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24 September 2014

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The M62

You are in: Bradford and West Yorkshire > Places > The M62 > More than a road...

motorway lights

More than a road...

It's 40 years since work began on the M62 in West Yorkshire - our very own 'highway in the sky'. Four decades on, the BBC's Spencer Stokes takes a look at the past, present and future of a motorway which to many is more than 'just' a road!

Back in 1966 there were less than a thousand miles of motorway in Britain so the idea of putting an eight-lane highway across some of England's most challenging terrain may have seemed like madness!

Jules Rimet Trophy

1966: A good year!

In reality plans for a fast Lancashire-Yorkshire motorway had been discussed on and off for around thirty years. In the late 1930s Ministry of Transport officials had sketched out possible alternative routes for the new road.

Over in Germany Adolf Hitler was building his autobahns, and pre-war planners in this country knew that if the private motoring boom continued then German style highways would be needed to avoid trans-Pennine tailbacks on the historic 'A' roads that snaked their way between the mill towns of east Lancashire and the West Riding.

But first a war had to be fought with Germany before the dream of  England's mountain motorway could become a reality. By 1966 Germany had been beaten again - this time on the football pitch - and Britain was being reshaped by a technological revolution. It was a revolution enthusiastically endorsed by Huddersfield born Prime Minister Harold Wilson - with his government backing the building of more motorways.

Like the great railway expansion of the 1840s the road network was now expanding rapidly. Every year the fledgling system grew with road atlases rendered useless overnight as thick blue lines began to criss-cross England.

Harold Wilson

Harold Wilson: Motorway fan!

The M1 was heading north from London towards Leeds and in Autumn 1966 600 men made their way onto the Pennine peat bogs to begin building the M62 in West Yorkshire. Up there, 1,221 feet above sea level, not far from the appropriately named Windy Hill a shanty town developed as construction got underway. Over the next seven years the landscape was changed forever. Ancient cottages, and farms were bulldozed, 700 million tonnes of peat were excavated, the longest fixed arched bridge in the northern hemisphere was built, a valley was flooded and the M62 was used to dam it and create a reservoir.

By 1973 you could pick up a road atlas and see a new blue line, West Yorkshire and the UK sliced in half by a highway in the sky: the M62, finally linking Lancashire with Yorkshire!

last updated: 17/04/2008 at 11:41
created: 30/11/2006

You are in: Bradford and West Yorkshire > Places > The M62 > More than a road...

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