The M56 near Hale is to close for an entire weekend in February – bringing potential travel chaos for thousands of Manchester United fans travelling to Old Trafford.
The motorway will close between junction 6 at Hale and junction 5 at Manchester Airport between 10pm on Friday, February 27 and 5am on Monday, March 2, part of the final phase of the installation of the new £5.5m Thorley Lane Bridge.
Access to Manchester Airport will be maintained throughout the weekend – but no specific provision has been made for United’s home game against Sunderland on Saturday February 28th.
Supporters on their way to the game, in common with all other motorists, will have to use one of three diversion routes put in place for the weekend.
One relates to airport traffic, so supporters will have a choice between coming off the M56 at junction 9 and using a combination of the M6, M62 and M60, or coming off at junction 7 and using a variety of A roads.
The closure is sure to put greater pressure on the A56 road to Old Trafford, as well as the tram network.
Below: One of the diversions in place for the M56 closure
Highways Agency project sponsor Mark Mosley said a full weekend motorway closure like this was “very unusual” – but insisted the diversions will be “very good”.
He said: “The end is now in sight and following the demolition of the old bridge last August we have been building the new bridge on a site next to the motorway.
“Over the weekend at the end of February this will be carefully wheeled onto the motorway and then lifted into place.
“That work does require a second and very unusual full weekend closure of the motorway but access to the airport will be maintained at all times.
“Other drivers should completely avoid this part of the motorway network and use the very good diversions we’ll have in place.”
Full details of the diversions can be found here.
Thorley Lane Bridge is being replaced with a new, wider structure which will carry local road traffic.
The new bridge, due to open in April, will also allow more room for extra capacity to be added to the M56 beneath it in the future.
The existing bridge, which links Whitecarr Lane and Runger Lane north and south of the motorway, has weakened with age and is no longer fit for purpose with a weight restriction on lorries, limiting traffic numbers. It closed in May.
It’s the second M56 weekend closure forced by the works, but the previous occasion came off-season in August.