Blackpool is busy enough to require a direct motorway connection to the M6 and the wider world, and the M55 is here to do the job. It begins to the north of Preston and runs to the outskirts of Blackpool where traffic is dispersed onto a number of smaller approach roads.
During the summer, it's often thick with traffic, and accounts for about half of the traffic load of the M6 around Preston. In winter months it tends to be noticeably quieter. Even so, Blackpool and Preston are large urban centres in their own right, and the motorway remains reasonably well used all through the year.
There's no junction 2 on the M55, which was reserved for the Preston Western Bypass. This road was first proposed in the 1950s, and when the M6 was first built it was supposed to be one side of a complete box around the city. The plan reappeared in the 1980s, and eventually was cancelled for good. Its fate was sealed when the M6 Preston Bypass was widened to dual four-lanes instead.
The original plan was to extend the M65 to join the M55 at J2, and construct an M59 from the missing junction on the M58 to the south-west of Preston. The Western Bypass, complete with a new crossing of the Ribble, is now back on the cards as a future proposal for a local road to allow Preston's westward expansion.
The M55 is perhaps the candidate for most unassuming bit of road to be a crucial part of British motoring history. The section of motorway from the M6 to M55 junction 1 was built as the northernmost part of the Preston Bypass, meaning that it was once Britain's first motorway.
Views of the M55 from on and off the road. If you have a photo to contribute, contact me.
Eastbound, approaching the M6, the weaving here in the short distance between the merge from junction 1 and the split for the M6 is a sight to behold. The M6 interchange ahead is Britain's first three-level junction.
Photo by Steven Jukes
Heading westbound between junctions 1 and 3, the road surface looks worn out (perhaps it is original to the motorway). Despite being effectively a spur to the seaside, the M55 was built in the best 1970's tradition with three lanes each way. At the time it opened it was wider than the busiest section of the M5.
Photo by Steven Jukes
When the various parts of the M55 were built, listed in chronological order.
|Dec||1958||J0-1||Preston Eastern Bypass|
|Jul||1975||J1-4||Preston Northern Bypass|
All the junctions and destinations along the route.
With thanks to Aran Smithson and Martyn Clapham for information in this section.