Friday 5th December 1958
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan opened Britain’s first stretch of motorway, the 8-mile Preston bypass in Lancashire. The route of the bypass was designed as part of a north-south motorway, other lengths of which were under construction. The original bypass started in Walton-le-Dale at a roundabout on the Manchester-Preston Trunk Road a short distance south of the A49 junction, travelled by viaduct over the River Darwen and ended at a roundabout on the A6 a short distance south of Broughton. Planning started in 1937, despite there being no legal powers that permitted motorway construction until the introduction of the Special Roads Act 1949. Early work was hampered by heavy rainfall, resulting in postponement of various heavy engineering works such as the base foundation; the result of the weather meant the original two-year plan was delayed by a further five months. Weeks after opening, the road had to temporarily close due to water causing further problems, when the base layer was damaged as a result of a rapid freeze and thaw cycle.
The by-pass has undergone two separate lane-widening schemes during its existence, firstly in 1966 when it was widened to three lanes, then in the 1990s to expand it to four lanes in each direction. The latter upgrade was significant enough to require reconstruction of the entire route including all bridges and it is now effectively a different motorway from the one that opened in 1958.