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M66 Bury Easterly By-pass

 

Route 9 in the Road Plan for Lancashire 1949 was described as 'tapping the industrial area of East Lancashire north of Manchester'. It was intended to replace the A56 as far as the northern termination of the proposed Bury By-pass, it would follow the existing A56 Trunk Road to Edenfield, and then the A680 corridor to its junction with Route 8 near Whalley. Haslingden would be by-passed. Burnley and Blackburn traffic would connect with the Route at Edenfield and Haslingden respectively.

It was included within the category of 'Express (1st Group) Routes'. They would all have dual carriageways and almost 50% of the total length would be designed and constructed to 'motorway standard'.

Bury Easterly By-passAt its southern end, the first section of the Route was the one mile length of the proposed Middleton Link which subsequently, was to become part of the Manchester Outer Ring Road M60. From an interchange with the proposed Yorkshire Branch Road which later, was designated the Lancashire-Yorkshire Motorway M62, the three mile section to a junction with the A58 at Heap Bridge was to be known as the 'Bury Easterly By-pass Southern Section'.

The six mile long 'Northern Section' was to extend as far as the southern end of the proposed 'Edenfield-Rawtenstall Level Crossing By-pass' at a junction with the A676. In the event, the scheme for this By-pass was to include the first part of the Route to be constructed. In February 1962, the By-pass was included in the Minister's Programme, with the Lancashire County Council acting as the Agent Authority for the design and the award of the construction contract.

Apart from by-passing the Level Crossing in the centre of Rawtenstall, the scheme also included a connection to the A680, known as the Haslingden Link.

Bury Easterly By-pass2As a high standard dual two-lane carriageway road with grade separation, limited access, and only a small number of footpath crossings, the extra cost of a design for the 3½ mile long By-pass conforming with full motorway standards would have been comparatively small. Regrettably the Ministry would not agree to the County Council's recommendations in that respect.

The line of the By-pass, as shown in the Road Plan, was to the east of Edenfield. It was, however, moved to the west of the village in order to produce a better alignment.

The statutory procedures were completed without the need for a Public Inquiry.

Early in 1967, tenders were invited by the County Council, for return to the North Western Road Construction Unit (NWRCU) on the 3 April, only two days after the Unit was formed. As this was the first of the Units to be established, the contract for the construction of the By-pass was the first in the Country to be administered under the new arrangements.

Work began in June 1967 and the By-pass was opened to traffic in July 1969.

In November 1969, the Final Report of the North East Lancashire Project Study was published. It included a proposal for an East-West route which subsequently became the Calder Valley Motorway M65. The effect on Route 9 was to move its northern terminal eastwards from Whalley towards Padiham, by-passing Accrington and Clayton-le-Moors, and abandoning proposals for widening the A680 through the two towns, as envisaged in the Road Plan. As a result, Route 9 would become of greater importance as a direct link between two motorways, the M62 and the M65.

Meanwhile, several alternative lines were considered for the by-passing of Bury and those to the west of the town were discounted. The statutory procedures for the 'Southern Section' began in the early 1970's based on a line similar to that in the Road Plan, and there were no serious objections. However, as a result of comments made at the time, and underbridge was provided between the M62 and the A58 to allow for a future link to serve industrial develeopment at Pilsworth.

A contract for the construction of this Section of dual three-lane carriageway motorway was awarded by the NWRCU and work began in February 1973. It was completed and opened to traffic in August 1975.

Meanwhile, progress had been made on the 'Northern Section' in that it was included in the Programme in November 1971 and a Public Inquiry was held in the following year. One of the major objections to the proposal came from an industrial firm regarding the loss of available space for expansion, which the proposed line for the By-pass would cause. An alternative line was investigated and agreed, but the Statutory Procedures had to be recommenced and it was not until early 1975 before they were satisfactorily completed.

From the A58 Interchange at Heap Bridge the route followed a line which had been protected since the 1930's, when a large housing estate was being built. At that time it was intended that the By-pass would be a dual two-lane all-purpose road. Designed as a motorway in the early 1970's, however, it was to have grade separation, restricted access, and a consequently higher profile, requiring the construction of retaining walls through the estate.

Because of the limitations imposed by the development, it was necessary to minimise the width of the 'land-take' along this length. By lessening the width of the central reservation, the hard shoulders and the verges, an overall reduction of over 12 feet was achieved, without departing from the standard width of the carriageways. The height of the 'fence' walls on the top of the retaining walls was increased progressively to assist in noise reduction.

For a length of almost one mile north of the housing estate the gradient was 2.85%, justifying the provision of a climbing lane for slow-moving goods vehicles on the north-bound carriageway.

Where the route crossed the A56, Manchester Road, at Ramsbottom south facing slip roads were to be provided. That part of Route 9, which was to be designated M66, terminated at the southern end of the Edenfield/Rawtenstall By-pass some two miles to the north, where the construction of north facing slip roads were to form, in effect, a split diamond junction.

Over the whole length of the By-pass surface deposits of glacial drift lie over the solid rocks of the Carboniferous system. The regional dip of the rock is to the south west but the beds are subject to much local faulting and folding. In a few areas, mainly in valley bottoms and poorly drained hollows, there are local deposits of peat and recent alluvium.

The route crossed the ridge carrying Walmersley Old Road in a cutting up to 50 feet deep, where the drift was very thin and almost all in rocks of the Millstone Grit series. It was found that the stability of the east side of the cutting was affected by the presence of a thick bed of permeable gritstone overlying impermeable mudstone. With the strata dipping towards the cutting, water percolating through the gritstone would be held up by the mudstone and its pressure was likely to provoke a slope failure. In order to avert this danger, drains were to be installed in the slope by boring horizontally a distance of 100 feet and installing perforated plastic pipes in the boreholes.

North of Walmersley Old Road the route enters the Irwell Valley and runs along its eastern slope. The Valley was once occupied by a glacial lake (Lake Irwell). When the ice retreated at the close of the glacial period, the lake was drained and the lowering of the water level caused many landslips in the soft lacustrine clays on the valley sides. These are notorious, and easily reactivated by civil engineering works.

The route was carefully chosen, taking advantage wherever possible of the strength of the underlying Millstone Grit where this was near the surface, and avoiding very high cutting or embankment slopes on side-long ground.

The scheme required the construction of five underbridges, ten overbridges, two footbridges, five subways and five long retaining walls.

The bridge piers, bank seats and abutments and the retaining walls were to be all of reinforced concrete construction. Columns of elliptical cross-section, without cill beams, were chosen wherever possible to provide a light and uncluttered appearance.

The most significant structure was the four span Manchester Road Bridge carrying the A56 over the motorway, with a severe skew. With spans of 85 feet, 105 feet, 85 feet and 98 feet, the superstructure consisted of nine continuous welded steel plate girders, and a reinforced concrete deck slab.

The superstructures of the other bridges were designed in either reinforced or prestressed concrete, using precast beams, in most instances.

In addition to a conventional drainage system, provision was made for concrete channels to be constructed in the rock cuttings, with the same depth of the road construction in order to avoid excessive excavation. Concrete lined open 'ditches' at the back of the hard shoulders served a dual purpose by acting as a 'rock-catcher' to prevent loose rocks rolling on to the carriageway.

Following the award of a Contract, work began in August 1975.

The earthworks involved a total of 2.3 million cubic yards of excavation of which 650,000 cubic yards was in rock. Some 1.1 million cubic yards was required for the construction of embankments.

There is no active mining in the area but there were records of old coal workings. Where these were found within 30 feet below road level, they were dealt with by excavation and back filling, by grouting, or by capping with reinforced concrete slabs.

In the cutting at Bolton Road roundabout, where lacustrine deposits occur, buttresses of rockfill were constructed in the eastern slope in order to provide stability in an area where much flatter slopes would otherwise have been necessary.

The cutting at Sheep Hey is in the Fletcher Bank Grit with very little overlying drift. Because of the nature of the rock and the flat bedding, it was found possible to design the side slopes to a very steep angle of 4 in 1. Blasting was required to excavate the cutting and a pre-splitting technique was specified to obtain an even appearance to the rock face. Rock bolting has been employed to tie back individual blocks which upon inspection appeared capable of movement and bands of shale or poorly cemented rock have been faced with rubble masonry to prevent erosion by weathering.

In addition to the provision of noise barriers, where the motorway is close to residential property, a number of buildings received insulation treatment.

The 'Northern Section' of Bury Easterly By-pass was completed and opened to traffic in May 1978.

The further extension of Route 9 beyond the northern end of Edenfield-Rawtenstall By-pass was carried out in stages. Following a Public Inquiry held in 1976, work on the construction of the 2½ mile long Haslingden By-pass, to the west of the town, began in June 1979. A high standard all-purpose dual carriageway road it had restricted access and occupied part of the disused track-bed of the former railway line between Helmshore and Accrington. At its northern end, at the junction with the A680, only a surface level roundabout was constructed without any provision for upgrading to full grade separation. It was completed and opened to traffic in December 1981.

Meanwhile, the construction of the Northern Section of Accrington Easterly By-pass, had begun in August of that year. This one mile length provided a link between the A679 and the Hyndburn to Burnley Section of the M65, both of which were opened to traffic in December 1983. The construction of the three mile long Southern Section involved heavy earthworks, particularly in the northern Peel Park cutting. Starting in February 1984, the Contract was completed in July 1985, 10 months ahead of programme, and Route 9 between M62 and M65, became fully operational.