The Road Plan for Lancashire 1949 contained proposals for improvements to the road network in the Southport and Ormskirk area, which included Route 215 connecting Wigan to the A570 Trunk Road at Bickerstaffe. This incorporated a section of the Wigan-Ormskirk Road A577 and included proposed by-passes of Up Holland and Skelmersdale.
On confirmation of the choice of Skelmersdale for the site of a New Town, in the early 1960's, the line of Route 215 was drastically revised to form a continuous new route south of the New Town and a junction with the M6 at Orrell. At the same time, investigations were carried out into possible routes for its extension.
Eastwards through South Wigan, it was the intention that the route should connect with the proposed M61 and continue beyond, into Bolton. Referred to as Route 225 in the Road Plan, the scheme was the subject of preliminary design, to the extent that, in the construction of the M61 in the late 60's, the Ministry of Transport agreed to the inclusion of a bridge under the motorway at Westhoughton, to allow for a future interchange.
Westwards, it was considered that the route should be extended through to Aintree, to a junction with the Liverpool-Preston Trunk Road A59 and the proposed Liverpool Outer Ring Road.
Designed for an eventual population of 80,000, and as an 'overspill' development, it was expected that there would be substantial traffic flows between the New Town, Liverpool, Bootle and Crosby. The proposed route would also relieve the seriously congested A59 through Ormskirk and Burscough, by providing an alternative for traffic to and from the North, especially heavy vehicles serving the Dock complexes of Merseyside.
In 1966, the Aintree-Skelmersdale-M6 route featured in the County Council's campaign 'Lancashire Needs'. Subsequently, it appeared in the Government's White Paper 'Roads for the Future' published in May 1970, as an integral part of the National Inter-Urban road system.
Meanwhile, in 1964, work had begun within the New Town and one of the first requirements was to by-pass a section of the A577, and to open-up the proposed industrial area. This was to be achieved by the construction of a new 2 mile long road along the line of the proposed Aintree-M6 route between Glenburn Road and Stannanought Road. Starting in May 1966, it was to be known as the Regional Road and would form the 'backbone' of the future road system of the New Town. However, due to restrictions on grants from Central Government the standard, when it was opened to traffic in March 1968, was limited to that of a single two-lane carriageway all-purpose road. Only minimal work was to be carried out at the junctions with the internal roads.
As Skelmersdale developed, it became increasingly urgent to connect the New Town to the M6. A detailed scheme was prepared by the County Council incorporating, within the design of the interchange, the existing Edgewood Hall Bridge which had been constructed to carry the M6 over the line of the proposed Route 215. On the east side of the M6, there was to be a link between the interchange and the A577, which would enable traffic to by-pass Up Holland.
Extending from the eastern end of the Regional Road at Pimbo, through to the M6, the construction of the Up Holland By-pass section of the route began in 1968. As a County road, the County Council received a grant of 75% of the cost from the Ministry of Transport.
Although only a dual two-lane carriageway all-purpose road, it was envisaged that, in due course, it would be upgraded, with the addition of third lanes and the provision of hard shoulders. An extruded asphalt kerb was, therefore, provided at the outer edges of the carriageways and a 'positive' drainage system was installed.
Two bridges were required at the crossing of minor roads, the most significant being Moor Road Bridge with a single span of 158 feet. Six 8 feet deep steel girders carries a 9 inch thick reinforced concrete deck slab. The existing M6 Winstanley Park Railway Bridge over the Wigan-Up Holland railway line had to be widened on each side to carry the slip roads connecting with the By-pass.
Four old mineshafts, with a maximum depth of 240 feet were encountered. These had been filled by the previous mine owners but grouting was carried out to fill any voids, prior to 'capping'.
The By-pass was opened to traffic in October 1970.
In 1972, the Minister of Transport agreed to the route being designated as a Trunk Road and, in the following year, the Regional Road was upgraded by the provision of a second two-lane carriageway, and hard shoulders. Further upgrading of the whole of the length from Glenburn Road to the M6 was undertaken in 1977 when it became a dual three-lane 4½ mile section of the M58 motorway.
The statutory procedures for the remaining 8 miles of the motorway began in 1971. These were the subject of a Public Inquiry in September 1973, which was inconclusive, and it was adjourned for a period of a year. Subsequently, the procedures were completed satisfactorily. The work was to be carried under two contiguous contracts but tenders were not accepted until 1978, both being awarded to the same Contractor. Construction began in the April of that year.
Apart from the terminal interchanges at Aintree and Glenburn Road, the Contracts included the building of intermediate interchanges at the junctions of A506, Melling, and A570, Bickerstaffe. The A506 is an important route serving the large residential and industrial area of Kirkby, which had developed rapidly after the War. This interchange was, however, to be uni-directional, allowing only for traffic movement to and from the east, ie Skelmersdale and M6.
The section of the motorway between Melling and Glenburn Road was to have dual three-lane carriageways. Between Magull and Melling, however, only two-lane carriageways were to be provided, but the 'land-take' allowed for future widening in order to accommodate the third lanes at a later date.
At Aintree, part of the Maghull Interchange, as it was known, had already been constructed to connect the Liverpool Outer Ring Road M57, with the A59. In the development of its design to accommodate the M58, allowance had to be made for the possibility of extending the M57 to the west, to connect with the A565.
The two-year Contracts included the construction, or alteration, of a total of 27 bridges, with the decks mainly formed of prestressed concrete beams. The most significant structure is Wood Hall Railway Bridge carrying the Walton Junction-Preston line over the motorway and slip road. With three continuous skew spans of approximately 130 feet, 90 feet and 135 feet, British Rail designed and supervised its construction. Apart from the crossing of side roads and minor watercourse, other bridges were required to carry the motorway over the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, and a slip road over the River Alt.
A major diversion of the River Alt in both culvert and open channel was necessary. This involved the construction of a reinforced concrete structure 500 feet long.
The main drainage included a coffer-dam crossing of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, for both a culvert and outfall pipe, and a thrust bore was driven beneath the railway line to accommodate a 42 inch diameter pipe.
During the period of the Contracts, it was considered to be necessary to redesign part of the Maghull Interchange. Whereas traffic on the A59 passing through the interchange would normally negotiate the roundabout, it was found that this was causing severe congestion at peak hours. It was decided, therefore, to construct a carriageway across the roundabout and provide traffic signal control. Although it was intended that this facility should only be brought into operation at times of congestion, it became a permanent feature. For this reason, and delays due to adverse weather and difficult earthworks problems, the Contractor was granted an extension of time.
Work on the two Contracts was completed during 1980, and the length of the motorway open to traffic was extended through to the junction with the A570 at Bickerstaffe in June, and to Aintree in September, of that year.
At the time of Local Government Reorganisation in 1974, the proposals of Lancashire County Council for Route 225, which would extend the motorway through to Bolton, had been transferred to the Greater Manchester Metropolitan County Council. Despite representations emphasing the importance of the scheme, which were made to the Ministry of Transport, little progress had been made before the Metropolitan County Council went out of existence.
Subsequently, the Department of Transport accepted responsibility for the proposal and appointed Consulting Engineers to investigate possible alternative alignments. In 1989, Public Consultation was carried out into three routes for the construction of a 'high standard all-purpose road' - not a 'motorway'. None of these would have utilised a bridge carrying the M61, which had been provided specifically for the future interchange between the two motorways.
The Preferred Route, which would connect with the A58 near its junction with the M61 at Chequerbent, was the subject of a Public Inquiry held in October 1994/February 1995. The Secretary of State accepted the Inspector's recommendations regarding this route and the statutory procedures were completed, but the scheme was withdrawn from the Trunk Road Programme, in 1996.
It was decided, however, that the line of the route should still be protected against the development but the responsibility for the scheme was passed to the Local Authority. This seems surprising, as an eastwards extension of the M58 would be of considerable benefit to the North West Region, and relieve the very heavily trafficked sections of the M62 within the Manchester Conurbation.
A more detailed description of this scheme can be found on the Lancashire County Council Environment Directorate website.