The M606 Bradford Spur
The plan held in the 1960s by Bradford's City Council was a simple one. They wanted Bradford to be a modern, bustling city with great modern buildings and road and rail access, new housing and developments. The old mill trades that had formed the majority of Bradford's commercial and industrial sector were vanishing in the 60s and the city was forced to change: the city centre was pretty much levelled and rebuilt from scratch with shiny new concrete block offices and shops, new pedestrianised streets and new wide roads around the city. Part of the plan redeveloped the transport network too, with new stations and a new motorway to connect to the planned national network: the M606. The concept for the road was simple: whiz traffic into the city centre from the projected M62 trans-Pennine route.
The construction of the M62 included provision for the M606, which was to start at the new Chain Bar Interchange, a huge roundabout under the M62 connecting the A58 and A638. The M606 was constructed with free-flowing sliproads to the west. From here, it headed almost directly north, with three lanes uphill into Bradford and two downhill on the way out.
At Oakenshaw, the road came obscenely close to the village church, with an ugly retaining wall and the hard shoulder just yards from the church wall.
An interchange was built with an unclassified road just under two miles along the road, connecting to the Euroway industrial park, though it is still missing a sliproad allowing traffic onto the M606 northbound.
The next interchange, a roundabout interchange, was to connect with the A6177 ring road and a dual carriageway across to Odsal stadium. From here the motorway would have curved to head north-east to join the A650, already a dual carriageway, leading to the city centre.
The Plan Starts
In the mid 1970s construction began, with a four kilometre section of road being constructed north from Chain Bar to join the A6177 at junction 3. It was opened to traffic and for the time being the route to the city centre was signposted around the ring road and in along the A641, the nearest radial route to the M606's temporary terminus.
The Plan Stops
The next part of the plan was, quite obviously, to build the next section of road from junction 3 to 4, making the connection with the A650. Work didn't begin on this. Instead, the City Council put the project on hold and set about some massively expensive works widening both the A650 and A641 - making both into high-grade radial routes. Jim Rayner mentions an urban myth about the project: "one of the planning officers owned a property on the route of the proposed M606 route into the city centre and did not want to see it happen!" Whether or not this was the case, any reason for completing the M606 had suddenly vanished.
The M606 today sits in a very obviously unfinished state. Arriving at Bradford via the motorway is not a pleasant experience and is hardly a warm welcome to a city that is still trying to make itself look modern and appealing after making its own heart into a monstrous concrete mess. Northbound traffic first loses its third lane, and then gets slowed and directed left by cones and rather temporary looking barriers onto what is very obviously a slip road. The northbound carriageway, half-finished with a solid surface on it, continues underneath the roundabout. The two lanes then continue up to a set of traffic lights to join in the fun at Staygate Roundabout, where it joins the A6177 to share roadspace with pelican crossings and traffic heading for a supermarket, then turns right at a roundabout and follows the curving A641 into the city, losing space all the way to a new guided bus lane.
Leaving the city is no less of an experience: the A641 halts for a roundabout, where a definite change of direction onto the A6177 takes place, and then M606 traffic is directed off at a new looking sliproad. At the bottom, there's a mini-roundabout for some reason, where the only option is to turn right and head under the roundabout on the southbound carriageway of the M606. Clearly empty wasteland lies just north of the interchange; land that has sat protected but unused for a very long time.
Unusually, this history has a happy ending. While completion of the M606 can be ruled out altogether, tidying up its ends into a much neater junction now looks likely. The City Council has recently started work on finishing the Staygate junction at its northern end, to use the carriageways under the bridge to provide smoother flowing access onto the ring road. The Highways Agency is also prioritising plans to give the southern end free-flowing access to the M62 to the east, since a large proportion of traffic is now using the motorway connection instead of the A647 to reach Bradford from Leeds, something apparently not envisaged in Chain Bar's original design.
Two years after this article was written, the M606 is looking very different to the neglected route described above. The road itself has been refurbished, with a new surface and lighting, and the Staygate roundabout has been modified to terminate the motorway properly. Connections to the city centre have been eased; the route in via the A641 has been upgraded with a new signalised junction where traffic from the M606 turns between the ring road and Manchester Road.
Iain Dobson has the following information about what was planned for the M606:
The M606 was planned in the 1960s as a spur from the Lancashire-Yorkshire Motorway to the centre of Bradford. You have a map on the site which shows it feeding into the A650. At this time the A650 was a Trunk Road from Wakefield to Keighley. So at the time of the M606's planning, anyone coming from the east on the M62 and wanting to go to Bradford, would have been directed on to the A650 at Junction 27 Gildersome Roundabout. In fact the A650 is still a Trunk Road at this point as it is still an important road. So at the time of planning few drivers were expected to come down the M62 to Junction 26 Chain Bar and turn onto the M606. This is why Junction 26 Chain Bar is laid out as it is.
The Drighlington bypass has been planned for many years and as you are aware only built recently. So in the 1960s the Bypass would have been in the planning stage with an expectation of it being completed within a timescale. The Drighlington Bypass has been built as a single carriageway road but could have easily been built as a dual carriageway road.
Continuing towards Bradford from the current end of the Bypass to its junction with the A651, there is very little to prevent the road being widened into a dual carriageway. Just past this junction where the A650 Westgate Hill becomes Tong Street is a Cemetery on the left hand side which is a major obstacle but not insurmountable. After this the land has been cleared, on the left hand side for road widening, with a wide grassy expanse. The only buildings left are two public houses and a garage forecourt. The A650 becomes a dual carriageway at its junction with Knowles Lane.
You then travel down the A650 on a wide dual carriageway road. I suspect that the M606 joined the A650 around where the disused railway bridge goes over at the Bowling Back Lane Roundabout. Then the A650 goes into the road link around the centre of Bradford. All roads strangely then lead you up the valley towards Shipley, not on the A650 but on the A6037!
From memory, the roundabout on the A6038 is where the Aire Valley Trunk Road comes in. Now when I saw the plans, this roundabout was a full grade separated junction with the Aire Valley Trunk Road running underneath the roundabout. Left went up the Aire Valley round the back of Salt's Mill and was fully drawn up. The other way went towards Leeds and was undrawn, but it was known where it went.
So you can see, it would have been very possible to have had a dual carriageway road from Gildersome Roundabout to Shipley running through the centre of Bradford. It would have linked in with the M606 and the Aire Valley Road from Leeds - Shipley - Keighley - Skipton - Colne - M65.
Map showing proposed line of M606
JPG file (40kb) oldmap.jpg
Plans for northern terminus (now built)
JPG file (24kb) end_n.jpg
Plans for southern terminus (now on hold)
JPG file (36kb) end_s.jpg
With thanks to Iain Careless and Judy Butland for corrections to this page, and to Jim Rayner for providing much of the original source material.