M65 Whitebirk to Burnley (J6 to J10)

The line of the 6 mile long section of the Calder Valley Motorway between Hyndburn and Burnley was established following the Joint Public Inquiry held in 1974. As a Department of Transport scheme, the Statutory Procedures were the responsibility of the North Western Road Construction Unit, with the Lancashire Sub-Unit carrying out the detailed design.

The route lay south of the River Calder, and north of the Blackburn to Burnley railway line along the section beyond Huncoat. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal follows the natural contours along the Valley. In consequence, the construction of the motorway necessitated the provision of a number of canal bridges and diversions of the waterway.

From the Hyndburn interchange roundabout at the western end of the section, a short length of link road was to connect with the A678. The completion of the Burnley Barracks interchange by the construction of the west-facing slip roads was to form the eastern terminal. Intermediate interchanges at Huncoat and Hapton were to give access to and from the A679 Trunk Road. Not only would the Huncoat interchange allow for the connection of the Accrington Easterly By-pass as a northerly extension of the M66 and Haslingden By-pass, but also the proposed Shuttleworth Hall Link leading towards Padiham, and into the Ribble Valley. At Hapton, a half-junction would enable traffic on the A646 Todmorden/Burnley Trunk Road route, and travelling to and from the west, to use the motorway via a short length of the A679. It was considered, therefore, that only two-lane carriageways were necessary beyond the Hapton interchange, in conformity with the layout on the County Council's section of the motorway between Burnley and Colne. From Hyndburn to Hapton, the motorway was to have dual three-lane carriageways.

In 1980, the decision was taken, by the Government, to abolish the Road Construction Units. It was the intention that the work load of the Sub-Units should be transferred to Consulting Engineers and, in the case of the Lancashire Sub-Unit, it was to be the firm of Babtie Shaw and Morton. By early 1981, the detailed design and the preparation of contract documents for the Hyndburn to Burnley section was nearing completion. In order to avoid delay in proceeding with the project, the County Council made representations, requesting that the Council should be appointed as the Agent Authority for awarding the contracts, with the County Surveyor acting as the Engineer supervising the construction. This proposal was accepted.

The works, which began in August 1981, were carried out under two separate contracts, east and west of the Huncoat interchange.

Between the Hyndburn interchange and the Accrington/Whalley Road, A680, 'bible clay' was encountered, similar to that experienced in the Burnley to Colne section. Special measures were adopted in the construction of a major embankment. An extensive temporary traffic diversion was necessary at Whalley Road to allow the construction of the bridge carrying it over the motorway where it passed through a cutting.

Major earthworks involved traversing the northern slope of Whinney Hill in a rock cutting with a maximum depth of 80 feet. Part of the area had been quarried for many years to win shales for brick making and the excavations had been backfilled with domestic waste. Elsewhere compensation had to be paid to the Brick Company for the loss of quarrying rights.

'Rock catchers' were constructed behind the hard shoulders on both sides of the motorway in order to prevent any loose rock from the faces of the cutting rolling on to hard shoulders and carriageways.

Whitebirk to Burnley (J6 to J10)The Brook at the bottom of Altham Clough had to be culverted prior to the construction of a 60 feet high embankment. The watercourse passed through a culvert under the adjoining Canal and was in a poor structural condition. The opportunity was taken, by British Waterways, to carry out extensive repairs while access from the motorway site was available.

The eastern side of Altham Clough had been used for many years as a tipping site for colliery shale, containing fragments of coal. The material was approved for use as a filling material, but it was recognised from the smoke and acrid fumes exuding from the tip, that slow combustion was taking place. The extraction of the shale by excavators, dump trucks and motor scrapers became a hazardous operation as the material was exposed to the air, and heat, flames and smoke were generated. However, several hundred thousand cubic yards of the shale were used in constructing embankments by placing it in thin layers separated by clay. The environmental benefit was considerable.

Whitebirk to Burnley (J6 to J10)2Where the Canal impinged on the route of the motorway or the approach to the Huncoat interchange, it was necessary to divert the Canal over a length of ¼ of a mile, by the construction of a reinforced concrete trough. The Canal had to be kept open to traffic throughout the operation.

The presence of the 200 years old Gannow tunnel entailed very complex structural work in the vicinity of the Barracks interchange.

Of the bridges required for crossing the Canal between Huncoat and Burnley, the most significant was a five span structure which also crossed a railway line. A further major diversion of the Canal was required extending over a length of over ¼ of a mile.

The crossing of the Green Brook valley required the construction of an embankment 70 feet high, utilising nearly 30,000 cubic yards of excavated chemical waste.

The whole of the section of the motorway between Hyndburn and Burnley, required the construction of a total of 17 vehicular bridges, three footbridges, three major culverts, and several large retaining walls. In addition, three piped crossings under the Canal had to be provided.

Advance contracts had been carried out, involving the demolition of property. It was a requirement that dressed masonry from the traditional terraced housing of the area should be stored for re-use. Bridges and walls, were faced with this material to ensure that the new structures were in keeping with the local environment.

The two main contracts were completed at the same time, and the Hyndburn to Burnley section was opened to traffic in December 1983, concurrently with the Brierfield to Nelson section.

In April 1980 the Minister of Transport had announced that, as the Central Lancashire New Town had not developed as rapidly as anticipated, the M6/M61 to Whitebirk section of the route, could not be justified. It was considered that following a proposed improvement of the existing all-purpose A59/A677/A6119 route, to the north of Blackburn, this would be adequate as the link between the M6, at Samlesbury, and Whitebirk. The Minister confirmed, however, that preparation and design work on the section of the dual three-lane carriageway motorway between Whitebirk and Hyndburn should proceed.

The obvious location in which to site the Whitebirk interchange, a large roundabout, was in the vicinity of the junction of the A6119, Whitebirk Drive, and the A678, Blackburn to Rishton road.

The selected 2¼ mile long route through to the Hyndburn interchange ran generally in an eastwards direction, and south of the A678. In deep cutting, it passed through the edge of the Rishton Golf Course, under the East Lancashire railway line and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, before crossing the valley of the River Hyndburn, where high embankments would be required on the approaches to the river bridge.

The proposals also included the diversion and dualling of a section of Whitebirk Drive, and the construction of the all-purpose Hyndburn Link Road leading from the Hyndburn interchange into Accrington.

A Public Inquiry, which commenced in November 1980, was repeatedly disrupted by 'environmental objectors' and, in the event, the long-awaited favourable decision was not given until 1982.

Much of the early design work had been carried out by the Lancashire Sub-Unit of the NWRCU but, in September 1981 the scheme was transferred to the firm of Babtie Shaw and Morton.

Following the completion of the detailed design, a contract was awarded with that firm acting as the Engineers responsible for the supervision of the work, which began in January 1983.

The adverse ground conditions required special measures, in order to ensure the stability of the major earthworks, namely extensive supplementary drainage in cuttings and rock fill toe trenches to embankments.

Taking into account the work involved in the link roads, three crossings of the Canal and two crossings of the railway required bridgeworks. The design and supervision of the construction of the structure carrying the railway, was undertaken by British Rail.

The most significant bridge is the Dunkenhalgh Aqueduct carrying the Canal over the motorway. The abutments were founded on very large diameter bored piles, installed under bentonite. The heavily reinforced post-tensioned concrete trough, forming the deck, was cast on the ground, which was later excavated for the motorway cutting below.

The completion and opening of this section of motorway in December 1984 had the immediate effect of relieving Accrington, Rishton and Clayton-le-Moors of a considerable volume of heavy traffic.


Archive Information

Hyndburn to Burnley Section

The full archive for this scheme is stored at the Lancashire CC Record Office.  Click to see details of this record office, then delete the popup page to return.  There is not yet an Accession Number for this data. 




‘North East Lancashire Plan:
A Report on Sub-regional Development’
(172 pages including maps, diagrams and photos.)
1972 NE Lancashire Planning Unit
Lancashire County Council/ Blackburn & Burnley CBCs
2 ‘M6/M61 to Burnley Section
Route Location & Design’
(18 pages including maps)


S Coleman
Team Leader
County Surveyor’s Department
3 ‘Historical Note
Including A56 Diversion
Accrington Easterly By-pass(Northern Section)’
(7 pages including maps)
December 1982 County Surveyor’s Department
4 ‘Traffic Studies’
(69 pages incl. diagrams)
1973-77 County Surveyor’s Dept.
5 ‘Public Inquiry: 
Proof of Evidence’
(42 pages)
Feb.1974 J S Bruton
Superintending Engineer
Department of the Environment
6 ‘Contracts M65/B2 and B3:
Personal Memories’
(8 pages)
2000 A C Henry
Resident Engineer
7 ‘Hyndburn – Burnley Section
Opening Brochure’
(6 pages including maps)

9 December 1983

Department of Transport
8 ‘The Calder Valley Motorway M65:
Some personal recollections’
(5 pages)


H L Yeadon
County Surveyor and Bridgemaster
1 ‘Department of the Environment Statement’. 1974 County Library
2 ‘Reports on noise’ by W S Atkins. 1973 County Library
3 ‘Landscaping evidence at  Public Inquiry’ February 1974 County Library
4 'The scheme' 1975 County Library
5 'The scheme' 1979 County Library
6 Connecting Roads Scheme 1979 County Library
7 Huncoat Junction Order 1979 County Library
8 Miscellaneous Items 1975/76 County Library