The thrill of the open road

Published on 10 June 2020

Three more commemorative booklets have been added to our perennially popular collection, published at the opening of three very different motorway projects.

For years now we've been collecting and publishing opening booklets for you to enjoy. The 1960s and 70s saw a boom in motorway construction, in an era when improvements to the road network were seen as a vital and thrilling sign of progress. The booklets that accompanied the opening ceremonies of these new roads are, in many cases, fascinating little glimpses into that era, presenting some of the wild optimism and collections of vintage photographs and plans.

Today, three new bookets are added to our collection from three completely different motorway plans.

  • From 1966, the booklet published to mark the opening of Almondsbury Interchange, the junction of the M4 and M5, and the UK's first four-level motorway interchange.
  • From 1970, the inauguration of the M6 between Lancaster and Penrith saw the opening of 35 miles of motorway through beautiful and wild terrain.
  • And from 1971, a short urban motorway that was the start of a never-realised urban motorway network, the M602 Eccles Bypass.

The three roads couldn't be more different, but the books written about them are all equally fascinating. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

They appear online today courtesy of Ian (@lccmunicipal) and Mike Ashworth (@mikeashworth12) who provided scans from their personal collections.

Elsewhere on

Opening booklets

In days gone by, new roads were often celebrated with a grand opening ceremony and the issue of a commemorative booklet heralding the exciting new highway. You'll find some of them here, complete with a glimpse of all that empty tarmac and a healthy dose of modernist optimism.



Charles 10 June 2020

Thank you, Ian and Mike. It’s always fascinating to read literature like this and to see the roads when they were pristine and empty.

Fraser Mitchell 10 June 2020

If the government hadn't been so dumb in insisting HS2 had to serve Manchester Airport, (for no discernible traffic benefit), then the M602 land could have been a path for HS2 into central Manchester to a station on the old Manchester Exchange site, and with no tunneling needed at all. The M602 is way too wide for its traffic levels, and could be converted to a single carriageway road, releasing space for HS2.
As it is now planned, an 11 mile tunnel has to be bored to bring HS2 to Piccadilly. Needless expense !!

Glenn Aylett 13 June 2020

The M602 formed part of a wider redevelopment in Salford in the late 1960s that saw the A6 by pass the city centre, a new shopping centre built in Salford Crescent, Salford University expanded, and huge estates of high rise flats and maisonettes built to replace Victorian housing. All ugly and of their time and most of the housing estates have either been demolished or sold to the university for student accomodation.

EpicChef 16 June 2020

How come none of these motorways opened with lane control? Most (M25, M602, M1) now have it.

There was nothing around for lane control at the time these roads were opened, and traffic levels were a lot lower so control wasn't a real issue. I don't think they even had central crash barriers !

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Picture credits

  • Photograph of Almondsbury Interchange is taken from "The Almondsbury Interchange", Crown Copyright (expired), provided by Ian (@lccmunicipal).

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