Shropshire Routes to Roots
|Routes | Transport and communication | From trackways to motorways|
7. Motorways and bypasses
Why was the M54 necessary?
Today, most of our roads have developed from existing country byways. During the twentieth century there was a massive increase in traffic. Major new roads, including bypasses and the M54 motorway, have all helped to shape the county of Shropshire and its transport network.
In Shrewsbury there was a gradual shift away from needing to get people from the outskirts into town, to people wanting to move from one town to another. The increase in car ownership has meant that passing through the town, as the A5 used to do, was becoming an increasing problem. In 1992 a new bypass linking the north and south of Shrewsbury was opened to relieve congestion.
This aerial view shows the Shrewsbury bypass from southwest of the town. On the horizon to the left is Haughmond Hill and to the right is The Wrekin.
The other major road building scheme in the county was the construction of the M54. This was designed to link the town of Telford to the M6, which passes up the central length of the country. The motorway was considered essential to the County if Telford, and indeed the rest of Shropshire, were ever to compete commercially with the rest of the West Midlands. Also, having good communication links was critical if Telford was to attract new industries to combat unemployment. This has been remarkably successful, with unemployment in Telford - over 20% in the 1980s - falling to 3.3% today.
Plans for the M54 were first proposed in October 1967, but construction was not started until 1981. The motorway finally opened in 1983. The M54 runs for 19 miles to its junction with the M6 just south of Cannock, passing Wolverhampton and through Telford to end on the A5.
The design and route initially met much opposition. Where possible, the 60 foot wide carriageway was built to pass below the natural landscape. Man-made hills were constructed which, along with the planting of 250,000 new trees, helped to screen the motorway from view and to cut down on the noise level. The project took two and a half years to complete and employed over 100 men.
It has not all been improvement. Many small roads which linked smaller communities in the past which were not tarmaced have gradually gone out of use.
In a return to the turnpike age, the government is now planning new toll roads (like the M6 toll road near Birmingham) to pay for further road-building and maintenance.
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Page created January 2004 and last updated 1 August 2007