M6 at 60: Timeline of Britain's first stretch of motorway and the men behind the project

For pioneers James Drake and Harry Yeadon, the Preston Bypass was an engineering dream come true.

Wednesday, 5th December 2018, 6:33 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th December 2018, 10:20 am
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan (left)

Mr Drake, Lancashire’s County Surveyor and Bridgemaster, first had the idea of a fast north-south highway through the county as early as 1937.

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The M6 at 60: The road which blazed a trail when it opened in 1958

He was part of a delegation which travelled to Germany in 1938 to look at their road model with a view to drawing up a similar plan for Lancashire.

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Prime Minister Harold Macmillan (left)

Mr Yeadon was his deputy, who eventually took over the top job from his boss.

Speaking to the Post in 2006 Mr Yeadon, who supervised the construction of all 22 bridges along the route, explained that the first motorway in Britain was built in Preston, rather than London, because: “Conditions on the A6/A49 route through the county were becoming pretty appalling in terms of the amount of traffic.

“Some parts of the press said that we didn’t really know what we were doing, which was quite unfair. We all recognised that it was a guinea pig.”

Pictured left, Harry Yeadon, right, James Drake

Asked how, looking back, he felt about the motorway project, he said: “Extremely proud. It was a great achievement and it was a vital piece of work.

“It would have been terrible trying to live and work in Preston if the M6 wasn’t there.”

M6 timeline

1937 - Lancashire County Council first sent a plan to Whitehall for a north-south route for traffic through the county because, even at that time, the A6 was choked up and seen as inadequate.

1944 - Minstry of Transport finally agreed a new road was justified.

1956 - Work began on constructing Britain’s first stretch of motorway.

1958 - Prime Minister Harold Macmillan carried out the official opening of the new “super highway” at Samlesbury, with traffic allowed on it for the first time on December 5.

1960 - The UK’s second motorway - the Lancaster Bypass - was opened from Hampson Green to north of Carnforth.

1967 - Preston Bypass was widened to three lanes, using the extra wide central reservation.

1995 - The motorway stretch was then opened as a four-lane highway in both directions.