The M60. Driven Round In Circles.

The M60 turns 20 years old next year, and for those of us who have cause to frequently use it, the biggest problems it faces are arguably nothing to do with its traffic signs.

That said, I am going to write about the signs on the M60 anyway. I find them to be rather excessive on the information front, trying to direct drivers to all kinds of peripheral destinations that really would be better rationalised. However, as I always find, political pressures resulted in what we have today.

First off, let’s review the good points of the M60 signing. The ring is divided into four sectors as per the points of the compass; these are as follows:

  • J1-6: Ring Road South
  • J6-14: Ring Road West
  • J14-23: Ring Road North
  • J23-1: Ring Road East

This system is good if you want to direct people to a certain part of the ring, although some confusion can arise when you realise that this means that compass points are used as actual destinations rather than an indication of which way you are actually travelling. There are, for this reason, no signs saying “(M60 North)” etc. They always refer to “Ring Road (N & E)” or whatever. You do need to be aware of this because, for example, if you’re in Stockport you may find you actually need to follow “Ring Road (S)” to go north.

Unlike other countries, there is no indication of ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ carriageways; in order to avoid confusion with the Inner Relief Road, confusingly also signed as just “Ring Road”. That said, I have seen the occasional reference to clockwise and anti-clockwise carriageways on temporary signs. This in itself causes problems because nowhere else are these terms used.

This isn’t the biggest problem though. That award has to go to the sheer amount of information overload that is put onto direction signs.


Back in 2003 before the Sharston fork junction was converted to a tiger-tail diverge, the signs were this cluttered mess. Thirteen destinations at 70 mph, it just does not work! (Picture: SABRE)

The list of forward destinations is huge. It effectively tries to cover every possible destination in the Greater Manchester region. I would personally love to rationalise it just to remove the clutter, but politics doesn’t work like that and there’d be outrage if you really tried it.

Realistically, it should just concentrate on directing you to the major motorways that are crossed and then supplementary “For x follow y” type signs where appropriate should be used. I had hoped the Smart Motorway works would address this but alas they haven’t. The signs, if anything, have got bigger.

This one is very complicated though to get right; but I should perhaps always remind people of the old adage – less is more. How would you tackle it?

6 thoughts on “The M60. Driven Round In Circles.

  1. Left hand panel:
    S&E Ring Road (M60)
    Sheffield (M67)
    Leeds (M62(E))

    Next Jct
    A560 Altrincham

    City centre
    N&W Ring Road (M60)
    (M60), (M62(W))

    Signs after previous junction (not less than a mile)
    For Stockport, Didsbury follow Sheffield M67
    For Wythenshawe H, Cheadle follow Altrincham A560

    Here is a good example of how Belfast does it:,-5.9080248,3a,51.7y,172.94h,96.27t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sgeMy6QhExShm-ezlktK-7Q!2e0!7i13312!8i6656


  2. The biggest problem for signage on the M60 is that there are just too many junctions. Ideally, the junctions would be rationalised with better use of C/D lanes and quad-carriageways, although I don’t suppose there is either the space or the money to do this properly.

    But the first thing to do is to remove the stupid “Ring Road” from all forward destination signs. If you’re on the ring road, you don’t need to be told that the ring road carries on straight ahead, and you aren’t going to benefit from knowing which quadrants you are heading for.

    If you’re going to use Ring Road on the approach signage then it should replace *all* other destinations, and have a pre-sign that says, eg, “For Leeds, Bury and Oldham, follow Ring Road (N & E) / For Trafford Park, Airport and Liverpool, follow Ring Road (S & W)”.

    Something needs to be done to thin down the destinations. Compare it with the M25. Typically, the destinations signed are the next two of Channel Tunnel, Gatwick, Heathrow, Watford, Stansted and Dartford Crossing, plus one destination reached by turning off at the next junction. Compare that with the M60, where there are typically 4 or 5 destinations signed (including Ring Road), and almost all of the signed destinations run for at least 5 junctions – going anticlockwise, only Salford, Preston, Leigh and St Helens are mentioned just once.

    I think I would go so far as to say that Leeds, Liverpool and Airport (Not Mcr, but “Airport”) should be signed from every junction, one way or the other, and then the next one or two of Stockport, Ashton-under-Lyne, Bury, Bolton, Trafford Park and Altrincham, to make it up to 3 each way. I’m not convinced about Sheffield, Chester or Birmingham, or even Salford or Oldham.


  3. Remembering back to my Oscar Faber days from 1995 and the development of the M60 signing strategy……..At the time, the HIghways Agency wilted under the immense pressure from the Manchester Borough re destinations, every one wanted to be signed from everywhere!

    It became standard practice in detailed to reduce the X height of signs in order to squeeze in more destinations. The introduction of the EMS (as thet were called then) also encroached into the sign envelope on many gantries, compressing the area available for signs. This led to numerous signs being overloaded, this is more evident of the motorway junction signs on local roads, at the time the M60 contracts only paid for 1 ADS on each approach. This in many cases meant two or three life expired ADS’s being removed with only 1 going back up. We should have put laybys in to allow drivers to stop and read them.

    I was and never have been a fan of the signing of the M60 quadrants or the wording Ring Road. The signing projects were called the M60 MORR, Manchester Outer Ring Road, and this got translated in to the detailed design – do we really need the RR legend on the faces? The quadrant signing also seems pointless, in reality why does a driver need to know they are on the M60 N quadrant – destinations and route numbers suffice!

    and don’t even get me started on junction numbering……poor old Junction 7 tyres in Stockport….does juntion 1 tyres now exist?


  4. Hi Alister,

    I had heard at one point the then Highways Agency had considered using a special authorisation of the “R” symbol instead of text, which might have been better, but I’ve never seen the relevant National Archives file to confirm.

    The smart motorway works have seen several new gantries go up and “Ring Road” is omitted from a good number of them. That said there is still a tendency for too many destinations.

    Oh for the old days when it was just “Stockport” and “Preston”?


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