6 October 2020

The Roads That Could’ve Made Your Journey Easier

Estimated reading time: 14 minutes, 56 seconds. Contains 2988 words

We’ve all been there. Sitting in heavy traffic, wondering about all the ways this could’ve been fixed to make your journey faster. Surprisingly, the UK has had a lot of cancelled road projects over the years. Some were cancelled due to a lack of funding, and some were cancelled because of the destruction they would’ve caused to surrounding neighbourhoods.


  1. London Ringways

London Ringways is perhaps one of the most ambitious road projects to ever be proposed in the UK. A series of 4 ring road motorways blasting into the centre, and numerous radial roads to keep all the motorways connected.

London Ringways Plan” by DavidCane, used under CC BY 3.0

Ringway 1:

This ring road would’ve blasted through central London as a series of 4 motorways. The M14 west cross route (which actually had a short stub of motorway built), the north cross route, the south cross route, and the east cross route (which also had short stubs of motorway built.)

Ringway 2:

Ringway 2 kind-of exists today as the North Circular Road; a rather congested, but greatly needed half-ring road for the northern half of London. However, the route would’ve also served as a much needed ring road for south London.

This road would’ve served those who needed to travel around London whilst avoiding the busy centre. For example, someone living in Barking who needed to travel to work in Croydon. The ringway would’ve also included a much needed bridge over the Thames between Woolwich and Beckton, something of which east London still lacks to this day.

Ringway 3:

Ringway 3 exists (half of it at least), and is one of the busiest roads in London. Though only the north (from South Mimms) and eastern sections (near Dartford and Swanley) were built and were originally designated to be the M16. Had ringway 3’s southern extension been built, it would’ve either plowed right below the centre of Croydon, or would’ve tried gently passing through the southern urban area trying to avoid bumping into too many houses; much like someone trying to push their way through a crowd without bothering anybody as it connected to the M3.

The western section would’ve continued from the current M3 terminus, to the west of Hounslow and east of Heathrow Airport.

Ringway 4:

Most of Ringway 4 already exists. Connecting directly onto the M20 at its southernmost point, this road was initially meant to move traffic around the Home Counties whilst avoiding London completely. The southern section was designated a number we’re all familiar with to this day, the M25. And much of its southern and western sections were built as intended. Once the ringways project was cancelled completely, the completed parts of ringway 4 were made to connect with the north and eastern sections of ringway 3, to make one full orbital M25.

However, Ringway 4 has its own unbuilt northern section. Intended to be built north of ring way 3, this would’ve been an all-purpose road connecting Hatfield, Hertford and Harlow before meeting Ringway 3 at the east. As it was deemed that Ringway 3 would be of more importance in northern London, this project was eventually shelved.


2. M53 Extension

Image Credit: Google Maps

Currently, if you’re travelling between Liverpool and North Wales, you have to take a longer detour around eastern Chester to get there, as that’s where the A55 expressway meets the M53. However, this wasn’t always how the road was meant to turn out.

If you’ve driven on the M53 before, then you’ll know the 2 carriageways split for a while, with the northbound carriageway making a big turn, almost as if it were a sliproad joining a new motorway, and that’s kind of what happened. Back in the 1980s, this was where the M53 met the M531. The original plan was for the M53 to split off here and continue towards western Chester and North Wales. It’s not known exactly where the terminus of the original M53 was meant to be. However, as the M531 eventually got its own extension to Chester, the original M53 plan was deemed unnecessary, and thus the M531 was renumbered to M53.


3. M64

Image Credit: Google Maps

The cancelled Stoke-Derby motorway that would’ve taken drivers from the M6 to the M1. The purpose of this motorway was to carry traffic between the 2 motorways whilst avoiding the busy and heavily congested Birmingham area, as well as to relieve congestion along the towns on the planned route.

However, the UK was experiencing major economic problems in the 1970s, and many road projects were cancelled. Unfortunately, the M64 was one of them. In its place, an improved dual carriageway A50 was suggested and built instead. Whilst it does relieve traffic in the area, it fails to act as a relief road. Additionally, the road only connects to the M6 by connecting onto the A500. For these reasons, the M6 Toll road was eventually constructed.


4. Manchester

Manchester has had ambitious plans for motorways in the past century. Though many were eventually cancelled, they’ve left many clues across the city for where they would’ve been for those who have a sharp eye.

M602 – A57(M) Connection:

Image Credit: Google Maps

Perhaps the most obvious is the space between the M602 and the A57(M). Both roads are only separated by little more than a mile. In between are two rather poorly made junctions at ground level. Originally this was meant to be an extension of the M602 to meet the A57(M). Needless to say, journeys into Manchester may have been more hassle-free had this connection been built.

Princess Parkway:

Image Credit: Google Maps

The road from the M56 to central Manchester. Most of this road is dual carriageway, and the southerly part itself is very much up to motorway standard. However, the entire road itself was at one point meant to be a continuous motorway to the centre of Manchester. Some of the clues of this original plan include the inclusion of a hard shoulder at the very southern section of the road, as well as the fact that much of the land to the left of Princess Parkway remains grassy fields, due to much of the land originally being cleared to accommodate this motorway.

Inner Ring Road:

Image Credit: Google Maps

The M60 of central Manchester; this route would’ve followed much of the current A665. It would’ve crossed the river into Salford before turning back around to orbit central Manchester. All of the Manchester roads mentioned on this page would’ve met on this ring road, and there are hints all over about this. For example, the large spacious junction at Greenheys Lane in Hulme with the A5103 was meant to accommodate the meeting of Inner Ring Road and the Princess Parkway motorway.

M67 Extension:

Image Credit: Google Maps

The M67 was meant to cross the Pennines to Sheffield, that’s something already discussed on our future road projects page. However, there was also an unfinished western extension into central Manchester that would’ve met the Inner Ring Road at Ardwick. Look closely at its western terminus with the M60 and as the carriageways split, you’ll see 2 lanes of empty tarmac heading upwards into nothing, built to accommodate the extension that will never come.


5. EuroRoute

Image Credit: Google Maps

Not too long ago, the only way to travel to the likes of France and Belgium was via ferry. Then came the EuroTunnel. However, that wasn’t the only option on the cards.

We all know who eventually turned out the winner, but before the EuroTunnel was built, there were two competitors. The EuroTunnel as we all know, and the EuroRoute; a dual road with 2 lanes each way connecting England and France over the Strait of Dover.

EuroRoute was a very futuristic project. The first 5 miles out of the UK would’ve taken cars onto a bridge, where eventually drivers would reach an artificial island and spiral downwards into an undersea tunnel. This tunnel would then continue for 13 miles, before reaching a second artificial island, spiralling upwards onto a bridge taking the drivers to France.

At each island, motorists would’ve been able to leave for parking and refreshments before continuing on. However, these weren’t going to be the only facilities proposed by EuroRoute for these islands. EuroRoute also wanted to add leisure facilities and hotels to the islands, effectively turning them into a destination in their own right.

This route in many ways wouldn’t have been dissimilar to other bridge-tunnel road projects that exist today, such as the Øresund bridge at the Denmark/Sweden border, connecting the cities of Copenhagen and Malmö. The exact reason this road came to be has never been explained, but the fact the train route was much cheaper probably had something to do with it.


6. M59

Image Credit: Google Maps

Back in the mid 20th century, Lancashire had ambitious plans for motorways. The likes of which no other area in Great Britain (except maybe London) could compete with. One of these was the M59 motorway.

The M59 was planned to connect Liverpool to Preston, similarly to how the nearby M61 connects Preston with Manchester. The M59 would’ve started on the missing junction 2 of the M58, and then headed north. The road would’ve bypassed towns such as Ormskirk on its way to Preston. Had things gone to plan, it would’ve met the M65 southern Preston bypass, before continuing north and meeting the M55 at its missing junction 2.

The reason this motorway was never built is simple – once the M6 was extended to 4 lanes at Preston and the M65 southern bypass was cancelled, there was less need for the M59. The project became smaller and smaller until it just disappeared altogether.


7. Glasgow Inner Ring Road

Image Credit: Google Maps

The Glasgow Inner Ring Road would’ve done exactly what the name implies – form a ring road around the centre of Glasgow. Half of this road was actually built and is in use today as the central Glasgow section of the M8. Despite all its cluttered junctions and heavy traffic, however, this was expected to be the quieter section of the inner ring road.

The other half of the road would’ve taken drivers across the south and eastern sections of Eastern Glasgow. However, even though the road was never built, there are several visual clues today of what was to be. For example, at M8 junction 21, two large 2-lane slip roads exit/join the motorway and pass unused tarmac that stops abruptly and points upwards into the air. Meanwhile, at junction 15, the M8 moves leftwards as the slip roads take priority, before abruptly stopping at a halt. Both these junctions were primarily built to accommodate the unbuilt halves of the inner ring road.


8. M12 London – Essex Motorway

Image Credits: Google Maps

The M12 is a motorway that just refuses to die. It’s had 3 different proposals in its history, one proposal even going to the point where the M11 was placed on bridges over nothing, getting ready to connect to the motorway that would never be built.

The first M12 project was designed to connect London from the start of the M11, cross the M25 (then Ringway 3), before ending at Brentwood.

The second M12 project would’ve also left the M11 on the same starting point, This would’ve passed Basildon before reaching Southend-On-Sea and the then-proposed Maplin Airport. Once the airport was cancelled, this project was cancelled along with it.

The third M12 would’ve connected the M25 to Chelmsford to act as relief for the congested A12, but was eventually cancelled in favour of making improvements to the A12 instead.


9. Birmingham Western Orbital Motorway

Image Credit: Google Maps

Birmingham is one of the most congested areas in the country. It’s the primary point where much long distance traffic meets; whether you’re travelling from Scotland to London, London to North Wales and the Northwest, the Northwest to the Southwest, north to south. It’s so congested that the M6 Toll road had to be built as a means to get traffic away from the busy centre. The existing roads currently serve both local traffic and long-distance traffic. They’re only expected to get busier as time goes on. However, one look at the existing orbital roads and one thing becomes abundantly clear – the western section is missing.

There have been numerous proposals to build a western orbital motorway for Birmingham, so traffic between the M5, M6, M6 Toll and M54 can travel with ease without having to cross the busy middle section. Such a road would’ve also provided an economic boost to western Wolverhampton, as well as provide access between the M54 and M6 Toll. Though the road as it stands currently is a dead project, it’s often revived in some form as a proposal, so maybe one day we actually will see this road built.


10. M31 Reading To M3 Link Road

Image Credit: Google Maps

Everybody who’s travelled a long distance and had the misfortune to travel past the M25 around Heathrow Airport knows just how busy and congested the road can get. It’s carrying traffic to the airport, long distance traffic circling London, and local traffic trying to get to work. At six lanes in each direction, it’s also the widest road in the country.

The M31 would have alleviated traffic by offering those using the M4 an alternate route to the M3 without crossing the M25. The route would’ve started in Reading, crossed the M4 at junction 10 before heading south past Wokingham and Bracknell, before reaching the M3. If any of that sounds familiar, it’s because a small part of the road around the M4 was built as the A329(M). The motorway then ends at a junction with the A329, and continues as dual carriageway to the M3 as the A322. It’s a strange choice why they didn’t convert the remaining 6 miles into a motorway, especially with very little development between the A329(M) and the M3. However, the road still does its job of providing relief to those wanting to avoid the M25.


11. Manchester Outer Ring Road

Image Credit: Google Maps

No, this isn’t the M60!

Whilst it’s technically true that Manchester already has an outer ring road, the one that exists was not the original ring road planned originally. The M60 itself was barely even planned. It was rather taken from 3 existing motorways in the area with a bit of added new motorway to make it look like a ring road (that’s why the M62 is split in half.)

Part of this road exists today – namely the M56 Manchester Airport spur. This spur was originally intended to be part of the original outer ring road. The road then continues on its original intended path south of Stockport as the heavily watered down A555, before stopping abruptly at the A6. It currently doesn’t really do a good job as an outer ring road. However, it provides a great alternate for those south of Manchester trying to get to the airport.


12. Strensham to Solihull Motorway

Image Credit: Google Maps

Right now, it’s easy to get from Strensham (near Gloucester) to Solihull. All you have to do is go up the M5 and turn off at the M42. However, the Strensham to Solihull motorway aimed to provide relief to the M5, and an alternative route for those travelling from the northeast heading towards the southwest. This road would have begun at the M5/M50 junction. The motorway would continue north to meet the M42 at its current M42/M40 junction. The main reason this motorway was eventually cancelled was due to the choice to widen the M5 instead.


13. Liverpool Inner Ring Road

Image Credit: Google Maps

Many large cities have their own large urban ring roads, such as Manchester, Glasgow and Leeds. Liverpool however, does not. But at one time in history, they had big plans for their own inner motorway system.

The road would’ve passed by the Albert Dock and rightwards onto the current Leeds Street. It would’ve headed south at the current junction with the A59, and met up with the M62 slightly further south. The route would’ve presumably followed St Anne Street down to Great George Street, before heading back towards Albert Dock.


There are many visual clues hinting at what would’ve been. Much of the land reserved for the motorway was purchased and reserved prior to cancellation.

At Albert Dock, the A5036 at Strand Street is a dual 3-lane carriageway with extra spacious pavements. Clearly enough room to fit a motorway on.

The junction between A5036 and A5053 at Leeds Street is where the motorway would’ve turned left. There is a lot of space at this junction with enough room for a motorway to pass through.

The current A5053/A59 junction was originally meant to be a 4-level interchange, but is now a flat junction. But there remains a lot of empty land in the area reserved for the interchange.

The junction between St Anne Street and Islington. This was likely where the inner ring road was meant to meet the M62. The space between the 2 carriageways is huge!

The M62 currently ends at junction 4, waiting for the extension it will never receive.


14. M62 – M1 Flockton Link

Image Credits: Google Maps

If there’s 2 cities just dying to be connected properly, it’s Manchester and Sheffield. Both cities are just an hour away from each other, but are separated by the Pennines. This area is difficult to construct upon, and can be dangerous to cross in rough weather. Beginning around M62 junction 25, and ending around M1 junction 38, this would’ve helped to provide easier access between Sheffield and the northwest. The project was cancelled at the government was more interested in finding ways to extend the M67 towards Sheffield. That project itself was eventually cancelled.


15. Leeds North East Urban Motorway

Image Credit: Google Maps

Back in the day, the M1 and M621 (effectively traffic from the M62) dumped all their traffic onto one roundabout in central Leeds as both motorways terminated. Nowadays, the M1 diverts away from Leeds at junction 43. This leaves the M621 to take over the former Leeds section of the M1. Still, for all intents and purposes, it dumps traffic from 2 major long-distance motorways onto one roundabout. However, this wasn’t always the plan.

When both the M1 and M621 terminated at the same roundabout, it was intended for both roads to merge together and form the North East Urban Motorway. Traffic would then have been distributed all across the city with the help of the A64(M) and A58(M).

Changed Priorities Ahead” by Addison Berry, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 / Modified from Original

Part of the unfinished highway, Cape Town, South Africa” by Paul Mannix, used under CC BY 2.0

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