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M6 Extension Opened on UK Motorways' 50th Birthday

Rafay Ansar

British motorways turned 50 in style today as Transport Minister Andrew Adonis looked to the future by opening the newest stretch of motorway - bridging the 'missing link' between London and Glasgow.

Half a century to the day after the nation's first motorway standard road - the Preston Bypass - was opened by then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, the Highways Agency's £174 million M6 Extension from north of Carlisle to the Scottish Border was today being officially opened to motorists.

Andrew Adonis said: "I am delighted to mark the 50th birthday of motorways in the UK by opening this vital section of new motorway which completes the motorway link between London and Glasgow.

"In half a century motorways have become the backbone of the UK's road network. They are the lifelines of the country, making an invaluable contribution to our business and economic needs and they help keep friends and family connected. That is why we are investing in a safe, reliable and sustainable motorway network for the 21st Century - expanding the network where necessary and making smarter use of the motorways by opening the hard shoulder to traffic to cut congestion.

"It is a fitting tribute to the pioneers whose foresight began the motorway era exactly 50 years ago that the very same motorway is today being extended between Carlisle and Guards Mill. This will ease a notorious bottleneck and improve safety."

Graham Dalton, Chief Executive of the Highways Agency, which is responsible for England's major A roads and motorways, said: "On the 50th anniversary of the motorway, I'm delighted to be able to commend my team from the Highways Agency and our contractors who have delivered the M6 Extension scheme to budget and on time.

"And we're giving everyone a safer and more reliable journey, whether they are long-distance or local road users."

The new 5.8 mile section M6 Extension has been upgraded from the old A74 dual carriageway between Carlisle and Guards Mill providing safer and less congested journeys for long-distance traffic between the North West of England and Scotland.

Engineers faced several major challenges including building a new bridge to take the motorway over the River Esk and building a new Mossband Viaduct over the West Coast railway line. Demolition of the old Mossband Viaduct will continue until Christmas, when the section directly over the West Coast main railway line is due to be demolished.

In line with the Highways Agency's commitment to protect the environment, great care has been taken to protect animals and the landscape. Lizards and snakes have been relocated while badger setts have been protected from disturbance by the work. Construction of the new Esk bridge was carried out to ensure there was no river pollution.

Andrew Adonis later visited Preston, Lancashire, where a plaque - commissioned by the Institution of Highways and Transportation, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and Lancashire County Council - was being unveiled close to the site of the original Preston Bypass to commemorate the motorway's 50th birthday.
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