Where is it?
M6 junction 26, just west of Wigan. The junction allows movement between north-south traffic on the M6, traffic to and from Liverpool on the M58 and Wigan on the A577.
What's wrong with it?
The main problem is that it's so underpowered to say this is the terminus of a motorway, and a radial motorway from a major city at that. A large amount of traffic is heading north from Liverpool (or vice versa) and these movements take long cumbersome routes, going round roundabouts and 180-degree loops. In addition, the nature of the roundabouts means the three-lane M58 has to drop to two lanes shortly before the roundabout. Finally, there is a single carriageway (but still motorway class) spur road to the A577 which leaves the eastern roundabout — as a motorway it should be a dual carriageway!
Why is it wrong?
This wasn't meant to be the terminus of the M58. The 'flared' carriageways show it was meant to continue east, the original plan taking it round the south of Wigan to meet the M61. It is hard to see how this interchange would have allowed this — presumably the M58 would have gone over the top on a third level and had east-facing sliproads to the eastern roundabout. Had this happened, the junction wouldn't have been so bad and additional junctions for Wigan from the M58 would have been provided further east. Presumably the link to the A577 was a temporary measure to ensure Wigan to Liverpool traffic could use the M58 until this happened. The odd looped sliproads are obviously forced by the built-up land to the north.
What would be better?
If the link to the A577 wasn't there it would be quite simple to convert this to a (small) trumpet interchange — a small east-to-north sliproad could be added north of the M58, the roundabouts removed entirely and the eastern one replaced with straight-through links to form the loop. Luckily traffic levels here aren't so high that any 'fix' is really required.
Right to reply
This junction going from the M6 southbound onto the M58 is a complete nightmare, with queues back up the M6 every day, which is both frustrating and dangerous. What is even more frustrating is that part time traffic lights have been installed, which solve all the problems when they are working. Unfortunately, for some reason, whoever is responsible for this junction seems unable to keep the lights working, despite the fact that all around the country traffic lights work perfectly well all day, every day.
When they are off, the problems are even worse, as people like me who used to go a different way before the lights were installed, now use the junction, and the queues often go back past junction 27.
You mention the traffic levels not being high enough to warrant any 'fix'. I disagree, this junction causes daily tailbacks on the M6. Southbound traffic leaving to join the M58 queues in the nearside lane of the M6 - causing a bottleneck! Why is it acceptable for the country's quietest motorway to cause such delays on the M6 - a major motorway, I'm sure you'll agree.
I've used this junction for neary 5 years and over that time they have installed traffic lights, which to be honest hasn't really improved it much.
The biggest issue really is with the road that branches off towards the A577, all the traffic backs up there. I don't know why but traffic is always worse at this junction on Tuesdays!
Surely the worst aspect is joining the M6 northbound. There is insufficient time to integrate, given the poor sight lines and the slip road cannot be lengthened due to the built up area and expensive retaining wall. I avoid it.
Part time traffic signals? They are never on! But this junction is a complete sham. There are massive queues on the A577, nearly every day, and they have nearly made me late for work in Wigan more times than I can remember. I only hope that when (or if) the A5225 construction works start that something is done about that junction, because the surrounding area will grind to a halt if not.
You say it doesn't have enough traffic to warrant any changes? Every evening now, the queue on the A577 slip road backs up so far as to clog the eastern roundabout!
When the lights are on at the end of the M58, to go north from a standing start at the lights there's two lines of traffic playing chicken as to who gets on the M6 first.
Someone WILL get hurt.
Well, what a mess. I've been using it daily for years and the risks are huge. The M6 South gets huge queues in the morning because of the blockages back beyond Jct 27 and after complaints and suggestions, the temporary lights were installed as a cheaper fix than my proposal. All this has done is to shorten, but not remove, the queue leaving the same panic when approaching it. As an interesting feature is that this has now created a queue on the M58 eastern end which rarely existed.
My suggestion: a single lane bridge from M58 East to the M6 North. Problems with the existing land use, I agree, but this would remove traffic turning right which has priority over traffic coming under the bridge from M6 south or A577 and therefore a similar knock on effect. Views from coming under the bridge to the western roundabout are limited and people already play chicken by darting across accelerating traffic heading for the M6 north when the lights are off.
It was rejected on cost, but I have seen too many near misses and bumps to remember.
I haven't been using this junction for very long and I don't know what it was like before the part time signals were introduced, but I do know that if you're heading for the M6 from the M58 at the wrong time (the rush hours) there tends to be around a mile tailback because of people having to stop on the first roundabout, and the lights coming off at the A577 are too close to the second roundabout causing more tailbacks for both those exiting the M6 south and those coming under the bridge, which then compounds the problems at the first roundabout.
The M58 at this junction was originally built as a two lane dual carriageway by-pass, A506, to replace the A577 through Upholland and provide a direct link to Skelmersdale New Town from the M6 motorway. The junction as built was adequate for that purpose, plus it fitted through an existing bridge under the M6.
The by-pass was later incorporated into the new M58 to Liverpool (well, to Switch Island at Magull actually, it was never finished), widened to three lanes each way and provided with hard shoulders. The junction layout however remained unchanged, a quart into a pint pot affair. Had the proposed extension of the M58 to join the M61 at Chequerbent ever been built the layout may have been modified but for now I think that we are stuck with it and the peak time queues it causes back up the M6. Part of the problem with the build-up on the A577 link road is that, apart from the A49 spur from the M6 northbound at Bryn, there are no decent connections from the M6 to Wigan and its industry. The A511 from the north at Standish was never built. It is very frustrating, when coming from the north, to be able to see the huge Heinz factory at Kitt Green, for instance, but knowing that one has to use a substandard link road, an A road through a village, a residental road and a country lane in order to reach it.
I've used this evil debacle of a junction for many years, travelling between Maghull/Wigan and Heysham. While recognising that the half cloverleaf sliproads were a bit tight, I didn't realise HOW tight, awkward and unsafe they were until I tried to steer a fully laden LWB Transit (other vans are available...) onto the northbound M6! I knew I had to get a bit of speed up to join the carriageway at a safe speed but not so much that the back end was twitching (yes, me AND the van). Talk about a rollercoaster ride. I now have the utmost respect for any large commercial vehicle driver who has to negotiate this.
David Unwin is correct that the M6 has no decent connections to the Town of Wigan, that is because the link road from J27 which was to go directly into Wigan was never built, that is why we have a bridge over a field on the access road from Shevington Lane the B5206 to the M6 junction 27, this access road was intended to have been continued under the bridge and down through Standish Park to meet the B5375 around the Woodhouse lane/Wigan lower road junction giving direct access to Wigan centre and the industrial area, but was never built.
The one way access junctions at Ashton J24 and Bryn J25 were never meant to be permanent access points for Wigan and nor was the link from the M58 junction to the A577. I have heard that J24 was to have have been closed once the access road was built but this is hearsay. I have no evidence for it.
The M58 was upgraded to a motorway during planning partly because of the huge increase in industry envisaged for Skelmersdale which never happened, at the time I worked for BT and we were regularly involved with the Newtown Development Corporation on planning for the infastructure.
I was born 1 mile away from here before the M6 was built. The original under-the-M6 bridge was built in anticipation of the east/west M58, it has no other purpose.
However in those halcyon times the current usage was not envisaged and the twin roundabout approach was thought OK (although it would have also had an M58 flyover above the M6 on a third level.)
Elsewhere on the net you can find the plans for the A 5225, a diminution of the planned M58 eastwards.
The Skelmersdale link road was built to connect to the existing M6 underbridge but it was always part of a greater M58 route, you can trace it back to fifties (and, whisper it, 40s) planning.
The A577 link was indeed temporary, 39 years isn't bad for a temp link is it.
Joining the M6 north is the death defying difficulty. The tailbacks are tedious but not directly deadly.
The progress towards the increasingly watered down Route 225 continues. Wigan Council has announced plans for a new road off the roundabout heading into town, terminating on the A49 quite near to the previously announced section that runs from the A49 to Westwood Power Station. This effectively gives access from the town centre to the motorway network avoiding "The Saddle" but not really reducing the number of junctions beyond that. It's certainly not the fast-flowing mid-Lancashire motorway that was envisioned in 1949! For those with time to kill, the details can be found here.
What used to be a simple straightforward Junction is one I dare not use anymore without guidance! Leaving the M6 for the A577 is no problem but an horrendous journey to get back on to the M6....and even worse in the dark as the signs give no help at all...these signs may be on the ground but how do you keep a sharp eye on the speeding traffic which knows exactly where it`s going?