ON December 5 1958, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan cut the tape on the eight-mile stretch – triggering a Tarmac expansion throughout Lancashire and across the country.

Harry Yeadon, born and raised in Accrington but now living in Lytham St Annes, was Lancashire’s assistant engineer at the time, going on to take the top job.

After a 30-year career, his final project was Lancashire’s M65 in the mid 1980s.

Harry, now 86, said Lancashire was treated as a “guinea pig” for the motorway model, which was based on Germany’s autobahns.

“It was a very exciting time. We all recognised it was a golden age of highways construction. Things happened so quickly.

“We all could have gone off and got jobs somewhere else but we didn’t, because most of us were keen to see Lancashire improve – after the decline of textiles it needed doing.”

The bypass and its 23 bridges took just over two years to construct, staying on track despite bad weather.

Harry said: “Weather conditions were appalling. It rained almost every day.

“At one point a colleague said to me: ‘We’re never going to finish this damn job.’”

The motorway changed the face of Britain and the nation’s travelling habits.

The engineering team’s idea might seem simple now – to create three lane roads to banish bottlenecks forever – but it was a source of great pride in Lancashire.

It soon became swamped.

Speed on the bypass to Preston between Cuerden, near Bamber Bridge, and Broughton, reduced to a two mph crawl on the first weekend after the road opened as sightseers choked up its two lanes.

There was initially no speed limit and motorists drove as fast as they could.

Within just seven weeks of opening, the M6 began to crumble and had to close for repairs.

But this was only a hitch, and since then the road has been Lancashire’s link with the rest of the country.

The man responsible for the M6 scheme was Accrington Grammar School old boy Sir James Drake CBE.

The former Lancashire county surveyor and bridgemaster, who died in 1989 aged 81, designed and supervised construction of the bypass.

Mr Yeadon helped prepare, design and supervise construction of the bypass from 1956 to 1958.

Celebrations are planned to mark the anniversary of the bypass’ opening, with another Lancashire man set to be honoured for his role.

A plaque will be unveiled to honour Burnley-born Sir James Drake, who was head surveyor and bridgemaster, in Samlesbury on December 5.

A dedicated exhibition has been set up at the Lancashire museum in Preston.