This is a road that turned out very differently to the original plan. The M53 was what became of a 1940s proposal to build a road running the length of the Wirral to link to new docks at Bidston Moss. By the 1960s, it had grown into a motorway linking Birkenhead with the A55 near Queensferry.
When it was finished as far as Bebington, the new Ellesmere Port Bypass towards Chester connected in and was numbered M531, with the intention that it would be a spur of the M53 when the motorway was finished, even though for the time being it was a direct continuation. When it became clear the M53 would never be extended any further, the M531 was absorbed into the mainline M53. It was then extended south from the end of what was M531, and joins the A55 east of Chester.
Between junctions 4 and 5 the carriageways split where the M53/M531 junction should have been. Driving through this junction is very strange: it's painfully clear that you're not on the same road any more, despite the continuous number. Until a few years ago, there was even an unused flyover wide enough for a three-lane motorway standing across the northbound carriageway. The Ellesmere Port Bypass feels like the little brother of the road to the north of there.
In many ways, it is. The Ellesmere Port bypass was originally opened as an unclassified road before being hastily upgraded to carry the motorway, explaining the closely spaced junctions and rather hairy corners. Some sources indicate it was paid for by the oil companies and car manufacturers who have plants alongside the route. It opened as the Hooton Industrial Road.
The M53 is also unusual in starting on a road with a number that's actually a name - it begins at one of the Mersey Tunnels, whose road number is "(Tunnel)". This is confirmed by signs, which read "(Tunnel)" in yellow as if it were any other number. Some early plans for the Kingsway tunnel show it as part of the M53, and even today the roadside marker posts indicate that the M53 is measured from the Liverpool end of the tunnel, not from the start of the motorway in Wallasey.
|Passes||Birkenhead, Ellesmere Port|
With thanks to Kieron, Clive Wilkins, Mark Cleave, Tom Bathurst and Chris McKenna for information in this section.