M65 (Calder Valley motorway)

By Bob Sykes

Long known as the ``Road to Nowhere'', this is a white elephant of a road. The first stretch (current junctions 10-12, although there were no numbers at first) opened in 1981 and was originally less than 3 miles long, not even running from one end of Burnley to another! Amazingly this took over 4 years to build. Gradually, over the next 16 years, it grew in short sections, finally being completed in December 1997 with the fantastic rollercoaster stretch south of Blackburn (J1A to J6), to complete a link between the A6 just south of Preston and the A56/A6068 at Colne approximately 26 miles to the east, and linking in with the M6, M61 and the A56 link over to the M66.

It took until 1986 for the more substantial (a good 6 miles of it!)second section (J7-J10) to open, and even then, it was another 2 years before Burnley and Blackburn had a complete motorway link (J6-J7). Two very tiny sections eastward came in about 1987 (Nelson by-pass, J12-13, 1/2 mile long!) and then around 1992 (J13-14, 2/3 mile long!).

There was long speculation that the road might be extended eastwards through the centre of Colne to link in with the Airedale Valley Route (A650) and ultimately, a continuous motorway standard link from the M6 direct to Bradford/Leeds to relieve the increasingly busy M62. This was officially shelved only 2 years ago, although I'd like to think it hasn't been totally ruled out for good.

Also shelved in the roads review about 5 years ago was the proposal to extend the M65 westwards; not as a motorway, but as part of a Preston ring road. This would have linked into the M55 at the missing junction 2, relieving the congested M6 Preston by pass, although this became less of a priority when they decided to widen the M6 to 4 lanes.

The M65 itself is an odd patchwork, given the differing ages of the 6 sections of it. The 1997 bit is superb - containing 2 of the steepest hills on any British motorway (and a bonus 3rd lane on each - very generous!), and sweeping bends and deep cuttings. At junction 6, we have a deep cutting under the B6234, which is carried by a fantastically OTT bridge, very similar to the famous one on the M62 on Saddleworth Moor, but not quite as spectacular!

At junction 6 the motorway turns at a 90 degree angle, made necessary because the 1988 section came to an abrupt end right on the outskirts of Blackburn - presumably, they never had the foresight to realise that if the road was ever extended to the M6 as planned, they would either have to go straight through Blackburn (no great loss!) or take sudden and evasive action...

The middle bit (1986/88) is three lanes all the way - this must have been due to a cash surplus in the mid 80s, as this section is no busier than any other, indeed the newer two lane bit is already crying out for widening. All of the bridges on this stretch have actually been built to carry three lanes, so it wouldn't be a big job.

We drop back to two lanes past Burnley and on to Colne - this is a really sedate bit of motorway and one wonders whether it was actually worth building this bit as a motorway at all. This eastern bit contains some fantastic scenery (Pendle Hill, Yorkshire Dales, Pennines) but also views of the most run down bits of Burnley and Nelson.

Then, after a nice fairly modern bit (J13-14), less than a mile in length, we get dumped onto a little roundabout at Colne, and onto the notorious A6068 North Valley Road towards Skipton and Keighley. A bypass (not m/way) has been long planned (A56 Foulridge/Colne bypass), but shelved on an annual basis by the County Council.

A motorway of many parts, and one hopes that in years to come, someone will have the foresight to send it into Yorkshire and create a viable alternative to the M62 transpennine link.

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