Edinburgh to Dunblane
The M9 is the primary road link between Edinburgh, Falkirk and Stirling. Almost 35 miles long, it was constructed in six stages between 1965 and 1980. Like many of Scotland's motorways, the route has its origins in post-war planning.
The motorway was designed as a high-quality replacement of the single carriageway A9 through Linlithgow, Falkirk, Stirling and Bridge of Allan. It is built to rural motorway standards and features sections of dual two and three lane carriageways. A key section of the motorway network, it interchanges with the M8, M90, M876, M80 and A9.
Improvements to the roads between Edinburgh and Stirling were considered throughout the late 1940s and 1950s. By the early 1960s it had been decided that a new motorway would be built between the two cities, replacing the A9 and bypassing major towns including Linlithgow, Falkirk and Grangemouth. A bypass of Stirling and Bridge of Allan was also to be constructed. The existing A9 was heavily congested, unreliable and had a poor accident rate.
The Scottish Development Department, in conjunction with the counties of Stirlingshire and Lothian, sought to provide improved road links. This included improved connections to new industrial developments, particularly around Grangemouth, and the new roads serving Glasgow and the west of Scotland. Route studies began in the early 1960s and the line of road was confirmed in 1963. It was intended that the M9 would be fully completed by 1972.
The first section of the M9 motorway to be taken forward was the Polmont and Falkirk Bypass. The five and a half mile long project saw a new length of road constructed between Longdyke on the then A876 and Lathallan, south of Falkirk. This provided a convenient link between the A9 and A876 trunk roads. Construction began in 1965 and the route opened on 29th August 1968. Road and bridge design was handled by Stirlingshire County Council and the £5 million contract was built by Duncan Logan (Construction) Ltd. On completion, through-traffic was eliminated from Falkirk town centre.
M9 Construction Summary
Polmont & Falkirk Bypass
4 - 7
29th August 1968
Newbridge to Muriehall
1 - 1A
25th November 1970
Stirling Bypass (Stage 1)
10 - 11
6th April 1971
Muriehall to Lathallan
1A - 4
18th December 1972
Stirling Bypass (Stage 2)
9 - 10
28th December 1973
Longdyke to Pirnhall
7 - 9
15th February 1980
By the late 1960s preparatory work was well underway on sections of the motorway to the north and south. Bypasses of Stirling and Linlithgow were considered a priority. Construction on the Newbridge to Muriehall section of the motorway commenced in October 1968. Linking the A8 at Newbridge with the A9 trunk road, the two and a half mile long contract included construction of the Kirkliston Spur towards the Forth Road Bridge. Design work was by W.A Fairhurst and Partners, who were also tasked with preparing the Linlithgow Bypass section of the route. The construction contract was awarded to A.M Carmichael who were also constructing a section of the M8 motorway to the south. Unable to handle the workload, they fell into liquidation. Second placed tenderer Tarmac Construction were appointed to complete the work and the road was opened on 25th November 1970.
Work on the Stirling Bypass commenced in March 1969. It had been decided that the route should be constructed in two stages, with Stage 1 linking the A84 at Craigforth with the A9 south of Dunblane. A large bridge taking the motorway over the River Forth was delivered as part of the contract and designed by W.A Fairhurst and Partners. It was built by FJ. Lillian (Marine) Ltd. The remaining length of the new road was designed by Stirling County Council and built by Murdoch Mackanzie Ltd. The contract was valued at £3.5 million and completed on 6th April 1971.
Stage 2, from the A84 at Craigforth to A80 and A9 at Bannockburn commenced construction in April 1971. The £7.5 million project was delivered in two contracts, each of which was designed by Stirling County Council. Contract 1, from Pirnhall to Torbrex, was built by Balfour Beatty. The section from Torbrex to Craigforth was handled by Leonard Fairclough Ltd. Traffic began using the road on the 28th December 1973, though a formal opening was delayed until the completion of the M80 section in May 1974. The large Pirnhall Roundabout Interchange was constructed at this time.
To the south, work commenced on the Muriehall to Lathallan section of the route in June 1971. Work was split into two contracts, from Muriehall to Burghmuir and from Burghmuir to Lathallan. Both contracts were won by Tarmac Construction and had a combined value of £7.5 million. Several corridors were considered for the M9 around Linlithgow, with a line to the north east of the town considered most appropriate. Given its historic significance, it was considered essential that the new motorway not have an adverse impact upon either the town or its famous palace. This saw much of the route constructed in cutting. The motorway was opened to traffic on 18th December 1972, providing a continuous stretch of motorway from Newbridge to the A876 north of Falkirk.
Work on the six mile Plean Bypass was delayed by the national economic situation and was eventually combined with the completion of the M876. Now known as the Stirlingshire Link Motorways project, work commenced on site in April 1978. The project was designed by Central Regional Council and valued at £18 million. Its construction was handled in two contracts; one from Bellsdyke to M876 Interchange awarded to Tarmac Construction, and a second from the M876 to Pirnhall Interchange which was awarded to Balfour Beatty. The road was opened to traffic on 15th February 1980, completing the eastern half of the Central Scotland motorway system.
The motorway has had few changes since its completion in 1980, though it was extended south to Claylands on the M8 motorway as part of works to provide an underpass of Newbridge Roundabout, undertaken in 1996 and 1997. Additional slip roads were added to the Kirkliston junction in 2013. In early 2023, a new junction was opened at Winchburgh, constructed and funded as part of a large housing development.
Junctions on the M9 are numbered from south to north, from the M8 at Claylands to Junction 11 (Keir Roundabout). The motorway is constructed to rural standards with a 70mph speed limit throughout. Much of the route has dual two lane carriageways with hard shoulders, with the exception of a short length of dual four lane motorway between Junction 1 (Newbridge) and Junction 1A (Kirkliston), and a short length of dual three lane motorway between Junction 7 (Kinaird House) and Junction 8 (Hill of Kinaird).
The M9 is connected to the M8 motorway via a large semi-directional T interchange constructed in 1995. At Junction 1 it passes below Newbridge Roundabout in an underpass constructed to ease congestion in the late 1990s. At Junction 1A it interchanges with M90. Built with only south facing slip roads, it was upgraded as part of the construction of the Queensferry Crossing, providing links to and from the north. Overhead sign gantries were added to this stretch of the motorway as part of the same contract.
Passing through mostly agricultural land the motorway heads northwards towards Linlithgow. Junction 1B (Winchburgh), a recent addition, was opened in 2023. Junction 2 (Philpstoun) follows shortly after and features north facing slips only. Junction 3 (Burghmuir) is also limited access and has south facing slips only. The motorway skirts the northern shore of Linlithgow Loch and is constructed in cutting to reduce its impact on the nearby town. A short stretch of split carriageways is seen here.
At Junction 4 (Lathallan) the motorway meets the A801, a road built to provide access to Livingston New Town and the M8 at Whitburn. Junction 4 is full access, with the motorway passing below the roundabout. Junction 5 (Cadgers Brae) follows shortly after. This junction is also a roundabout type, with the motorway passing above it. It has no southbound off slip and was signalised in 2022.
From here, the motorway passes through urban areas, skirting the western side of Grangemouth. Junction 6 (Earlsgate) is limited access and has staggered north facing slip roads only. Passing the Kelpies and then crossing the Forth and Clyde Canal and River Carron the M9 passes to the east of Falkirk. At Junction 7 (Kinaird House) the motorway interchanges with the M876, the main link to the Kincardine and Clackmannanshire Bridges. For around the mile, the M9 shares its number with the M876, the latter dropping off at Junction 8. Junctions 7 and 8 have motorway to motorway connections only and no links to the local road system. North of Junction 8 the motorway becomes noticeably quieter, the section having some of the lowest traffic flows of any Scottish motorway.
At Junction 9 (Bannockburn) the motorway interchanges with the M80. South facing slips provide access to the route from Pirnhall Roundabout. Stirling Service Area, currently operated by Moto and opened in 1986, is accessed from the roundabout. North of here the motorway merges with the M80 via a fork type junction before proceeding west around the city of Stirling. Great views of Stirling and the surrounding landscape are enjoyed along this section.
At Junction 10 (Craigforth), a full access junction, the motorway interchanges with the A84 trunk road. On passing Craigforth the M9 crosses the River Forth and proceeds northwards until its terminus at Keir Roundabout, south of Dunblane.
From the Archive
This article was first published in February 2023.