The M50 was completed in the early 1960s at a time when, compared to the numerous hurdles of the 21st Century, new roads were planned and built with virtually no consideration of usefulness, cost or environmental considerations.
It is doubtful whether this road would be built to motorway standard if the idea was introduced today. For in itself the M50 is a ``road to nowhere''. (No offence intended to the residents of Ross on Wye!) However the A40/A449 dual carriageway which was constructed at a later date and continues from the end of the M50 to join the M4 near Newport has resulted in the M50 forming part of an important route from the Midlands to South Wales.
The M50 is two lane dual carriageway throughout its 22 mile length. In this short distance it visits three counties (Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire) and passes through a pleasant South Midlands rural landscape.
Unlike many other two lane motorways built at around this time (M1, M4, M5 etc.) the M50 has never been widened and also suffers from an intermittent hard shoulder - i.e. it does not pass under bridges. The fact that the M50 is still a quiet motorway means these factors are not important; it is ideal for a relaxing motorway drive, but be warned, this motorway is also popular with newly qualified drivers having an extra ``motorway lesson''.
Junctions on the M50 have not been improved since it opened; in fact one has been ruined completely while another could win an award for being the ``worst junction on a British Motorway''.
The ``ruined completely'' junction refers to where the M50 leaves the M5 at junction 8 (Strensham). Prior to widening of the M5 in the late 1980s this was a trumpet style junction where traffic from the M5 southbound for the M50 would sweep round a (very) sharp 270' turn and pass back under the M5. Although rather hair raising if taken in excess of the recommended 30mph limit at least it was a free flowing junction. This set up has now been replaced with a simple roundabout from which the M50 commences, meaning that traffic leaving the M5 no longer has direct access to the M50.
Two miles west from its humble beginning the M50 meets the A38 at junction 1. From here is a long (9 mile) stretch where the motorway meanders in a south/southwesterly direction to junction 2.(A 417). This section also features a fairly impressive bridge over the river Severn.
After another 7 mile stretch in a rather more southerly direction we come to junction 3 which, as noted earlier is a strong contender for ``worst junction on a British Motorway''. The information sign indicating a junction ahead does not show the usual road leaving at a gentle slope. Instead of this a side road is indicated, leaving the motorway at 90 degrees. Unfortunately this is not a mistake on the sign: in both directions junction 3 is a sharp turn with little slip road. Admittedly it is only a B road junction and as I have mentioned before the M50 is quiet for a modern motorway, but even so this exit is hardly of motorway standard.
The M50 continues for 4 more miles west and finishes at a roundabout near to Ross on Wye. From here most traffic continues on the A40 dual carriageway route for Newport (South Wales).
In the 1980s plans were made to extend the M50 northeast from Strensham (junction 8 of the M5) to link with the M42/M40 junction near Birmingham. This would have provided a useful Northeast/southwest motorway short cut across the Midlands. The proposal was subsequently abandoned for environmental and cost reasons.
Perhaps the reason that this road was built despite low volumes of traffic in the area is as a strategic diversion route for the Severn Bridge (now Bridges).