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Route of the M65

The M65 is a motorway serving Lancashire's Calder Valley, from Preston to Blackburn, Burnley and on to Colne itself. It's a route of regional significance, rather than national importance, and its eastern section is maintained as a local authority road by Lancashire County Council. It started off being built in tiny sections, and eventually its western terminus was in Blackburn at junction 6. It took over a decade of funny little bits of construction to get that far — by the early 1990s it had understandably been nicknamed the "road to nowhere".

When it came to be extended to Preston some years later, the original plan to build it as an urban motorway through the middle of Blackburn was scrapped and a new alignment to the south of the town was built instead. The result is a handbrake turn onto the new section towards Preston at junction 6.

The reason the M65 exists isn't exactly clear. The reason usually quoted, and the reason the Highways Agency came to build a new section connecting it to Preston in a political climate hostile to motorway-building, was to give a boost to the economically declining Calder Valley. The plan was to put a blue line on the map and entice business in. But if that was the point of the M65, why connect the Calder Valley to Preston? Why not to Greater Manchester, the third largest conurbation in the country, which lies just to the south?

Those who worked on the early stages of the motorway near Blackburn, which were built to dual three-lane standard (rather than the newer two-lane sections), reveal that it was originally created with ideas of building a second trans-Pennine motorway. It went no further because of a lack of progress on the Yorkshire side. Iain Dobson reports that one plan had the M65 ending outside the Yorkshire Post Building — the A65 junction on the Leeds Inner Ring Road. This makes a connection to the M6, rather than Manchester, more understandable. By the 1990s, ways to provide a boost to the local economy were being sought, and finishing the existing road was a good way to go about it.

The M65 was meant to go further west as well, forming a Preston Western Bypass, but never did. Everything west of the M6 is effectively a set of sliproads to the A6.

South-east of Preston, the M65 has an unusual connection to the local road network, in the form of a single-carriageway spur under motorway restrictions that joins the roundabout at the interchange with the M61: it's called the Walton Summit motorway, and it's one of the few places in the UK where you can drive at 70mph on a single-carriageway road. It even has an overtaking lane on the uphill side so that a slow lorry won't stop you trying.


Start Preston (A6)
Finish Colne (A6068)
Passes Blackburn, Burnley
Length 28 miles
Connects to M6, M61

With thanks to Steven Jukes, Iain Dobson and Bryn Buck for information in this section.