The M61 connects Manchester to Preston and points north by taking a direct line from the M60 Manchester Outer Ring Road to the M6, connecting up much of mid-Lancashire in the process. Without it, the M6 and M62 would be very busy and the A6 at Chorley would be a headache.

Its southern terminus and starting point, the Worsley Braided Interchange on the M60, is a contender for the most fabulously over-designed junction in the country. It occupies the first three junction numbers on the M61 and is considered the widest section of road in the UK, with seventeen lanes side-by-side across several carriageways. It is effectively two motorways running together, with sliproads linking them, and connecting routes to parallel and adjacent roads.

Because skew bridges were difficult and expensive to build when it was created, some of the sliproads cross each other at very oblique angles using galleries - effectively long lengths of artificial tunnel.

It seems obvious to everyone who uses it that the M61 ends on the M60, and indeed the exit list below shows its direct connection between the two - but that's really just a convenience based on the fact that it's the way most of the traffic goes. Officially, the M61 heads away to the south at junction 2, terminating on the A580, and journeys between the M60 and M61 take in a short section of connecting road, sometimes referred to as the A666(M).

After leaving the Worsley Braided Interchange, the M61 seems to have used up all its excitement quota and becomes quite remarkably dull. The landscape is hilly and quite industrial, and the road itself always seems to look very old and worn out. At Preston, the northern terminus on the M6 is very simple, which can be something of a disappointment after the excitement of Worsley.

The missing junction 7 is something of a mystery. Considering that an extended M58 was meant to terminate on the M61, and an underpass even exists to enable that to happen, the missing junction has nothing to do with that plan and is much too far north to be related to the long-dead M58 proposals. Instead, it was probably intended for an improved access to Chorley and the new town of Leyland.

Start
Manchester
End
Preston
Passes
Bolton
Connects to
Length
21 miles
Open Junctions Section
Nov 1969 J4-M6 Horwich → Preston
Dec 1970 J0-4 Worsley → Horwich

Exit list

Junction   Northbound               Southbound  
M6 J30
35.5 km
The NORTH
Lancaster
M6 Link

M6
NORTH

M6
N/A
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 2 lanes 1 mile, 2 lanes
9
33 km
Blackburn
Burnley
Preston (S)
M65 Link
(A6)


M65



M65 Blackburn
Burnley
Preston (S)
M65 Link
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanes
4 miles, 3 lanes 4 miles, 3 lanes
8
27.5 km
Chorley
Whittle-le-Woods
A674 (A6)
A674
(A6)
A674 Chorley
A674 (A6)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
6 miles, 3 lanes 6 miles, 3 lanes
19 km Services Rivington North Services Rivington South
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
2 miles, 3 lanes 2 miles, 3 lanes
6
15.5 km
Horwich
(A673)
Chorley
(A6)
(A6) (A673) Bolton (W)
Horwich
(A673)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
3 miles, 3 lanes 3 miles, 3 lanes
5
11 km
Westhoughton
Hindley
Wigan
A58
A58 A58 Westhoughton
Hindley
Deane
A58
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
2 miles, 3 lanes 2 miles, 3 lanes
4
8 km
Atherton
Walkden
Farnworth
(A6)
(A6) Atherton
Walkden
Farnworth
(A6)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
3.5 miles, 3 lanes 3 miles, 3 lanes
3
4.5 km
(A666) Bolton
(A666)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
  0.5 miles, 3 lanes
2
3 km
Bolton
(A666)
M60







M60
Ring Road
(M66 Link), Manchester Airport
Leeds, Liverpool
M62 Link
Birmingham (M6 Link)
M60 Link
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
LanesLanesLanesLanes
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1.7 miles, 2 lanes 1.7 miles, 2 lanes
1
0 km
N/A A580


SOUTH
A580

Salford
Manchester City Centre
A580
LanesLanesLanesLanes SignsSigns LanesLanesLanesLanes SignsSignsSigns
Routes

Picture credits

With thanks to Steven Jukes and Chris McKenna for information on this page.