M1 (London to Wetherby)

By Chris Marshall

From a very complex roundabout on the A406 North Circular in London, the M1 begins to nose its way north. It follows the A1 for a couple of miles, joining it at junction 2, and then hits Scratchwood Services - once junction 3. It crosses the M25 and then unleashes its first spur, the M10, on St. Albans. At junction 9 it kick-starts the A5 north, the earlier southern parts of which are now the A5183. At junction 10 there is a spur to Luton towards junction 10a. After this it meanders north to the midlands, passing Watford Gap services (now rebuilt and operated by Road Kill-er-Chef). Shortly after Milton Keynes comes Newport Pagnell services, the first service station to be opened in Britain. Today it is looked after by the kindly folk at Welcome Break (no bias). Following this are SERVICES and SERVICES.

The next spur is the M45, which never quite makes it to Coventry but certainly has a good go, and then the M6, which cuts the corner for M1 traffic going to Carlisle.After this comes the M69, possibly the worst-surfaced motorway in Britain - maybe also the most useless as there's never any traffic - and then Leicester Forest services, known to many travellers as an unofficial midpoint.

Junction 22 used to be the A50, but that road was diverted north and now crosses at the new junction 24a at Nottingham. Instead this junction is now for the brand new A511. Following this comes the tangle at Nottingham between the M1, A42 (which should be a motorway by now, it's only missing some emergency phones and blue signs), the A453, A6 and now A50 from junctions 23a to 24a.

Drop in at Trowell services (the only ones in Britain named after a gardening implement) and continue north to the unrewarding section towards Sheffield. No offence to people in this area, but the drive's hardly inspiring. Having said that, look out for Bolsover between junctions 29 and 30. It has a castle which is lit up at night - very nice too. Also look out for junction 28 which is with the A38, which must have lost its way. It trails the M5 a lot of its way and somehow links Mansfield to Derby, Birmingham, Bristol, Plymouth and Bodmin.

Junction 32 is for the M18. If you've fallen asleep since the last excitement at Nottingham, wake up here because you're about to experience junction 34. Meanwhile, exit at 32 for Doncaster, Scunthorpe, Hull, Goole and all points East. Before the new section at Leeds was added traffic following signs to ``The NORTH'' left the M1 here for the A1.

Enter Sheffield. Junction 34 slip roads leave at Meadowhall and run alongside the motorway for about a mile, rejoining at the A6109. Is this the longest junction in Britain? Meanwhile, the M1 passes the lot on a flyover, which for budget and cooling tower proximity reasons ran without a hard shoulder until a couple of years ago, when it was altered so that one lane left at each end.

Onto the home stretch, passing Barnsley, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park at J38 and Woolley Edge services, then round the side of Wakefield. Cross under the M62 at J42 and then the M1 is squashed into the left two lanes and becomes secondary to its own spur, the M621 into Leeds. Follow M1 signs over the flyover and onto the new section, passing the unfinished junction 46 (opening with the construction of the East Leeds Link road), then J47 for the A6120 Ring Road (wave to me as you pass, I can see the junction from here) and finally north to merge with the A1 at Hook Moor. Watch as your three lanes add to two from the A1. Five lanes turn to four, then three, then two at Wetherby and you wonder how exactly all that traffic fits onto this mediocre bypass. But that's another story...

Charles Walkden writes:

More motorway renaming madness: The M1 doesn't go to Leeds anymore! Instead, it terminates at the M1/M62 interchange. What used to be the M1 north of this juction is now an extension of the M621. I would imagine this is something to do with the soon-to-be-completed A1/M1 link road, which leaves the M1 at the M1/M62 juction. (I don't know the name of the A1/M1 link road - maybe it will become part of the M1?)

All my information came from the Yorkshire Evening Post over Christmas [1998]. The A1/M1-link is something that they have been trying to build for years. The idea is to stop people travelling north either (a) using the M62 between the M1 and A1 (it's a long way round) or (b) going into Leeds and using the A64 (very busy). It leaves the M1 very slightly north of the M1/M62 junction; I'm not sure exactly where it joins the A1 (conjecture: the existing A1/A64 junction). Unanswered questions include:

Possibly one can just drive down the M1 and find out - it's been about a year since I was last down that way.

Charles Walkden has now found out:

The A1/M1 question has been resolved. The M1 now leaves the old M1 at a new junction - junction 43, a few hundred yards north of the M1/M62 junction. It then heads off vaguely north-east before linking up with the A1(M) a few miles south of the A1(M)/A64 junction. What used to be the M1 has been renumbered so as to be a continuation of the M621.

Steve Cherrett writes:

I regularly travel up and down the M1 and I was wondering if the M1 should have its destination altered. At present it is subtitled London-Leeds - I would suggest this should become London-Wetherby, as this is approximately where it joins the A1(M).

It used to be the case that anyone travelling south, say, would have to take the M18 off the A1 and then join the M1 south of Sheffield. About a year/18 months ago [time of writing: April 2001], the A1/M1 link road was opened. There is now an exit from the A1 (again assuming you are travelling south) just past Wetherby. This immediately becomes the M1, which then joins the old M1 just south of Leeds. The bit of the M1 that has been cut off at the top (i.e. the bit going into Leeds) is now the M621.

There are about three or four new exits on this new stretch along with one that is yet to open (although all the slip roads and the roundabout appear to have been built). Thanks to this road the driver now gets to sample the Sheffield flyover, where the M1 briefly (about 1.5 miles) becomes a dual carriageway (the only part of it that is, I believe).

Steve Cherrett writes on a different occasion:

As you are travelling south, just before you get to Wakefield you can see the Emley Moor transmitter to your right (i.e. to the west). This is the tallest free-standing structure in the UK. Then in between Nottingham and Leicester is East Midlands airport (I'm not sure of the junction number). The point of interest here is that the runway is just to the west of the carriageway and there are landing lights in the central reservation and on the western side. This was also the place where a plane didn't quite make the runway about ten years ago [time of writing: 2001] and hit the western embankment.

The mystery of Junction 3

Russell Edmonds asked what happened to Junction 3 of the M1.

Chris Marshall answered:

This was meant to be a new dual-carriageway link road to the A1 that never got built for one reason or another. When it was realised that the M1 has quite enough connections to the A1 around here, the site was opened up as a service area and the never-opened junction converted to entrance slip roads.

John Waters answered:

There was originally intended to be a link road to the A1. I had a map in the late 60s showing this as projected. Presumably at some stage the idea was killed off.

What seems to me a pity is that they never completed the roundabout. Even though the link road will never be built, vehicles entering and leaving Scratchwood Services are faced with sharp bends, which could be alleviated if the remaining bit of the roundabout were built.

Gavin Spence answered:

Originally this was meant to be a full access junction in the form of a roundabout with a dual carriageway link out to Stirling Corner. This was to reduce the traffic on the A1 by providing access to the M1 and stopping traffic using the A1 between this point and the A406, as this road passes through residential areas.

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