The M62: Love it or hate, here’s why everybody should be thankful for it

The M62 was vitally needed in the 1970s, and continues to be needed today (Photo by Daryll Spencer)
The M62 was vitally needed in the 1970s, and continues to be needed today (Photo by Daryll Spencer)

The M62, or the ‘Mountains Motorway’ as it is sometimes referred to, is the 107 mile stretch of motorway which connects Liverpool to Hull via Manchester and Leeds. Many people will have driven over this stretch of motorway, and hundreds of commuters continue to do so on a daily basis.

Although it still may become gridlocked in certain areas throughout the day, the effort which went into providing an accessible route for all was gruelling, thoroughly planned and an integral construction in the 1970s.

Normanton, 13th january 1973. Demolition men move in to knock down houses in Castleford Road, Normanton. They are making way for the M62.

Normanton, 13th january 1973. Demolition men move in to knock down houses in Castleford Road, Normanton. They are making way for the M62.

The idea of the M62 was first proposed in the 1930s, when it was decided there was a vital need for a route between Lancashire and Yorkshire, originally intending to be two separate routes.

It was completed in sections between 1971 and 1976 and was an engineering feat, as it crossed through the backbone of England, with engineers building what was then the largest single span bridge in Europe.

The construction of the M62 cost around £765 million and its route over the pennines resulted in it being the highest motorway in the UK, with junction 22 at Saddleworth Moor being 372 metres (1,221 feet) above sea level.

The Pennine section was an inevitable challenge during the construction of this motorway, as the height of 1200 feet meant workers blasting through rock in order to create a dam, this now being known as Scammonden dam.

The M62 is frequently affected by snow

The M62 is frequently affected by snow

In a BBC Four Documentary named Secret Life of the Motorway, the M62's chief engineer Geoffrey Hunter stated that the “design and basic remit of the M62 was to ensure that it was going to kept open all of the time and not be closed to snow”. Hunter continued that people “wanted a motorway that was going to be kept open for 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year, and never closed to traffic”.

This is far from the case today, as recent snow sent the M62 into melt-down, with sections being closed and congestion running for miles. Around 200 people were also forced to spend the night in their vehicles, as the ‘Beast from the East’ caused extreme snow and fierce winds, causing 3,500 vehicles to be trapped on the M62, particularly around the Saddleworth Moor area.

However, without the M62 people would not be able to go from coast-to-coast across the country, and it provides a vital means for commuters to get to work every single day.

With this area being the highest point of the M62 above sea level, therefore temperatures usually being -2 degree cooler, the unsheltered stretch of Saddleworth Moor is frequently disrupted by bad weather and Windy Hill, part of this same stretch of road, gets its name from the fierce winds which hit it.

The weather conditions of this part of the Pennines were apparent before construction even began, as it was an isolated part of the country, with very few residents living there.

Windy Hill is an area in which commuters can experience anything from sun, low cloud, heavy rain, fog, snow and a vast difference in temperatures over just a few miles depending on the time of year.

However, Stott Hall Farm, or the Little House on the Prairie as it was first nicknamed by a radio traffic reporter, is a house which was there long before the construction of the M62, and one which continues to remain.

For years, it was rumoured that this house remained standing with the motorway being built around it because of its owner refusing to move and disallowing the motorway to be built over the farmland. However, this recently proved not to be the case, as it was revealed that due to a geological fault beneath the farmhouse, it was easier for engineers to leave it rather then demolish it, showing the well-thought out ideas and intentions behind each step of the construction of the M62.

The connection of Yorkshire with what was then Lancashire, before the introduction of Greater Manchester, was, and still is, shown by the Red rose emblem affixed to the left side of the Motorway on the descent from Windy Hill Westbound, and the White Rose affixed to the left side of the road which can be seen when ascending Eastbound.

The joining of these two regions which the M62 created, was not only meant to eliminate the need for haulage to be driven through many towns on ‘A’ roads or winding country lanes between Yorkshire and Lancashire, but it was meant to aid in seriously reducing travel time along this route.

Although many will argue that this is no longer the case, the construction of the M62 required the effort of hundreds of workers and the employment of specific machinery, such as the Muskeg Tractor, which helped to dig out the bog in which a main part of the M62 was to be built.

Long hours and hard manual labour went into the construction of the M62, and although some people may love it and others may hate it, it is still as vitally needed and as important today as it was over 40 years ago.