PLANS to create a new link road for the M60 at Simister Island have come a step closer to becoming a reality.

The 'missing link' would make the M60 England's only complete orbital motorway with two thirds of the public giving their backing to proposals to create the new road at junction 18 near Prestwich.

The link would mean drivers travelling clockwise will no longer need to use a roundabout to continue their journey on the same motorway.

Highways England has now selected the link road as its preferred option for a major upgrade of the junction, which will see a new loop take drivers from the eastbound to the southbound M60.

Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England’s chief executive, said: “Our proposal for a new link road at Simister Island was the clear favourite during our public consultation. We will now develop detailed designs for the upgrade, which will benefit everyone from local shoppers to haulage firms travelling across the North.”

Around 90,000 drivers use Simister Island every day to travel between the M60, M62 and M66, making it one of the North’s busiest motorway junctions.

The missing link anomaly was created when the M60 was formed 21 years ago, connecting several existing motorways with a new stretch of motorway to form a 36-mile ring road around Manchester.

The current set up means drivers travelling eastbound soon find themselves on the M62 on their way to Leeds if they don’t use a roundabout to reach the southbound section of the M60.

Liberal Democrat campaigners in Prestwich were against the plans fearing they would lead to a 'mega-junction' being established at Simister Island.

Holyrood Ward Councillor, Cllr Steve Wright said: “Everyone knows that traffic around Simister Island is a massive problem, but the answer cannot always be to build bigger and wider roads.

"Highways England are now proposing to push ahead with the scheme for a 10 lane motorway between Prestwich and Whitefield, right up to people’s houses and several local schools. In their own consultation they admitted that this massive ‘loop’ would do nothing to reduce air pollution in the area, pollution which is affecting all of our lives and heath.

“Just think how much £320m (the cost of the scheme) could be used improving our local area and reducing air pollution. Highways England need to go back to the drawing board”.

Peter Molyneux, Major Roads Director at Transport for the North, said: “Correcting the well-known Simister Island anomaly will bring significant improvements for all those using it, offering safer and more reliable journeys around the M62, M66 and M60. It’s fantastic to see plans progressing at pace on this scheme following the recent public consultation.

“It is a vital element in our Northern Infrastructure Pipeline to enhance connectivity and reduce disruption for all road users, both in the immediate area and across the North West. We look forward to continuing to work closely with Highways England as detailed plans are progressed.”

More than 800 people took part in a two-month public consultation on the proposals last year, with 67% saying they supported the option to connect the M60 in a loop to the north of the junction.

A new two-lane link road will also be created for drivers travelling from the northbound to the westbound stretches of the M60 at Simister Island, replacing the existing single lane slip road.

And the hard shoulder will be converted to a permanent extra lane along the mile-long stretch of the M60 between junctions 17 and 18 to improve the flow of traffic, providing dedicated lanes for drivers travelling between motorways. CCTV cameras, traffic sensors and electronic signs will be used to maintain safety.

Highways England will hold another public consultation later this year once it has developed detailed designs for the scheme, with a planning application due to be submitted next winter. Construction work is due to start by spring 2025.