M56 motorway

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The M56 motorway, also known as the North Cheshire motorway, runs from junction 4 of the M60 to Dunkirk and is 33⅓ miles in length. It is often busy with long-distance commuter traffic towards North Wales. It serves commuters heading to Manchester particularly those from the wider Cheshire area and gives access to Manchester Airport from the national motorway network.[1]


Although the main line of the motorway starts as a continuation of the A5103 Princess Parkway, the M56 begins on Sharston Spur (also known as the Sharston Bypass) where it detaches from the M60 motorway. After passing through junctions 1 and 2, the spur joins the main line at junction 3, increasing from two lanes to four to accommodate Manchester Airport traffic.

The road then heads south to the west of Wythenshawe and Manchester Airport until it reaches junction 6, where it turns west. It runs to the south of Hale, reducing to three lanes. It passes junctions 7 and 8 which are part of the same complex. Junction 8 was planned to be used by the proposed A556(M)[2]). The current proposals are to upgrade the A556 to a dual carriageway.[3] Traffic for the southbound M6 leaves here and this junction can suffer from congestion. The motorway then enters a more rural setting between Broomedge and High Legh.

After meeting the M6 motorway it passes south of Appleton Thorn. After reaching junction 11, it runs through the outskirts of Runcorn and Frodsham. Between junctions 12 and 14, and the missing junction 13, it runs parallel to the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. After meeting the M53 motorway, the road finally returns to two lanes, it proceeds between Chester to the south and Ellesmere Port to its termination at Dunkirk, Cheshire where it becomes the A494.

Traffic for North Wales can take either the M53 or A494 to reach the A55.

Motorway Services on the M56 are at Chester and Lymm, also accessible from M6)


The first proposal for a road along this route was agreed in 1958 and it entered the Trunk Road Programme for 1967/1968.[4] Construction began in 1968[5] and the motorway opened in stages between 1971 and 1981:[6]

  • Junctions 1 to 3 opened in 1975.
  • Junctions 3 to 7 opened in 1972.
  • Junctions 7 to 9 opened in 1974.
  • Junctions 9 to 11 opened in 1975.
  • Junctions 11 to 14 opened in 1971.
  • Junctions 14 to 16 opened in 1981.

Proposals existed for an extension into North Wales across the proposed River Dee Barrage,[7] but these have not happened.[8]

Until 2008 the M56 terminated at a roundabout at the west end. Work started in 2006[9] to grade-separate this junction (and others) to allow free-flowing traffic to North Wales. The project was completed in 2008.


M56 motorway junctions
mile Eastbound exits (B Carriageway) Junction Westbound exits (A Carriageway)
Stockport M60
Leeds (M62)
M60, J4 Start of motorway
(Sharston Spur)
Didsbury A34 J1 No access (on-slip only)
No access (on-slip only) J2 Wythenshawe, Altrincham A560 (M60)
Altrincham, Wythenshawe, Wythenshawe Hospital, Cheadle A560 J3a Start of motorway
(Princess Parkway spur)
Altrincham, Congleton, Wythenshawe A5103
Manchester Ring Road (M60)
J3 No access (on-slip only)
7.2 No access (on-slip only) J4 Wythenshawe
7.8 Manchester Airport interchange J5 Manchester Airport interchange
8.9 Hale, Wilmslow, Macclesfield A538 J6 Wilmslow, Hale, Macclesfield A538
12.4 Altrincham A56 J7/8 Northwich A556
Lymm A56
Birmingham (M6)
17.6 Preston, Birmingham, Leeds (M62) M6 J9 Preston, Liverpool (M62) M6
20.8 Warrington, Northwich A49 J10 Northwich, Warrington A49
23.8 Runcorn (E), Warrington A56 J11 Preston Brook, Daresbury A56
26.8 Runcorn, Widnes, Northwich A557 J12 Frodsham, Runcorn, Widnes A557
31.9 Stanlow Refinery, Helsby A5117
Chester services
Stanlow Refinery, Helsby A5117
Chester services
34.5 No access (on-slip only) J15 Ellesmere Port, Birkenhead, Chester, Wrexham M53
Start of motorway J16 Hoylake, Chester A540
North Wales, Queensferry A5117
Non-motorway traffic
Road continues as A494 towards North Wales

Junction 7 slip closures

At junction 7 in July 2009, the slip road letting traffic come in southbound along the M56 and turn onto the A556 southbound was closed while the bridge where it crosses the M56 (the Bowdon View Bridge), which for many years had had a weight restriction, was worked on; traffic intending to use it had to carry on to junction 10 and there turn round, or go through the centre of Altrincham; traffic for the nearby Tatton Park Flower Show, and the resulting closure to through traffic of the minor road along the southwest edge of Tatton Park from Ashley, Cheshire to Mere, Cheshire (which would otherwise have acted as a bypass for people living in the area), added to the resulting congestion.

In October and November 2010, the bridge was demolished and replaced.[10] [11] [12] [13]

Thorley Lane bridge replacement

On Saturday 28 February and Sunday 1 March 2015, the new concrete girders of the Thorley Lane bridge a little north of Manchester Airport were put in. (The old bridge was demolished because it was found to be cracking.) The M56 was closed over that weekend for this. This caused much traffic congestion from M56 traffic diverted through Altrincham and Wythenshawe and along Styal Road and Kingsway, starting on Thursday 26 March because of work putting cones on the carriageway.


The Government announced in August 2015 that the motorway would be upgraded to a smart motorway. There will also be a new junction between the existing Junctions 11 and 12 to relieve heavy congestion on this stretch.[14][15]


  1. "Motorway Database » M56". CBRD. http://www.cbrd.co.uk/motorway/m56/. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  2. Steven Jukes. "Pathetic Motorways - A556(M)". Pathetic.org.uk. http://pathetic.org.uk/unbuilt/a556m/. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  3. "Highways Agency Press Release". Highways.gov.uk. http://www.highways.gov.uk/news/newsroom.aspx?newsid=17453879. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  4. "The Motorway Archive - M56 Scheme Introduction". Iht.org. http://www.iht.org/motorway/m56master.htm. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  5. "The Motorway Archive - M56 Dates Page". Iht.org. http://www.iht.org/motorway/m56mastat.htm. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  6. CBRD Motorway Database - M56 Timeline
  7. "The Motorway Archive - M56 J16 to J14". Iht.org. http://www.iht.org/motorway/m56haplea.htm. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  8. Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 23 July 1993 - Column 403". Publications.parliament.uk. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199293/cmhansrd/1993-07-23/Writtens-1.html. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  9. "Highways Agency - A5117 / A550 Deeside Park Junctions Improvement". Highways.gov.uk. http://www.highways.gov.uk/roads/projects/5018.aspx. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  10. "Bridge repair work on M56 extended to three weekends". BBC News. 18 October 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-11565895. Retrieved 18 October 2010. 
  11. "M56 Bowdon View Bridge successfully demolished". Fidgetwith.com. 18 October 2010. http://www.fidgetwith.com/2010/10/18/m56-bowdon-view-bridge-successfully-demolished/. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  12. "M56 Junction 7 Bowdon View Bridge Replacement and Junction Improvement". Highways.gov.uk. 4 July 2011. http://www.highways.gov.uk/roads/projects/9083.aspx. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  13. "M56 bridge repair works continue near Bowdon". BBC News. 23 October 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-11612473. 
  14. http://www.chesterchronicle.co.uk/news/chester-cheshire-news/m56-smart-motorway-hapsford-runcorn-9833410
  15. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/427339/the-northern-powerhouse-tagged.pdf

Outside links

Motorways in the United Kingdom

Great Britain: M1  • M2  • M3  • M4  • M5  • M6  • M6 Toll  • M8  • M9  • M10  • M11  • M18  • M20  • M23  • M25  • M26  • M27  • M32  • M40  • M42  • M45  • M48  • M49  • M50  • M53  • M54  • M55  • M56  • M57  • M58  • M60  • M61  • M62  • M63  • M65  • M66  • M67  • M69  • M73  • M74  • M77  • M80  • M85  • M90  • M180  • M181  • M271  • M275  • M602  • M606  • M621  • M876  • M898  • Sections of A road: A1(M)

Former motorways marked in italics

Northern Ireland: M1  • M2  • M3  • M5  • M12  • M22