Sign at Junction 26M6 Junction 26

Junction 26 is located just to the west of Wigan, it is one of the most unusual junctions on the M6. After the building of this section of the M6 in the early 1960's plans where mooted to include Liverpool just 15 miles to the east of the M6 in the motorway network. At the time vague plans existed for a motorway between Liverpool and Manchester, which would cross the M6 near Warrington and possibly a direct replacement to the A59 going north to Preston. The Liverpool to Manchester motorway was eventually incorporated into the cross country M62, eventually going from Liverpool on the west coast to Hull on the east coast.

 

 

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Further north an eastern bypass for Liverpool was built the M57, and from the northern end of this motorway a new motorway to Skelmersdale an industrial new town the M58 was later built. From there as late as the 1970's two more motorways where planed, one linking the M58 with the M6 at Wigan, then onto the M61 near Bolton. A second linking the M58 near Ormskirk with the M6 at Preston to replace the A59, in the event it was only part of the M58 extension that was built the between Skelmersdale and the M6 at Wigan to junction 26. This though was first of all given the number A506, a dual carrigeway road with a central reservation wide enough to be converted to a motorway, later becoming the M58.  

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A diagram of the junction is above, first glance shows a complex series of what looks like 4 roundabouts, which in reality are just 2, where one would have done. The original plan was to take the M58 over the western roundabout on a flyover, likely then under the M6, then over the eastern roundabout on another flyover to continue eastward to the M61, the complex junction being used as an interchange between these two motorways. So far the M58 extension was not been built and has left a needless complexity of roads where a simple one roundabout junction would have sufficed as we have at either junctions 35 or 36 further north.

This complexity has also added to traffic problems, the M58 west of the junction is 3 lanes, however because it then goes on what was intended to be a slip road it drops to two lanes, leading to occasional queues. There also can be early morning queue's backing up onto the M6 southbound as rush hour traffic tries to negotiate the roundabouts. Fortunately through at other times of day. This junction is much quieter, it managing to cope with the volume of traffic presented to it.

What is also odd about this junction is the signage on the M6, more noticeable southbound. From junction 32-29, Liverpool (M58) is given clear billing on the overhead signs. Then for junctions 28 & 27 no mention is made of Liverpool whilst at this junction the 1/2 mile sign gives the M58 as leading to Skelmersdale and Southport, its only at the last sign that Liverpool is added that for what should be the main northern junction for a major city!