M65 Motorway at Rishton

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M65 towards Accrington and Burnley in 2001.

Plans for a new link road to connect the towns of the Calder Valley and the Central Lancashire New Towns to the M6 motorway were first unveiled on the 2nd April 1968.  It was first publicised as "The Calder Valley Fast Route", and received its first mention in a publication called "Central Lancashire New Town: Impact on N. E. Lancashire" which was prepared by Robert Mathew Johnson Marshall, as a consultant to the Ministry of Housing.

The study had shown that North East Lancashire had poor accessibility compared to other parts of Lancashire, and that the roads in this area were narrow, tortuous and congested.

At the time there were no Motorways in the area, and very few 2 lane carriageways. The main elements for the area included A fast route linking the Calder Valley to the M6, the renewal of the urban fabric, allocation of land for industrial development, and better industrial training facilities.

It was on the 29th June 1968? that the plans were first published.

In 1969 Lancashire County Council produced the North East Lancashire Project Study final report. The study was in aid of assessing highway needs till the end of 1990, and the report proposed the Calder Valley Route with associated improvements.

Between 1969 and 1972, a number of other things happened. Two major road proposals were put forward and adopted, the first was a Southerly link to the M66 Motorway East of Accrington (Known locally as the Highway in the sky), and a fast link along Hyndburn Road in Accrington to the proposed Calder Valley Route. The Hyndburn to Burnley section was put in the preparation "pool" in 1970 and the M6 to Hyndburn section in 1972.

On the 9th May 1970 the first proposed route was published for the M65. The route was finally approved by the council on the 3rd March 1973 after Clayton Le Moors objected to the demolition of 100 properties in the town.

In 1972 the "North East Lancashire Plan" was published. In this the Calder Valley Route was still envisaged, but with the road passing through the centre of Blackburn. It also suggested the road should pass Colne, and into Yorkshire, linking tot he M1 and the East Coast ports. The route, it was said would encourage industrial development, improve movement, and reduce traffic congestion.

By 1975, alternative lines were being drawn for the M6 to Hyndburn section. There were 6 coloured routes drawn up by the Department of the Environment, mainly because it was felt that there were drawbacks to the road travelling through Blackburn town centre. Unfortunately this coincided with Government cut backs in spending from 1975 onwards, and the Government made it clear that there would be delays. Lancashire County Council and most of the Districts concerned favoured the "Brown route" (with the exception of Blackburn), which actually went through the towns centre. Blackburn favoured the "Green Route".

In November 1977, William Rodgers, Minister of Transport announced the selection of the Green Route as a duel carriageway, which resulted in strong representations from all the authorities involved.

No further action was taken on this Green Route until January 1980. when the Department of Transport consulted Lancashire County Council about further modifications, this new route being called "Green B". After consultations it was announced in 1980 by the Minister for Transport that the M6 to Hyndburn section was abandoned! This was in favour of upgrading the A6119 (Whitebirk Drive) and the A677 (Samlesbury to Blackburn). This route was later confirmed in the white paper on roads in June 1980.

M65 Motorway looking West to Blackburn August 2001.
Looking West to Blackburn from the Canal bridge in August 2001.

The Burnley to Brierfield section of the road went ahead as planned, and was completed prior to 1982, and the Hyndburn to Burnley section was completed mid 1984. In 1982, it was still being proposed that the Whitebirk to Hyndburn Section should have started in 1983, for completion in early 1985, including the northern section of the Hyndburn link road.

The Contract was awarded to a consortium consisting of Sir Alfred McAlpine and Son (Northern) Ltd and Fairclough civil engineering ltd northern division. The Contract Commenced in January 1983, and was due for completion in September 1985, at a cost of £26 million pounds.

The aim of the motorway was to relieve traffic through Rishton, it was 3.6km long, and a 3 lane standard motorway. Problems in its construction included Hyndburn brook valley, the railway and Leeds and Liverpool canal.

The M65 was opened by the then Minister of transport, Mrs Lynda Chalker MP on Wednesday 19th December 1984. It was opened as a section on its own as the Conservative Government at the time had implied that there was no money to complete the link. When it was built it ran from Colne to the Whitebirk roundabout at Rishton.

Mayor of Hyndburn Councillor Jack Grime introduced Mrs Chalker to about 80 county and borough officials as well as officials from the contractors.

She praised the contractors for their achievement in completing the section 9 months ahead of schedule. She promised to produced proposals for a new road from Whitebirk to the M61 and M6 as soon as possible.

Here it cruelly ended and was referred to for several years as the motorway to nowhere. The nearest it had to a motorway connection was by taking Junction 8, The Accrington Easterly bypass (known as the highway in the sky) which linked to the Haslingden bypass, and finally the M66 to Bury. It wasn’t until Christmas 1997 that the Blackburn to Preston link was completed.

Built at a cost of £80 Million pounds, the motorway took almost 4 years to construct. By 1988 the 22km from Whitebirk to Colne had been opened at a total cost of £125 million pounds.

To complete the motorway, which was built by A. M. E. C. and McAlpine, the contractors had to shift 2.54 million cubic metres of earth, employ more than 700 people and use 68,250 cubic metres of concrete.

M65 junction 6 at whitebirk, May 2004.
The M65 looking West to Blackburn in May 2004. Taken from the footbridge leading to Cowhill Farm, which replaced Cowhill Lane.

On Saturday 26 April 1997, the M65 between junction six at Whitebirk and seven at Clayton-le-Moors was closed from 9pm on Wednesday, April 30, until 5am the following day. The closure was to allow a redundant farm access bridge across the carriageway to be demolished. This was the former Cowhill Lane, which was moved to a new location. A replacement bridge is already in place as part of work to connect the existing motorway to the new section under construction. A signed diversion route went through Rishton, via the A678 and Dunkenhalgh Way.

Excavations of the Clayton to Whitebirk section.

Total 1,410,000 cubic meters

Reused 280,000

To tip 1,130,000

Max gradient 1 in 33 or 3%

Picture info:

78 info board erected jan 83. see 79.

79 nov 12th 1983 lions fun run.

80 river hyndburn showing 14 large diameter bored piles . start made to contain river in prescribed channel. Beyond, joining of hyndburn and tinker brook.

81 from tinker brook. Site was formally a tip used by local chem. Works. During construction highly dangerous toxic chems were unearthed, work stopped.

82 under construction

83 prestressed and reinforced concrete laid on pillars. Very wide 6 lanes and 2 ramps.

84 finished bridge

85 and 86 original route of canal pillars drilled up to 38 meters in depth to reach solid rock.

87 from clayton. Canal bridge under construction.

88 side view from church end

89 widening at one end. Bridge only 4 single boats

90 from rishton widening of bridge. Crane fell over due to weigh when lowering these sections with fatal consequences for driver.

91 from church side. Starting towpath on right. temp road on right, canal on left.

£4.1million scheme to improve M65

The Department for Transport scheme on a one-mile section of the motorway between Blackburn and Hyndburn will see resurfacing completed as well as repairs to five bridges and a new crash barrier installed.

The majority of the work, which is expected to last for more than two months, will take place overnight, between 10pm and 5am.

The section of motorway, between junction six at Whitebirk and seven at Clayton-le-Moors, had been scheduled for improvement works later in the year, but the work was brought forward because of the poor quality of the surface, made worse by recent poor weather that saw grit cause further damage to the road.

Matt Sweeting, from the Highways Agency, said the work would improve safety and provide a better driving environment.

It was also hoped to extend the life of the bridges by completing re-waterproofing work.

He said: “We welcome the opportunity to bring forward these repairs and improvements for the M65 in this part of Lancashire.

“The work should also help reduce congestion and lead to more reliable journey times for drivers.”

Mike Damms, the president of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, based just off the M65 at junction seven, said the work was welcome.

He said: “Anyone who drives regularly on this stretch of motorway can feel that it is wearing out.

“But in reality there still needs to be a complete upgrade of the length of the motorway to make it three lanes throughout.”

The work will take place through the night seven days a week with a small amount of daytime work in the verges.

There will be some overnight lane closures for the work and around seven overnight slip-road closures. Signed diversions will be in place for slip road closures.

Around 60,000 vehicles use this stretch of the motorway every day.

During the work, a 50mph speed limit will be in place.


A Hyndburn Chronology by Paul Lanham.

Lancashire Evening Telegraph 26th April 1997, and 15th January 2010.

A Brief History of the Calder Valley Motorway, AJ/JEW/RO4.1 Pages 54 & 55. Published 8th March 1982.