A proposal for Liverpool Outer Ring Road, extending from Sefton Town in the North to Gatacre in the South, was included in the 1949 Road Plan for Lancashire. It was to comprise lengths of new all-purpose road together with the substantial widening of existing roads.
During the following two decades, however, massive industrial and housing development began to take place, particularly on the 'Lancashire' periphery of the Merseyside Conurbation. Kirkby grew from a small village, to a town with a population of 68000, the population of Aintree and Maghull doubled, and housing estates proliferated in both Liverpool and Bootle. Major new industries moved into the area, for example, the Ford factory at Halewood and, at Seaforth Docks, large container facilities were built.
Having regard to the development which was taking place, and the consequent generation of new traffic and traffic patterns, a joint Committee of the six major highway authorities in the Merseyside Conurbation prepared the Merseyside Traffic Survey in 1962, which showed the urgent need for greatly improved road facilities in the Lancashire area.
The County Surveyor then proposed a completely new line for the Liverpool Outer Ring Road, aimed at interconnecting the major radial roads, which included the projected Liverpool-Preston and the South Lancashire motorways. It would also serve the major growth and development areas within the County.
The new route would enable the Ring Road to be built to motorway standards, with grade-separated junctions. Subsequently it was designated M57. The proposal was accepted by the Merseyside Highways and Traffic Committee in its Report published in 1965, and was incorporated in the Consultants' Report on the Merseyside Land Use and Transportation Survey. In the latter, the route was not only considered a necessary part of the road network, but sections were recommended to be given the highest priority for construction.
It was the intention that the motorway would run from a junction with Liverpool-Southport Trunk Road, A565 in Thornton, and be clear of the development at Netherton. It would connect with the A59 Trunk Road where, on open land between Aintree and Maghull, a major interchange would form the junction with the proposed Aintree-Skelmersale motorway. Continuing in a south easterly direction, there would be a junction with the East Lancashire Road, A580. Skirting Knowsley Park it would pass through a gap between built-up areas to a junction with Liverpool Road, A57, which would provide connections for Huyton, Prescot and St Helens. It would then extend to Tarbock, where an interchange with the South Lancashire section of the M62 was to be constructed. Beyond this point, it was envisaged that the Ring Road would be continued as far as the Speke-Widnes Road, A562.
Although the 14 mile route passed through a densely populated urban area, only five dwelling houses would have to be demolished to accommodate the construction of the Ring Road. To a large extent, this was due to the existence of the Green Belt and the ready acceptance of the Planning Authorities that the construction of a motorway was not incompatible with it.
As a Principal Road proposal, the Lancashire County Council was the highway authority for the scheme, which attracted a 75% grant from the Department of the Environment. Its implementation, therefore, was dependent on the timing of its inclusion in the Department's programme and, in order that an early start could be made on at least some part of the construction, it was decided that the scheme should be phased. Priority was given to the section between the A59 and A580, primarily for the movement of industrial traffic to and from Seaforth Docks, and referred to as Phase 1. Apart from the terminal junctions of this section, a two-level interchange was to be provided at Ribblers Lane, to serve Kirkby.
Following detailed investigation and preliminary design work, the statutory procedures were completed in 1969, without undue difficulty. The design and supervision of the construction of two bridges to carry railways over the motorway was undertaken by British Rail, and both were the subject of advance contracts.
Work began on the Main Contract in April 1970 and, although it provided for earthworks and structures to be built to the ultimate dual three-lane layout, it was intended that the motorway would only have dual two-lane carriageways initially. After the Contract had been awarded, however, it was agreed that, having regard to increased traffic forecasts, the third lanes would be constructed at the outset.
The Contract involved the construction of 11 structures, the most important being Radshaw Nook Bridge carrying the northbound slip road of the motorway over the East Lancashire Road, a four-span continuous structure 218 feet long and curved in plan to a 424 feet radius. All the bridges are supported on piled foundations.
Site investigations indicated glacial boulder clay overlying relatively soft bunter sandstone. In the vicinity of the River Alt, however, alluvial sands were encountered. Adjacent to the river, areas of peat with rotted trees were found below the sands, in what may have been former water-courses. On the approach to the East Lancashire Road, the clay was overlain by "blown" sand.
Approximately 70% of the motorway was constructed on embankment, the largest being between Spencers Lane and the crossing over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. Most of the imported filling was of unburnt colliery waste, ie black shale, from old pit heaps in the St Helens area. A total of 1,400,000 tons was used, thus making a useful contribution to the removal of dereliction. Tests proved that the material was free from the risk of spontaneous combustion, but its use was not permitted within 44 inches of the surface of the motorway.
At the A580, the connection consisted of two slip roads for movement to and from the north only, with the intention that the major portion of the interchange would be constructed in Phase II.
Phase I was completed two months early, and was opened to traffic in April 1972.
Meanwhile, in March 1972, work began on the Main Contract for Phase II, which involved the construction of 6 miles of dual three-lane motorway between the East Lancashire Road, A580, and the M62 Interchange at Tarbock. It included a further interchange at the junction with Liverpool Road, A57, at Prescot
Further Advance Contracts for two bridges carrying railways over the motorway had already been awarded by British Rail. The construction of 20 other bridges was required, the largest being Knowsley Wood Bridge carrying the Ring Road over the A580 in two spans each of 120 feet, and with a superstructure of steel plate girders.
Many service diversions were required, including three 40 inch diameter trunk water mains serving Liverpool from reservoirs at Rivington.
A spoil heap of excavated material from a former open-cast coal site was shaped to form the approach embankment to a railway crossing, and shallow mine workings, probably dating from the early 19th century were rafted over.
Provision was made in the Contract, for the 2 mile section between the A57 and Tarbock to be completed at the same time as the section of the M62 between the Interchange at that point, and the M6. These two lengths of motorway were opened to traffic in November 1973 thereby enabling traffic using the M62 to gain access to the centre of Liverpoool via the A57 route, in advance of the completion of the M62 between Tarbock and Queens Drive.
Phase II of the Ring Road was completed in March 1974, shortly before Local Government Reorganisation, when the former Lancashire County Council went out of existence. Its opening to traffic, was the final episode in a long series of such events, covering the considerable mileage of motorway for which the Council had been directly responsible, both as the Highway Authority and as the Minister's Agent Authority. It was considered to be fitting that the Liverpool Outer Ring Road was a 'County' motorway lying within the Administrative Area of the new Merseyside County Council.
In due course the M57, that is, Phases I and II connecting with the M58 and the M62 respectively, was 'trunked'. It became part of the Trunk Road Motorway Network and the responsibility of the Minister of Transport, as the Highway Authority.
Regrettably, no immediate progress was made towards the completion of the remaining parts of the Ring Road, as originally intended. It took nearly 20 years before construction began on the extension from the M62 Interchange at Tarbock to the Speke-Widnes Road, A562. Completed in March 1996, it was designed as a high standard all-purpose road with a two level interchange connection to the A562, but it was not a 'motorway'.
Although it is believed that there is a strong case for extending the existing Ring Road from the M58/A59 Interchange at Maghull to a junction with the Liverpool-Southport Road, A565, in Thornton, no action had been taken by the year 2000.