Traffic chaos . . . it's just another day in Preston

Traffic queued nose to tail on the M6
Traffic queued nose to tail on the M6

It was Britain's first motorway and now it is officially the busiest.

But when something goes wrong on the M6 near Preston, the city simply grinds to a halt.

Nothing moving as drivers wait patiently

Nothing moving as drivers wait patiently

Yesterday's traffic chaos was at least the sixth time this year that gridlock on the motorway network has brought the whole of Central Lancashire to its knees.

READ MORE>>> This is the reason why Lancashire’s motorway and road network ground to a halt yesterday

Thousands trapped for hours in the mayhem were late for work, while businesses were left to count the cost in lost production and delayed deliveries.

The emergency closure of the motorway in both directions between junction 31 at Samlesbury and 32 at Broughton lasted three hours.

The scene in Preston city centre as drivers try to avoid the M6

The scene in Preston city centre as drivers try to avoid the M6

Yet it was at least another three hours before the M6, M61, M65 and M55 all returned to normal and the spin-off effects on the A-road system eased.

In all, the snarl-ups lasted from before breakfast to around lunchtime.

READ MORE>>> This is how much hold ups in and around Preston cost drivers each year

All police could do was apologise for the inconvenience and thank travellers for their patience.

One driver, who was stuck in the gridlock on the M61, near to where it joins the M6, for more than two-and-a-quarter hours told the Post: "It was horrendous.

"I was less than 10 minutes from work and then everything just stopped. We didn't move an inch for an hour. Then we edged forward gradually for about 100 yards and it came to a halt again, this time for an hour and a quarter.

"I'm normally at my desk for 6.45 and it was well beyond nine when I reached work. But my situation wasn't the worst - there were other drivers who were stuck even longer."

Another, who was travelling from Adlington to Fulwood, reported there were still five-mile tailbacks at noon.

Some vented their fury on social media.

Post reader, Gareth Monk, said on Facebook: "Good first impression on a job I've started. Sat here one hour. Late."

And Daniel Jones wrote: "My wife has cycled to work instead of adding to the chaos. More people need to change their methods of commuting."

Many travellers unable to find a way round the congestion were left asking the same question: Is Preston's road network fit for purpose?

And it is a question which has been asked many times before as the area's highways groan under the weight of nose-to-tail traffic and struggle to cope with any additional problems on its nearby motorway network.

Daniel Herbert, highways manager for Lancashire County Council, explained: “The extra traffic through Preston on Monday morning was caused by an incident which forced a section of the M6 to close.

“In exceptional circumstances like this, thousands upon thousands of extra vehicles are using alternative routes on roads throughout the city, which just aren’t designed to handle motorway levels of traffic.

“We’re making substantial improvements to Preston’s road network to ensure traffic can move freely around the city and encourage economic growth, however no local networks could cope with the extra traffic generated by one-off incidents like this."

Yesterday's problems began at around 5.10am when police ordered the closure of the M6 in both directions due to an incident where there was a "concern for safety" for a man on a bridge.

They also shut off Longridge Road where it runs over the motorway near to the Red Scar Business Park.

As rush hour began, bringing more traffic onto already busy roads, the network ground to a halt.


Delays on the M6 between Samlesbury and Broughton have been an age old problem.

In fact 61 years of age on the first-ever stretch of motorway in Britain.

It was back in December 1958 when Prime Minister Harold Macmillan declared the new super highway open - an eight-and-a-quarter mile stretch called the Preston Bypass which was the forerunner of the 2,173 miles of motorway we have now.

But an increase in vehicle numbers has brought an increase in congestion, with the surrounding A-roads taking a big hit when drivers decide to escape the hold-ups and leave the motorway in search of an alternative route.

In 2000 the M6 between Samlesbury and Broughton handled 116,874 vehicles a day. Today that figure is in excess of 164,000 - and it is continuing to rise.

The M6 is rated as the busiest of all Britain's motorways - including the M25 around London - and it is amongst the UK's least favourite roads for drivers.

It is also the longest in Britain at 236 miles from Leicestershire up to Gretna Green. And it holds the record for the longest traffic jam which stretched from Charnock Richard to Carnforth in 1981 and involved more then 50,000 vehicles.