Leeds & West Yorkshire

M62 memories: Forty years of England's highest stretch of motorway

Digger working at M62 PIC: BOB JENNINGS
Image caption Work on the trans-Pennine stretch of the M62 took seven years to complete

Just seven miles long but seven years in the building, the M62's Pennine stretch is as spectacular now as it was when it opened exactly 40 years ago.

Cutting an eight-lane motorway through the bleak Pennine hills and moorland had been a mammoth task.

But men and machines fell silent on 14 October 1971, as the Queen cut the ribbon to mark its official opening.

"Was I nervous on the day? Certainly not," said the M62's chief engineer Geoffrey Hunter four decades on.

'Iconic project'

Mr Hunter said the sun shone for the Queen, as it had so often failed to do during the previous seven years of work to construct what is the highest section of England's highest motorway.

"The Palace had to be warned that it might be a lovely day and the sun might shine - or it might not," he said.

"A temperature drop could happen at any time and it could be quite severe.

Image caption Her Majesty The Queen opened the M62 on 14 October 1971

"She wore a hat that couldn't blow away and a lovely warm alpaca coat but it turned out to be a beautifully sunny day."

Mr Hunter said he was "fortunate" to have been involved in a scheme which had attracted the royal seal of approval on that sunny October day.

"It was an iconic project," he added.

"More research went into this project than any other length of motorway in the UK."

'Move out'

Costing £7m, and involving the disposal of 11,750,000 cubic metres of moorland peat, building the Pennine section of the M62 had a direct impact on many others, too.

The lives of the inhabitants of Stott Hall Farm at Scammonden, for instance, changed forever when the bulldozers moved in.

Splitting the east and westbound carriageways apart, the 200-year-old farm in the middle of the motorway must be the road's most famous landmark.

But despite the cars and lorries thundering by, work still goes on at Stott Hall even today.

Maureen Furness was another person whose life was changed by the arrival of the M62.

Mrs Furness was a teenager living in the village of Outlane, West Yorkshire, when a letter from the Ministry of Transport landed on her parents' doorstep.

"It was a shock," she said.

"You get this letter from the ministry about a compulsory purchase. You have to move out and that's it.

"My parents weren't right happy."

Mrs Furness, her parents and her aunt, who also lived in Outlane, did as they were told by the ministry and moved away.

"We were very sad and we didn't like to have to move but we thought it had to be done. It was progress."

'Running well'

But, four decades since the Queen's visit, Mrs Furness said she was not convinced the motorway that had forced her family to move home was a good thing.

Image caption Forty years on from its opening, the M62 is still a vital link across the Pennines

"It doesn't do what it was supposed to do, not this section.

"It's permanently dug up and held up because there's that much traffic using it, and they don't seem to sort it out."

However, Mr Hunter, the main engineer behind the Pennine stretch of the M62, took a very different view of the motorway's achievements.

"It was designed to carry 79,000 vehicles per day. Nobody ever thought it would reach that," he said.

"Today, it's carrying something like 140-150,000 vehicles per day. It's running well."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites