Often described as the North Cheshire Motorway the M56 is 34 miles in length and spans the stretch from Greater Manchester to Chester. Construction began in 1968, but the road wasn't fully built until its grand opening in 1981.The M56 corridor is used daily by commuters traveling from North Wales and Cheshire into Manchester, which gets very busy especially during peak times. With this in mind, be sure to check for any M56 traffic updates before you set off on your journey.
Starting at Junction 1, the M56 veers onto the busy M60 towards Stockport at the Sharston Spur. At the other end heading west, the M56 links to the A494 just after junction 16. Strangely, there’s no junction 13 and the Weaver River runs below where the junction could have been. In 2015 the Government announced that the M56 would be included in the plans to upgrade our road network to smart motorways as part of the Northern Powerhouse strategy.
A new dual carriageway, the A556, opened in Cheshire in early 2017 to provide a quicker route to Manchester Airport. The new road links the M6 at junction 19 to the M56 at junction 7. The new modern four-mile road was built to reduce congestion on both the M56 and M6.
Worst Junctions on the M56
The M56 is a busy motorway that has important links with Manchester via the M60. You may want to be mindful of these junctions when planning your route and leave enough time for any surprise delays. Before setting off, do check the RAC Route App for up to date M56 travel news and traffic updates. The following junctions are common problematic hotspots:
Sharston Link - Where the M6 meets junction 1 of the M60. This area gets particularly busy due to the heavy flowing traffic on and off Manchester's Outer Ring Road.
Junction 9 - The Lymm Interchange gives links to the M6, A50 and M62. There’s a lot going on here with some turns restricted, which can cause slow moving traffic and build up.
Junction 7 - This complex road working, just south of Warrington, joins the M56 with the M6. It can be confusing if you’re not used to its asymmetric structure.
Accident Hotspots on the M56
As well as being a difficult junction to master, junction 9, the Lymm Interchange, has a reputation as a common accident blackspot. There is a lot of traffic and some restricted turns to be mindful of, so do make sure you plan and take your time navigating around this junction. Once back on the M56, the stretch until junction 10 at the roundabout to the A49 in Stretton can also be problematic due to the heavy traffic coming off junction 9.
The confusing asymmetric structure of Junction 7 near Warrington, paired with the traffic flow of the M6, can cause some drivers problems, so do give yourself enough time to work around the complex network of roads.
Upcoming M56 Major Roadworks
As the M56 is included in the Northern Powerhouse strategy with the plans to update roads to smart motorways, there may be future roadworks ahead. This is why it’s important to check for any M56 travel updates before you leave. You can use the RAC Route Planner to note any M56 traffic news, roadworks or reported delays.
Upcoming major roadworks on the M56 include:
Junction 11a - This is a proposed plan for a major scheme for a new junction to link the M56 to the A533 at Runcorn. Proposed to start in March 2020, this will improve the links from the south to the new Mersey Gateway bridge.
There are no other planned roadworks reported for the M56 at the time of writing. For up to date roadwork proposals, please check the Highways England for more information.