Derby’s ‘ghost’ 40-mile motorway plan that vanished into thin air

Back in the 70s, the spectre of a new, nationally-important 40-mile motorway for Derby loomed large – but never materialised. Canned in 1976, the proposed M64 was supposed to link the M6 at Stoke-on-Trent with the M1 near Castle Donington, by way of Derby and Uttoxeter.

Intriguingly there could have been a “Derby Spur” that would have formed a link between the industry-heavy area of Sinfin and the motorway network, not to mention access with the city itself! Considering the mythical M64’s huge length and massive impact it would have had on local traffic congestion and beyond, it is interesting that there are no current stubs of road or anything else relating to its existence.

It really is like a ghost.

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The original plan was for the M64 to help prevent motorists journeying from south-east to north-west getting snarled up in traffic around the notoriously busy M6 around Birmingham.

It was hoped that reducing the congestion would cut traffic noise, pollution and improve road safety.

These intentions were all very noble, but unfortunately in the mid 70s the UK was in the midst of crushing economic problems.

Countless well-meaning projects were binned off in an attempt to save cash – with the M64 one of the casualties in 1976.

Instead, the A50 between Stoke and Derby was upgraded to a dual carriageway in the 1990s.

This followed roughly the same route as the middle section of the touted M64.

But rather than terminating on the M6, the new dual carriageway ended deep into the Stoke area on the A500, and at the eastern end finishing on the M1, further north than originally planned.

There is much warranted speculation that had the M64 ever materialised, there would have been little need for the current M6 toll road.

So what route would the ill-fated M64 have taken?

This is open to debate, but it is possible to have an educated guess based upon other motorways built at the time.

In our speculative journey, embankments, bridges and cuttings of the present-day A50 (which runs from Leicester to Warrington) have been left in place to help show the difference in route.

Beginning on the M6, to the south of the current J15, the M64 would pass to the south of Staffordshire village Tittensor and onto the first junction with the A34.

Before long we’d reach the villages of Fulford and Saverley Green to meet the next junction – the Stoke Spur.

From there, the M64 could have met the line of the present-day A50, south of Checkley Bank.

This could be followed for a bit to the edge of Uttoxeter, where the M64 could have deviated slightly north.

A largely tedious rural section, with little to look at, would follow, with the only junction popping up halfway along with the A515 north of Sudbury. At this stage the M64 is largely still generally to the north of the current A50 route.

Now this is where things get more interesting.

Rolls Royce, Moor Lane, Derby, in the 1970s
Rolls Royce, Moor Lane, Derby, in the 1970s

The Derby Spur

Lying to the west of Hilton Lodge, our imagined line of the M64 unites with the modern A50, resulting in the longest section that was actually constructed along the originally planned route.

And this leads us to a fascinating part of the tale – the Derby Spur.

This spur would have created a link between Sinfin and the motorway network, with, of course, access from Derby.

The junction catering for the industrial area would have presumably just had south-facing sliproads, as the main idea of the junction was to dissuade Derby-bound traffic from taking the tiny section of the spur and to allow main network access.

The Derby Spur possibly could have ended on the A514.

It is feasible this spur could have gone right past the VIP entrance at Rolls Royce’s Moor Lane site.

This would mean workers could have gone straight off Victory Road and onto a motorway.

Immediately after the Derby Spur junction and the A514, the present-day A50 and M64 go their spectacularly separate ways.

The current A50 heads north east, but the mythical M64 does a sharp turn south, then east, ploughing towards the opposite side of Castle Donington.

We then head south of Derbyshire’s Weston-on-Trent and come within a stone’s throw of Donington Park racing circuit, which could also have provided a junction for East Midlands airport.

After this our phantom journey ends as we reach the M42, which, strangely, was actually opened in 1976.

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