to the motorway.

The section of the M6 which runs over Shap Fell in Cumbria is 320m above sea level, one of the highest points on any motorway in the UK (junction 22 of the M62 on Saddleworth Moor is higher). The West Coast main railway line runs alongside the M6 for much of its length.

The northbound entry slip road at Lancaster North is unusually short, presenting problems for traffic joining the motorway. The M6 crosses the River Lune at this point and unless the bridge had been made wider, there was no space to build a longer slip road.

The route was intended to replace the old A6, but a much closer approximation to the actual route of the M6 is provided by following the route: A45, A34, A50, A49, A6.

M6 Toll

The M6 Toll, Britain's first toll motorway, was partially opened (to local traffic only) on December 9, 2003 and fully opened a few days later, and runs around the east and northern sides of Birmingham and Walsall in addition to the current M6, intended to alleviate congestion at the latter's busiest point near to Wolverhampton between the M54 and M5 motorways. This stretch of motorway, at least prior to the opening of the toll, carried 180,000 vehicles per day. It was designed to carry only 72,000 vehicles. The peak-time price for cars to travel its full length has increased to £3.50 (14 June 2005)

An alternative way of by-passing the congested West Midlands area (northbound) is to continue north on the M1 then take the A50 or A52.

Future developments

M6 Expressway

This new toll motorway is planned to run from Junction 11 (Cannock) to Junction 19 (Knutsford). It was discussed in DfT document: M6: giving motorists a choice. As of 19th July 2005 UK Government appears to be in favour of the Expressway solution: Statement by Stephen Ladyman MP Responses to the earlier document were also published: Responses to M6: giving motorists a choice


The A556(M) link road, planned to provide a route to the M56 eastbound towards Manchester for travellers coming from the south on the M6, has been the subject of a public inquiry for many years.


The M74 upgrade near Gretna Green will extend the motorway to the Scottish border, connecting the M6 to the M74 and A74(M). On completion it is widely believed that the M74 will be renamed M6, creating a motorway running more than 350 miles (563 km) from Rugby to Glasgow. However the Scottish Executive has been very reticent in confirming the rename.

Exit list

M6 Motorway
Northbound exits Junction Southbound exits
Glasgow, Edinburgh A74 (A74(M)) Terminus Start of motorway
Carlisle, Galashiels, Hawick A7 44 No exit
Carlisle, Hexham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne A69 43 Carlisle, Hexham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne A69
Carlisle A6 42 Carlisle A6
Southwaite services
Wigton B5305 41 Wigton B5305
Penrith, Keswick A66 40 Penrith, Keswick, Brough, Scotch Corner A66
Shap, Kendal (A6) 39 Shap (A6)
Tebay services (west)   Tebay services (east)
Brough A685 Appleby B6260 38 Kendal, Brough A685
Kendal, Sedbergh A684 37 Kendal, Sedbergh A684
no access to services Killington Lake services
Kirkby Lonsdale, Skipton A65 Kendal, Barrow-in-Furness A590 36 Kirkby Lonsdale, Skipton A65 Barrow-in-Furness A590
Burton-in-Kendal services no access to services
Carnforth, Morecambe A601(M) (A6) 35 Carnforth, Morecambe A601(M) (A6)
Lancaster, Morecambe, Kirkby Lonsdale, Heysham A683 34 Lancaster, Morecambe A683
Lancaster A6 33 Garstang, Fleetwood A6
Lancaster (Forton) services
Blackpool, Fleetwood, Preston, Garstang M55 32 Blackpool M55
Preston, Longridge B6242 31A No exit
Preston, Clitheroe A59 31 Preston, Clitheroe A59
No exit 30 Manchester, Bolton M61 Leeds (M62) Blackburn (M65)
Burnley, Blackburn, Preston M65 29 Burnley, Blackburn M65
Leyland (A49) 28 Leyland (A49)
Charnock Richard services
Parbold, Standish, Chorley A5209 27 Wigan, Parbold A5209
Skelmersdale, Liverpool, Southport M58 26 Skelmersdale, Liverpool, Southport M58
Wigan, Ashton A49 25 No exit
No exit 24 St. Helens, Ashton A58
St. Helens, Liverpool, Southport A580 23 Manchester, Liverpool, Newton-le-Willows A580
Newton-le-Willows A49 Leigh A579 22 Warrington A49
Manchester, Leeds M62 21A Liverpool, Southport M62
Liverpool, Southport M62 Manchester, Leeds M62
Warrington, Irlam A57 21 Warrington, Irlam A57
Lymm, Macclesfield A50 20 Lymm, Macclesfield A50
NORTH WALES, Runcorn, Birkenhead M56 NORTH WALES, Chester, Manchester & Airport, Stockport M56
Manchester & Airport, Stockport A556 (M56) 19 Northwich, Knutsford, Macclesfield A556
Knutsford services
Holmes Chapel, Middlewich, Northwich, Chester A54 18 Holmes Chapel, Middlewich A54
Congleton, Sandbach A534 17 Congleton, Sandbach A534
Sandbach services
Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, Nantwich A500 16 Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, Nantwich A500
Keele services
Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme, A500 15 Stoke-on-Trent, Stone, Eccleshall A500
Stafford services   Stafford services
Stafford, Stone, Eccleshall A34 14 Stafford A34
Stafford A449 13 Stafford A449
Telford A5 12 NORTH WALES, Cannock, Wolverhampton, Telford A5 (M54)
No exit 11A The SOUTH, Lichfield M6 Toll
Cannock A460 11 Wolverhampton A460
Hilton Park services
NORTH WALES, Wolverhampton, Telford M54 10A No exit
Walsall, Wolverhampton A454 10 Walsall A454
Wednesbury A461 9 Wednesbury A461
The SOUTH WEST, Birmingham, West Bromwich M5 8 The SOUTH WEST, Birmingham, West Bromwich M5
Birmingham A34 7 Birmingham A34
Birmingham A38(M), Sutton Coldfield A38 6 Birmingham A38(M) & A38
Birmingham, Solihull A452 5 No exit
No exit 4A The NORTH (M1), The SOUTH (M40) M42
Lichfield A446 4 Coventry, Birmingham Airport, NEC A446
The SOUTH WEST, Birmingham & Airport, Solihull, NEC M42 South
The NORTH WEST, Lichfield M6 Toll (M42 North) 3A No exit
Corley services
Bedworth, Coventry, Nuneaton A444 3 Bedworth, Coventry, Nuneaton A444
Coventry A46 Leicester M69 (M1) 2 Coventry A46 Leicester M69
Rugby, Lutterworth A426 1 Rugby A426
No exit M1 J19 Felixstowe, Corby, Kettering A14, M1 North
Start of motorway Terminus London M1

See also

External links

Motorway symbol Motorways of the United Kingdom
Great Britain: M1 - M10 - M11 - M18 - M180 - M181 - M2 - M20 - M23 - M25 - M26 - M27 - M271 - M275 - M3 - M32 - M4 - M40 - M42 - M45 - M48 - M49 - M5 - M50 - M53 - M54 - M55 - M56 - M57 - M58 - M6 - M6 Toll - M60 - M61 - M62 - M65 - M66 - M67 - M69 - M602 - M606 - M621 - M73 - M74 - M77 - M8 - M80 - M876 - M898 - M9 - M90
Northern Ireland: M1 - M2 - M3 - M5 - M12 - M22
A-roads with motorway restrictions
Great Britain: A1(M) - A167(M) - A194(M) - A3(M) - A38(M) - A308(M) - A329(M) - A48(M) - A404(M) - A57(M) - A58(M) - A64(M) - A66(M) - A601(M) - A627(M) - A6144(M) - A74(M) - A823(M)
Northern Ireland: A8(M)
List of motorways in the United Kingdom
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