M6 motorway facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts

M6 motorway shield

M6 motorway
M6 highlighted in dark blue
Route information
Part of Tabliczka E05.svg E05 and Tabliczka E24.svg E24
Maintained by Highways Agency
Length: 232.2 mi (373.7 km)
History: Opened in 1958, completed in 2008
Major junctions
South end: Catthorpe
M1 motorway
Junction 2.svg UK-Motorway-M69.svg
J2 → M69 motorway
Junction 3a.svg UK-Motorway-M6 Toll.svg
J3a → M6 Toll
Junction 4.svg UK-Motorway-M42.svg
J4 → M42 motorway
Junction 4a.svg UK-Motorway-M42.svg
J4a → M42 motorway
Junction 6.svg UK-Motorway-A38 (M).svg
J6 → A38(M) motorway
Junction 8.svg UK-Motorway-M5.svg
M5 motorway
Junction 10a.svg UK-Motorway-M54.svg
J10a → M54 motorway
Junction 11a.svg UK-Motorway-M6 Toll.svg
J11a → M6 Toll
Junction 20.svg UK-Motorway-M56.svg
J20 → M56 motorway
Junction 21a.svg UK-Motorway-M62.svg
J21a → M62 motorway
Junction 26.svg UK-Motorway-M58.svg
J26 → M58 motorway
Junction 29.svg UK-Motorway-M65.svg
J29 → M65 motorway
Junction 30.svg UK-Motorway-M61.svg
J30 → M61 motorway
Junction 32.svg UK-Motorway-M55.svg
J32 → M55 motorway
Junction 35.svg UK-Motorway-A601 (M).svg
J35 → A601(M) motorway
Junction 45.svg UK-Motorway-A74 (M).svg
J45 → A74(M) motorway
North end: Gretna
Road network

  • Roads in the United Kingdom

The M6 motorway is the longest motorway in the United Kingdom. It is also one of the busiest motorways in the country. It is often referred to as "The Backbone of Britain". The M6 is part of the unsigned E-road E24 from the M1 to the M6 Toll near Birmingham. The E5 joins the M6 Toll from the M42 and then uses the M6 to its north end at Carlisle. Then it continues along the M74. The motorway is 230 miles (370km) long. This is 37 miles longer than the M1 motorway.

History and curiosities

M6 motorway, Cheshire, 1969
M6 in Cheshire, 1969

The first section of the motorway was the Preston by-pass, opened on 5 December 1958. It was built by a company called Tarmac Construction. It was the first motorway in the United Kingdom. It was opened by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. The motorway was later extended in both directions.

Junction 6 in Birmingham has the name Spaghetti Junction. This is because it looks very complex from the sky.

On the high ground between Shap and Tebay, the north and south-bound carriages split apart. Strangely, at this point a local road runs between the two carriageways without a link to the motorway.

The section of the M6 which runs over Shap Fell in Cumbria is 1050 ft (320 m) above sea level. This is one of the highest points on any motorway in the UK. The West Coast Main Line railway follows the same course. It runs alongside the M6 for much of its length.


The motorway starts at the M1 in Rugby. It passes through Birmingham and Spaghetti Junction. The motorway continues to the north, passing Liverpool and Manchester. It goes around Preston and up to Lancaster. It then follows through a valley past the Lake District and Penrith. It finishes at Carlisle.

Cumberland Gap

M6 Toll plaza, Great Wyrley
M6 Toll collection booths

At the end of the M6 motorway at Carlisle, there is a 6-mile stretch of the A74 which links England to Scotland. This is called the Cumberland Gap. This was caused by an argument between the British Parliament and the Scottish Parliament, which left neither the M6 or the A74(M) being built. After a lot of controversy, building started on the remaining six miles. When it is completed, there will be a complete motorway going from London to Glasgow.

M6 Toll

The M6 Toll is a toll road which was opened in 2003. It starts at Junction 11A and runs around Birmingham to Junction 3A. It is the first toll road to be built in the United Kingdom. It was opened on 9 December 2003. It is reported to save 45 minutes from the average journey.

M6 motorway Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.