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The M56 is a motorway, also known as the North Cheshire motorway, in Cheshiremarker and Greater Manchestermarker, Englandmarker. It runs from Junction 4 of the M60marker to Dunkirk, Cheshire and is 35 miles (56 km) in length. The motorway is often busy with long-distance commuter traffic towards North Walesmarker as well as providing access to Manchester Airportmarker from the national motorway network, as well as commuters heading to Manchester particularly those from the wider Cheshire area.[43406]

The road forms part of the unsigned Euroroute E22.


Although the mainline of the motorway starts as a continuation of the A5103 Princess Parkway, the M56 actually begins on the Sharston Spur. After passing through junctions 1 and 2, the spur joins the mainline at junction 3, going up from two lanes to four, to accommodate Manchester Airport traffic.

The road now heads south to the west of Wythenshawemarker and Manchester Airport until it reaches junction 6, where it turns west. It then runs to the south of Halemarker, going down to three lanes. It passes junctions 7 and 8 which are part of the same complex. Junction 8 was planned to be used by the proposed A556(M)). The current proposals are to upgrade the A556 to a dual carriageway. Traffic for the southbound M6 leaves here and this junction can suffer from congestion. The motorway then enters a more rural setting, continuing between Broomedgemarker and High Leghmarker.

After meeting the M6 motorway it passes south of Appleton Thornmarker. After reaching junction 11, it runs through the outskirts of Runcornmarker and Frodshammarker. Between junctions 12 and 14, and the missing junction 13, it runs parallel to the River Merseymarker and Manchester Ship Canal. After meeting the M53 motorway, the road finally returns to two lanes, it proceeds between Chestermarker to the south and Ellesmere Portmarker to its termination at Dunkirk, Cheshire where it becomes the A494.

Traffic for North Wales can take either the M53 or A494 to reach the A55.


The first proposal for a road along this route was agreed in 1958 and it entered the Trunk Road Programme for 1967/1968. Construction began in 1968 and the motorway opened in stages between 1971 and 1981:
  • Junctions 1 to 3 opened in 1975.
  • Junctions 3 to 7 opened in 1972.
  • Junctions 7 to 9 opened in 1974.
  • Junctions 9 to 11 opened in 1975.
  • Junctions 11 to 14 opened in 1971.
  • Junctions 14 to 16 opened in 1981.

Proposals did exist for an extension into North Wales across the proposed Dee Barrage , but these have not happened.

Prior to 2008, the M56 terminated at a roundabout at the western end, work started in 2006[43407] to grade-separate this junction (and others) to allow free-flowing traffic to North Wales, with the project being completed in 2008.


Datafrom driver location signs are used to provide distance information.
M56 Motorway
km Eastbound exits Junction Westbound exits
Stockportmarker M60marker
Leedsmarker (M62)
M60, J4 Start of motorway
(Sharston Spur)
Didsburymarker A34 J1 No access
No access J2 Wythenshawe, Altrinchammarker A560 (M60)
Altrincham, Wythenshawe, Wythenshawe Hospital, Cheadlemarker A560 J3a Start of motorway
(Princess Parkway spur)
Altrincham, Congletonmarker, Wythenshawe A5103
Manchester Ring Road (M60)
J3 No access
11.6 No access J4 Wythenshawe
12.6 Manchester Airportmarker J5 Manchester Airport
14.3 Hale, Wilmslowmarker, Macclesfieldmarker A538 J6 Wilmslow, Hale, Macclesfield A538
19.9 Altrincham A56 J7 Northwichmarker A556
Lymmmarker A56
Birminghammarker (M6)

28.3 Prestonmarker, Birmingham, Leedsmarker (M62) M6 J9 Preston, Liverpoolmarker (M62) M6
33.4 Warrington, Northwichmarker A49 J10 Northwich, Warrington A49
38.3 Runcorn (E), Warrington A56 J11 Preston Brookmarker, Daresburymarker A56
43.1 Runcorn, Widnesmarker, Northwich A557 J12 Frodshammarker, Runcorn, Widnes A557
51.4 Stanlow Refinerymarker, Helsbymarker A5117 J14
Chester services
Stanlow Refinery, Helsby A5117
55.6 No access J15 Ellesmere Port, Birkenheadmarker, Chester, Wrexhammarker M53
Start of Motorway J16 No access
North Wales, Queensferrymarker A5117 Road continues as A494 towards North Wales
At Junction 7, the slip road letting traffic come in southbound along the M56 and turn onto the A556 southbound, is closed while a bridge is replaced, and is scheduled to reopen in September 2010.

M56 Corridor

The M56 Corridor is a term used by estate agents and social geographers to describe what is considered to be a relatively affluent area of north west England, within easy reach of the M56. The area includes the cities of Manchester and Chester, together with commuter towns and villages in rural Cheshire. It also includes Warrington and St Helens where the chemical and pharmaceutical industries are prominent.

See also


  1. Pathetic Motorways - A556(M)
  2. Highways Agency Press Release
  3. The Motorway Archive - M56 Scheme Introduction
  4. The Motorway Archive - M56 Dates Page
  5. CBRD Motorway Database - M56 Timeline
  6. The Motorway Archive - M56 J16 to J14
  7. House of Commons Hansard Debates for 23 July 1993 - Column 403
  8. Driver Location Signs, Highway Agency Area 10 (map) - Highway Authority, 2009
  9. Property Week article: M56 corridor dated 2008-09-17

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