M6 - M58
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
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These are the most recent comments on this junction. You can see all comments if you prefer.
Paul has news:
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.
Alan has a good memory:
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.
John Whalley explains the junction's history:
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.
Mad Manx has felt the true horrors for himself:
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 thinks it's just part of the bigger problem:
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.