Mapping Manchester

August 26th, 2009

To anyone who lived through the Cold War, it's not really a surprise that the Soviet Union had prepared meticulous plans for conducting an invasion of the UK.

It's the little details that pique your interest:

1974 was a terrible year for Manchester, with United relegated to the second division for the first time in four decades and power cuts forced by the three-day week declared by Edward Heath's collapsing Tory government.

But the city would have been even more jittery had it known that in Moscow Soviet generals were eyeing the A56 between Deansgate and Stretford and checking that T-72 battle tanks could use the Mancunian Way.


The maps were analysed to get a sense of Soviet spies' efficiency, which fell down on the intricacies of the then-developing industrial estate at Trafford Park. Like many local visitors, the mapmakers got lost in the maze of new factories, and decided to steer their tanks past on the A57 and the Chester Road.

It's enough to make you wonder whether the occasional wacky set of travel directions from Google Maps or the AA Route Planner is part of a campaign of misinformation rather than a consequence of an inadequate algorithm or shortcomings in their mapping data.

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