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Unbuilt Services On The M53 and M56

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There are no services on the M53. For a list of current service areas on the M56, see Services on the M56.

The north west of England has an unusually dense concentration of motorways. Many of them are short, half-finished and filled with commuters making relatively short journeys between suburbs.

Planned M53 and M56 services

Having considered the length of these two motorways, three service areas were identified for them:

  • Ageden (M56 J8-9)
  • Hapsford (M56 J14)
  • Eastham Rake (name suggests M53 J4-5)

In 1986 an updated M56 Motorway Service Area Plan was announced. This recommended upgrading Hapsford as soon as possible.

Agden

Agden had a stated opening date of February 1971 - in the event the motorway wasn't ready until 1974. It would have been positioned immediately west of the exit for Birmingham (at the time known as the M60), but traffic heading that way would have had access to Knutsford.

The down-side of this position was that traffic levels were expected to be extremely low. Agden was selected as a possible candidate to open as a picnic area, and in the end it didn't even muster up enough enthusiasm for that. Eventually the construction of the truckstop at Lymm mopped up any demand for a service area here.

Hapsford

Full details: Chester

Hapsford's story was rather similar. It was part of the original plan for the M56, and was going to be placed at a junction to save money.

The plans were in motion, and it was expected to be opened up to bids in April 1970. It's not clear if this happened, but in any case there was no interest in it. This part of the motorway opened in 1971 with no service areas. This was a cause for concern, so the Department for the Environment opened a picnic area there.

When motorway service area planning was privatised, that picnic area was quickly taken up by a developer.

Eastham Rake

References to Eastham Rake services are few and far between, and it is perhaps a surprise given how short the M53 is.

We know it exists because the Ministry of Transport wrote about it: "it's hard to justify on this short motorway, but as it had been argued in the face of strong opposition, it should not be given up". This suggests that it was included in the early plans for the M53 as a matter of course and then, as many service areas encountered planning difficulties, Eastham Rake suddenly seemed unlikely.

An opening date of June 1973 had been provided, with forecast traffic levels described as "quite good".

"Hard to justify on this short motorway."
Ministry of Transport, 1960s.

The other remark from the Ministry of Transport about Eastham Rake was "let the market decide if it is necessary". Evidently the market did decide, because 50 years later there is still no motorway service area here! Having said that, motorway giants Forte did open a Little Chef and Travelodge nearby in the 1970s.

The question which remains unanswered is where exactly Eastham Rake services was supposed to be. If Hapsford was to be build at a junction, then building at M53 J5 was a possibility. However that junction was not part of the M53 until 1981.

There is open land immediately west of Eastham Rake railway station which seems like a more likely target, though it would have been much more expensive than the junction arrangement. It would also have been extremely close to the then-planned M53/M531 interchange at Hooton.

Private Proposals

M56 motorway chevrons.
The site planned for Frodsham services.

Since 1992, developers have been solely responsible for coming up with their own proposals for new motorway services. This led to an increase in proposals, but they are normally clustered around the same area and most are quickly ruled out.

Some of the new motorway services once planned for the M53 and M56 we have uncovered include:

Place Location Proposed Resolved Outcome Notes
Tarporley Road J10 (south-west corner) 1989 1991 Refused. Planned by Lawlor Land Co. Was described as a service area for the A49, but it was refused because the DoT suspected it was aiming to be an M56 service area.
Hapsford (Chester) J14 (north-east corner) 1992 1998 Built. Planned by Bushwing Plc (approved but not built) and Shell. Used existing DoT site.
Frodsham (Marsh Green Farm) J12-14 (Hares Lane) 1992 1994 Refused. Planned by Adamstan Holdings Ltd. Would have been both sides of the road.
Hapsford (west) J14 (north-west corner) 1995 1995 Refused. Planned by Bushwing Plc. Refused because it's green belt land.
Lymm J20 2000 2000 Signed. Existing site signed from M6.

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