Cars take the strain despite 100-mile journey at 17mph

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The Independent Online

A northbound Virgin train from the Midlands to Manchester Piccadilly was inching into Crewe one hour late when the heavens opened on Carriage F.

A northbound Virgin train from the Midlands to Manchester Piccadilly was inching into Crewe one hour late when the heavens opened on Carriage F.

Passengers were faced with the option of enduring either red-hot carriages in the warm weather or a steady sprinkle from the defunct cooling system.

The incident one Tuesday evening early last monthis one example of whycars remain the preferred option for tens of thousands on the 100-mile stretch from Manchester to Birmingham. At peak time, that's 90,000 vehicles an hour on a motorway which was built for 72,000.

The journey takes up to two hours in mostly low gears (they say the average speed is 17mph) and, since the Sandbach services 20 miles outside Manchester have just been voted the worst in Europe by motoring organisations, food stops en route are decidedly unappealing.

But provided you can find the keys and keep the sun roof shut, you will depart on time and arrive dry.

Since the M6 toll road's introduction eight months ago, Northerners have been delivered from the ordeal of hacking around Birmingham and shown that driving to London is possible. It has been nothing short of a transformation, and will make the environmental lobby's case against a second road all the harder.

In the finest traditions of the M6, no one's in a rush about these things, though. The consultants Arup - who spent two years studying M6 jams between Cannock, Staffordshire, and Lymm in Cheshire before advising the Government to make a 47-mile section of it eight lanes wide two years ago - concluded the work would probably take six years and cost about £650m.

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