Sunday, June 28, 2009

yet more roads

Another On Roads thing is the special role of the North; indeed, as he points out, it's the construction of the M62 that made the North of England a sensible geographical construct rather than an awkward stereotype that uneasily combined Lancashire and Yorkshire.

And so much early motorway building started up north; you have the role of tireless boosters and chief engineers James Drake in Lancashire and Stuart Lovell in West Yorkshire, the A580 East Lancs Road (the very first), the Preston bypass, the Manchester and Leeds urban motorways, and the epic engineering drama of the M62 itself. As its chief engineer put it, "for seven years we ate mud, walked in mud, sat in mud and were aware of mud, and there was mud in the sandwiches".

This would have far-reaching consequences; not so long ago, I recall some journalist or other saying that they were very surprised, on going to Yorkshire to report the miners' strike, to find all these huge roads leading everywhere. They would, of course, be a major theatre of that conflict, and a few years later, the rave/drugs wars as well. Later still, both the protestors and the Sheffield-based professional climbers hired to get them out of trees would go that way.

Can it be true that my mother and I ran the length of our local bypass, twice, wearing donkey jackets, boots, hi-viz vests, and carrying shovels? I rather think it is. It was a fearsomely hot day, and I don't think we were even formally protesting, although, in a sense, what else were we doing?

Which reminds me; one of the very first road protests in the UK, against the Westway in the late 60s, or rather in favour of playgrounds under it, was started by someone who'd been reading about Guy Debord and was looking for something to start a row about.


tom s. said...

Can I just say that before the M62 was built I used to puke regularly in the back of my parent's car while driving through Halifax on the way between Leeds and Manchester?

Thanks. I thought you'd be interested.

Alex said...

I'm not at all surprised.

After it was built, Hartshead Moor services became the traditional place for Rugby League people to meet in secret, to thrash out a transfer deal or stitch up an RFL committee. Could be reached from anywhere in the universe swiftly, not obvious that you were going anywhere special. And nobody wanted to spoil the fun by trying to spy there.

Unknown said...

Yes, we did the by-pass fun run dressed as road workers. It was a sponsored charity thing. We also stopped for a cup of tea half way. Hope you are embarrassed!

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