Pathetic Motorways

This page is devoted to a selection of roads which have motorway status but which are felt not to deserve it! For further information, please consult Steven Jukes's excellent Pathetic Motorways page.
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  • M271 (Southampton to Romsey)

    I include the story of the M271 mostly to clear the palate. This is the most pathetic motorway I know of. Its real name is Redbridge Road (talk about delusions of grandeur). It's incredibly short, and has a roundabout on it (where it crosses the M27 - what a pathetic motorway interchange) with peak-time lights! Junction 1 is marked (A3057) to Lordshill, although it's not actually the A3057, as you can tell by the parentheses. That's right, the junction doesn't even meet a road with a number! North of this the road narrows to two lanes. Bit of a waste of a motorway, really.

    The M271 meets the A35 at the southern (Southampton) end. The A35 is mildly interesting. To the west, it meanders through the New Forest and then past Bournemouth, Poole, Dorchester and Honiton. The part of the A35 to the east of the M271 was at one time (1950s) one of the few pieces of dual carriageway in Southern England, and was regarded as a major feat of engineering - it includes some interesting bridges over roundabouts and is three lanes wide, except over the bridges where it loses a lane to the roundabout underneath. (The other notable dual carriageway was part of the late A33 near Hockley traffic lights - see the section on the M3.) After the roundabout to the east of the M271, the road becomes the A3024 and wends its way through Southampton to emerge at J8 of the M27. The A35 turns north towards the A33/M3.

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  • A6144(M) (Carrington Spur from M63 near Sale: single-carriageway)

    Stu Mitchell writes:

    I've just read the review of the M271, and I'm disagreeing with the idea of it being Britain's most pathetic motorway! It's got to be the A6144(M), the Carrington Spur road.

    What is unusual about this is that it's actually single carriageway all the way of its 1 mile course. It's also marked with chainage markers and hard shoulders, but has double-white lines running down the centre of it. It is delimited with traffic lights at one end and a roundabout with the M60 at the other.

    There surely isn't any justification in calling this road a motorway, except that it ensures that no-one stops on it!

    Dominic McKenzie writes:

    I too have major mental problems with the Carrington Spur A6144(M). Is it a motorway with a 70mph top speed or a single carriageway with a 60 mph top speed?

    Stu Mitchell wrote that it ``has double-white lines running down the centre of it.'' Sadly, as a resident of Sale, I remember its first week after opening, when, without said double-white lines, there were 2 fatal head-on crashes. It's a cheap solution to a long-planned link. Unfortunately, some of its first users overtook straight into oncoming traffic. Plans at the time envisaged a extension of it southwards to bypass Sale West, Broadheath and Altrincham as an alternative to the A56. As yet this has come to nought.

    Surely it was also the only motorway to have a football team named after it. In the season after its opening a local team in the Manchester League took on the name Carrington Spurs. They were very short-lived and are now just part of local folklore!

    Tony Priest replies:

    The A6144(M) Carrington Spur, off M60 junction J8, is 70mph limit. Motorway regulations, which state 70 limit unless signs indicate a lower limit, are superior to those giving the limits for single or dual carriageways.

    Andrew Frith writes:

    I can see how the A6144(M) qualifies as a pathetic motorway. However, I noticed something interesting on a map that may explain why it was built.

    A map shows there is a lot of industrial works (such as chemical and gas works) in the region which can use the A6144(M) to get onto the motorway network and avoid going through the nearby towns of Sale and Urmston to find the next junctions to get onto the M60. Maybe this short spur was built to stop large numbers of lorries going through these town centres.

    Do you think this is a likely explanation?

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  • A601(M) (East-West link crossing M6 north of Lancaster)

    Chris Bertram writes:

    Pathetic Motorways: surely the A601(M) is one of the front-runners? Not only is it short, and has a roundabout in the middle, but part is single-carriageway, and, to cap it all, the number is stupid as there is no A601 for it to be an (M) of!!! You can find it at J35 of the M6. Northbound, it is a dual-carriageway link to the A6, southbound 200m of single-carriageway to a B-road, signed Over Kellet. What, may we ask, is the point of blue signs and learner-driver restrictions on this?

    Chris Marshall writes: I just came across a page about the construction of the M6 which sheds light on the A601(M) mentioned by some readers of your page. THe single-carriageway section was added to provide access to quarries to save the people of Carnforth from them driving through town and looping back to reach the M6. Presumably it was simpler to continue the A601(M) beyond its terminal roundabout rather than create a new road number. The address is and the section is at 4.2.9 onwards.

    Bob Sykes writes:

    Re Chris Bertram's comments on the pathetic A601M: perhaps I can justify some of the method in the madness of this much maligned motorway! The single carriageway bit was built in the late 80s. But for many years, the dual cariageway bit of the A601M was simply a ``spur'' off the M6, and was never separately classified, in common with other ``spur'' roads (eg, M4 Heathrow spur). Junction 35 was always signed simply as ``A6'' until the single-carriageway bit was built. (In fact, until the missing Carnforth-Penrith bit of the M6 was opened in the early 1970s, this spur actually formed the northern terminus of the main M6.) The A601M classification only came about when the 200 yard link road to the B6254 was built, in order to prevent quarry traffic rattling through Carnforth village in order to get to the A6/M6. Since the 1960s, the B6254 had run alongside the M6 junction but there was never any direct access. The new link road probably had to be built as a motorway, because the existing spur, the roundabout and the slip roads down to M6 all had motorway status, so the link road had to have motorway status also - the alternative would presumably have been to downgrade the old M6 spur (a perfectly decent bit of motorway after all) to non-motorway status. Once the new link road was built, both the new road and the former spur had to be classified - the former spur probably couldn't call itself ``M6'' any more because it was no longer a ``stand alone'' spur. Hence the ``A601M'' tag came about (following logical numbering practices), even though there was never any ``A601''.

    Lancashire can claim a third pathetic motorway (in addition to A601M and A6144M), in the guise of the single carriageway link from the M61/M65 junction down to the industrial estates. This one doesn't even have a number so far as I'm aware, and is simply signed from the roundabout as Walton Summit, no number at all, but on a standard blue m'way sign (although I've never come from Walton Summit so I don't know how it is signed at other end). It definitely has motorway status though. As with the single A601M new link road, I presume this link was built as a motorway because the M61/M65 roundabout itself links two motorways, with no other non-motorway link, so this roundabout has motorway status. I wonder whether this link road has an official classification though - if not, it must surely be the only motorway in the country without any number at all, poor thing!

    Chris Marshall replies:

    Bob Sykes says there never was an A601, and indeed I looked for it and where it should appear (slightly closer to London than the A602 but further away than the A600, both near Stevenage) it could not be found. On the uk.transport newsgroup, however, Richard Bullock (if I remember correctly) spotted it - it's the Derby Inner Ring Road. Which just leaves the issue of why the A601(M) lies at Carnforth. Did they think we wouldn't notice?

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  • M10 (St Albans Bypass)

    Russell Edmonds writes:

    The M10 simply doesnt deserve its high ranking number, because it's an extension of the M1 or a filter lane to St Albans and nothing more. The A41 Tring bypass was going to be a motorway: I have an atlas which designated this four mile stretch so. It also has a hard shoulder and a couple of blue signs. I'd like to know who pulled the plug on this raised status, though I can't blame them.

    M4 Man adds:

    By the time the Kings Langley and Berkhamsted bypasses were being designed, the M41 idea had been abandoned and the traffic predictions suggested that a single carriageway road would be adequate. In the end the figures were increased again to justify a dual two lane all purpose road, but the flows were nowhere near enough to justify a motorway. Consequently the A41(M) was down graded to the same status as its neighbours.

    Personally I like the M10. It is Britain's second oldest motorway (after the M6 Preston Bypass - opened the same day as the M1 in December 1959 - ok that makes it equal second oldest). It formed a significant bypass for St Albans, taking major trunk road traffic from the A5 in the south at Park Street to the A5 at Markyate (M1 junction 9). Until the M25 was opened in 1987 it carried all traffic from the M1 southbound to the M25 clockwise carriageway.

    Having said all that, if the M1 is ever widened to 4 lanes between junction 6A and 10 then the M10 will be de-specialised and will become part of the A414. Whilst operationally, this is a sensible move, it will be a sad day when we downgrade one of our oldest motorways.

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  • A41 Tring Bypass (featuring the M41)

    Chris Marshall writes:

    Russell Edmonds asked about the Tring Bypass - when it was built, it was a motorway, the A41(M) - see Paul's UK Roads site for details (he has a page of 'lost' motorways) and was intended to be a part of the larger M41 scheme, though it was downgraded to plain old A41 again when M41 was scrapped, in favour of the M40 as London-Birmingham motorway. So if it does still have blue signs, this is because for many years it was a proper motorway!

    Gavin Spence writes:

    The Tring Bypass was a motorway officially until recently. If you go back and check atlases you will clearly see it as a motorway. It was originally intended to extend this motorway to the M25 and also go further north but this was never completed and the motorway was detrunked quite recently it was the A41(M) as there was already an M41 in London.

    Rupert Candy writes:

    I can shed a bit of light on this: the Tring bypass (for a short while classified A41(M), hence the blue signs) and what used to be the M41 in West London (now the A3220) are the only evidence of a plan to build a direct London-Birmingham motorway in the 70s. I don't know much more about it - presumably it would have followed the A41 as far as Bicester then taken the route of the M40. If you look at an atlas, this would have been considerably more direct than the M40 as built (which turns right rather sharply at Oxford). The number would also have been more appropriate, since the A40 goes nowhere near Birmingham! Of course, the idea became superfluous when the M40 extension was built. I expect it was actually shelved a long time before that, perhaps when they decided not to build the London Motorway Box - the M41 would have presumably have formed the western side of the box.

    An article by Geoff (drider68) on USENET elaborates on this:

    The A41 bypass was indeed a motorway until 1993 (the A41(M)). I believe it was part of an M41 motorway which would have run as posted on SABRE on 10/06/02 at 13:54:00 on a thread called ``To Be Or Not To Be? M40 Junction 17 that is...'': According to a Usenet article by Paul Rowntree, the reason why the M42/M40 junction has the ``main'' route from the M42 to the M40 is because this route was originally planned to be part of the M41.

    The M41 would have be made up from the following sections:

    The article also includes an interesting description of how you would have made the current M25 journey between J19 and J24 (Potters Bar).

    The M25 was planned to end at what is now the spur road at J19. From here you would have taken the M41 east to what is now Scratchwood services (between M1 J2 and J4), then you would have gone north on the A1(M) (currently the A1), then connected up to the M16 (now the M25) near what is now M25 J23. This would explain the big gap between the carriageways on the M25 just east of J23.

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  • M181 (Scunthorpe Link from M180)

    Brad Emerson writes:

    How about this for a pathetic motorway? The M181 runs from just outside Scunthorpe to, well, a little further outside Scunthorpe. It's about 2 miles long. It starts at the junction of the A18 and A1077, and runs south to join up with the M180. There are no other junctions, no junction numbers, and virtually no corners. In effect, it's no more than a spur of the M180 to take you into the West park of Scunthorpe, but someone saw fit to grant it its own number.

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  • M898 (spur from M8 to Erskine Bridge)

    Toby Speight writes:

    I have a certain affection for this road as it was once the correct answer to the Guardian's ``Weekend Quiz'' which asked for the highest numbered motorway - they claimed the A876! I can understand them ignoring the M898, though - it's only half a mile long (candidate for Britain's shortest motorway?) and most of that is slip roads. I'd say that much for much less than half its length do the two carriageways run alongside each other.

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  • A66(M) (spur from A1(M) to Darlington)

    Chris Bertram writes:

    The A66(M) is a very short spur (2km?) from A1(M) J57 towards Darlington. Accessible only from A1(M) travelling north (and the reverse), had to be a motorway since it leads nowhere else. Terminal roundabout where plain old A66 resumes, and non-motorway traffic is forced onto an unclassified road through Barton to join the A1 just north of Scotch Corner. Questionable whether it actually deserves a separate number.

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  • A308(M) (spur from M4 J8/9 to the A308/A330 roundabout for Maidenhead)

    Chris Bertram writes:

    The A308(M) is another short spur (only 1km this time), from M4 J8/9 to the A308/A330 roundabout for Maidenhead. A roundabout at each end, since J8/9 is a light-controlled affair. Apparently when the M4 was first built as the Maidenhead by-pass J8 and J9 were separate entities, but I don't have a road atlas old enough to confirm this. Again, forced to be a motorway since it leads nowhere else, but surely didn't deserve a number all of its very own, where other spurs manage without.

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  • A48(M) (spur from M4 to Cardiff: formerly other parts of what is now M4)

    Chris Bertram writes:

    This is basically the same situation as the A66(M), except that this one was the original M4 before its extension westwards (I think).

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