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The motorway age dawned for Mancunians in October 1960 with the opening of the M63's 8km Stretford-Eccles bypass, plus 1.6km of the M62 to the north. It ended a notorious bottleneck that had caused chaos around the huge Trafford Park industrial estate, even though vehicle numbers were only a third of today's figures.

The problem had been the Manchester Ship Canal and its main crossing, Barton swingbridge, which opened up to 14 times daily to let ships into Manchester docks. The solution was the £1.7M Barton highlevel bridge, built by George Dew and, at 725m, then the UK's longest road bridge, cutting a half hour journey to just six minutes.

It was not until October 1970 that the next pieces of the jigsaw arrived, with the extension by Reed & Mallik and A Monk of the M62 east to Whitefield. A month later Leonard Fairclough (now Amec) completed the complex M62/M63 Eccles interchange together with the M602 spur to Salford.

That paved the way for the arrival of the M62 from Liverpool in August 1974 - not an ideal situation as Eccles interchange then interrupted the smooth flow of the transpennine M62, setting the scene for a major political row 20 years later.

The following month saw the M63 extended south and east towards Stockport by Alfred McAlpine/Fairclough; eight years later Balfour Beatty linked it to Stockport town centre. This section was completed in 1988 when the M63 was renamed the M66 and swept north from Stockport to Denton for what turned out to be a 12-year wait for the final eastern link.

In the interim it was Barton Bridge that again challenged road planners. As a dual two lane crossing it had been designed for 50,000 vehicles/day; but by 1984 the 80,000 vehicles/day flow was creating long daily queues.

In December 1988 Fairclough completed a £16.8M widening contract to three lanes plus hard shoulder, and today the bridge successfully handles 140,000 vehicles/day with 11,000 an hour at peak times.

By 1993 the M62 dogleg at Eccles interchange was causing massive daily tailbacks and the Government proposed a new £270M six-lane motorway to run alongside the existing M62 for 18km. There was an immediate outcry; Government bowed to public pressure and in 1995 cancelled the relief road.

Not surprisingly for a ring road that had grown piecemeal, the numbering system was a confusing mess and in 1998 an £8M resigning exercise changed the lot into the newly created M60. It now comes equipped with two state of the art electronic information systems; one to link speed limits to road conditions and the other to warn drivers of hazards ahead.

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