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Preston plans and schemes, more lost railways and the original M6 plans

Posted on - 1st October, 2023 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Lea, Preston Docks, Preston News, Preston Railway Station, Roads, Transport
Preston's railways in 1914 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Preston’s railways in 1914 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Studying old plans can lead to interesting discoveries. One such discovery reveals another of Preston’s lost railways. Also, the origin of the UK’s motorways goes back further than you might think. The first plans were drawn up as early as 1943, with the M6 junction at Samlesbury being shown on a local plan. It is also the 30th anniversary of this junction being rebuilt with three new bridges.

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The missing Docks railway

Another railway proposal that never happened would have created an alternate route to Blackpool. This would have bypassed Preston Station entirely. The line shown in pink above was proposed in 1914 and would have extended the West Lancashire line over Fishergate Hill and along the top of the docks. It would also have joined the Blackpool line at Lea. At the time, the original West Lancashire line station for Southport was disused. The new line was first proposed as far back as the 1880s and is on the original Docks plan. However the 1880s plan never happened and the second time around, World War I intervened.

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Preston Dock plans 1882 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Preston Dock plans 1882 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The plan below shows the 1914 proposal in more detail. There would have been a bridge over Fishergate Hill. Note the new line also crossed the original Dock line from Preston Station. This had, and still has a steep incline and was one of the reasons for the proposed new line. The line to the Docks, shown below as the Ribble Branch, is still in use, however, the West Lancashire line is long gone.

Preston Dock railway plan 1914 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Preston Dock railway plan 1914 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Motorway updates and the original M6 plan

The original M6 junction plan for Samlesbury, 1943 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The original M6 junction plan for Samlesbury, 1943 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Planning for motorways was inspired by the autobahns that had been built in Germany, in the 1930s. However, the original M6 plan from 1943 displays a lack of knowledge about motorway speeds, with some comically tight entry and exit roads. The junction was not built according to the original plan although the exits were still very tight by modern standards.

The image below shows the actual junction under construction. The main road has been moved closer to the river and the central bridge has gone. This section of what was known as the Preston Bypass opened in 1958.

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The M6 under construction Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The M6 under construction Pic: Preston Digital Archive

By the 1990s traffic growth and the tight slip roads had caused the junction to become a major bottleneck. As a result major reconstruction was begun in 1993. This involved building three new bridges and widening the centre section of the motorway. New much longer slip roads were built. The stub of the old on and off ramps can be seen in the image below.

The M6 Samlesbury junction rebuild, 1993 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The M6 Samlesbury junction rebuild, 1993 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

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