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File:M1 motorway (England).jpg

The M1 motorway heading south towards junction 37 at Barnsley, South Yorkshire.


The M1 is a major north–south motorway in England primarily connecting London to Leeds, where it joins the A1(M) near Aberford. While the M1 is considered to be the first inter-urban motorway to be completed in the United Kingdom,[1] the first road to be built to motorway standard in the country was the Preston Bypass, which later became part of the M6.[2]

The motorway is Template:Convert/mi long and was constructed in four phases. Most of the motorway was opened between 1959 and 1968 but the southern end was extended in 1977 and the northern end was extended in 1999. It forms part of the unsigned European route E13.


The first motorways (autostrades) were built in Italy on the order of Benito Mussolini in the 1920s, with other countries subsequently following, notably Germany with the first 'autobahn' in 1931 and then developed by the Nazis under Adolf Hitler. There had been plans since before the Second World War for a motorway network in the United Kingdom. Lord Montagu formed a company to build a 'motorway like road' from London to Birmingham in 1923,[3] however it was a further 26 years before the Special Roads Act 1949 was passed which allowed for the construction of roads limited to a limited vehicle classifications and the 1950s when the country's first motorways were given the government go-ahead. The first section of motorway was the Preston By-pass in Lancashire, which opened in 1958 (now part of the M6 motorway).[2] The M1 was Britain's first full-length motorway and opened in 1959.[4]

First section, 1959[]

The first section of the motorway opened between junction 5 (Watford) and junction 18 (Crick/Rugby) on 2 November 1959 together with the motorway's two spurs, the M10 (from junction 7 to south of St Albans originally connecting to the A1) and the M45 (from junction 17 to the A45 and Coventry). Parts of the Hertfordshire section were built using steam rollers.[5]

The M1 was officially inaugurated from Slip End (close to Luton), this was celebrated by a large concrete slab[6] on the bridge next to the village with inscription "London-Yorkshire Motorway, This slab was sealed by the Rt Hon Harold Watkinson M.P. Minister of Transport inauguration day, 24th March 1958". It was removed during widening works in 2007-8.

This section of the M1 broadly follows the route of the A5 north-west. It starts at the Watford Bypass (A41), which runs south-east to meet the A1 at Apex corner, and ended on the A5 at Crick. The M10 spur motorway connected the M1 to the North Orbital Road (A405/A414, a precursor of the M25) where it also met the A5 (now renumbered here as the A5183) and, Template:Convert/mi to the east via the A414, the A6, which subsequently became part of the M25.

Although the whole of first section opened in 1959, it was built in two parts with the northern part (junctions 10 to 18) being built by John Laing[1] and the southern part (the St Albans Bypass) being built by Tarmac Construction.[7]

Rugby to Leeds, 1965 to 1968[]

File:Motorway M1 Yorkshire 2007-08-13.jpg

The M1 motorway heading north towards Leeds.

The continuation of the motorway from junction 18 towards Yorkshire was carried out as a series of extensions between 1965 and 1968. Diverging from the A5, the motorway takes a more northerly route through the East Midlands, via Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham to Sheffield, where the M18 splits from the M1 at junction 32 to head to Doncaster.

Originally, the M1 was planned to end at Doncaster but it was decided to make what was going to be the "Leeds and Sheffield Spur" the primary route with the Template:Convert/mi section to the A1(M) south of Doncaster given a separate motorway number.

From junction 32, the motorway passes between Sheffield and Rotherham towards Barnsley and then heads towards Wakefield, reaching the original end of the motorway at junction 44 to the east of Leeds. There were plans to route the M1 from just south of junction 42 where it interchanges with the M62, round the west of Leeds to the A1 at Dishforth; the chosen route passes to the east of Leeds. With the M62 and M621, the M1 forms a ring of motorways around the south of Leeds.

Leeds South Eastern Urban Motorway, 1972[]

File:M1 and M621.jpg

The M1 and M621 interchange on the north bound carriageway at Leeds.

In 1972 an extension of the M1 was opened into central Leeds as the Leeds South Eastern Motorway where it met the Leeds South Western Motorway (M621) coming north-east from the M62 at junction 3.


In July 1972 the UK Minister for Transport Industries, John Peyton announced that Template:Convert/mi of UK motorway particularly prone to fog would benefit from lighting in a project which "should be" completed by 1973.[8] Sections to be illuminated included the M1 between junctions 3 and 14, and between junctions 24 and 16.[8]

Safety barriers[]

An increasing official interest in secondary safety was evident in an announcement in March 1973 that work would shortly begin on erecting "tensioned safety barriers" along the central reservation of a Template:Convert/mi section of the M1 between Kegworth (J24) and Barlborough (J30).[9]

Leeds to Hook Moor, 1999[]

Between 1996 and 1999 the M1 section north of the M62 underwent a major reconstruction and extension to take the M1 on a new route to the A1(M) at Aberford. The new road involved the construction of a series of new junctions, bridges and viaducts to the east of Leeds. When the new section of M1 was completed and opened on 4 February 1999, the Leeds South Eastern Motorway section of the M1 was redesignated as the M621 and the junctions were given new numbers (M621 junctions 4 to 7).

London extensions, 1966, 1967 and 1977[]

File:M1 construction.png

Map showing construction dates of sections of the M1

File:M1 Motorway, Junction 4 - - 85978.jpg

M1 at Junction 4

The M1 was extended south from its original starting point at junction 5 towards London in three stages. The first stage, opened in 1966, took the motorway south-east, parallel to the A41 to meet the A5 at junction 4 south of Elstree. The second phase continued east to Scratchwood (the London Gateway Service Area occupies the location of the missing junction 3 from where an unbuilt spur would have connected to the A1 at Stirling Corner to the north-east), then south to run alongside the Midland Main Line towards Hendon where it meets the A1 again at junction 2 via a tightly curved flyover section. These flyovers connecting from the A1 were originally both for northbound traffic; the left one as the on-ramp to the M1, the right one going over the A1/A41 junction beneath to rejoin the A1 northbound.

The current junction 2 is about Template:Convert/yd south of the original junction. Southbound traffic originally left the motorway via a slip road which passed under the A41/A1 Mill Hill Bypass and looped round to join it at Fiveways Interchange. This slip road is still in place and was maintained until the early 2000s though not accessible to traffic. The northbound slip road from the A1 is now partially used as the entrance way to a business park but no longer reaches the northbound carriageway as it is cut off by the motorway continuing south.

The final section of the M1 was opened to junction 1 at Staples Corner in 1977. There the motorway meets the North Circular Road (A406) at a grade separated junction and roundabout. Unrealised plans made in the 1960s would have seen the motorway continue through the junction on an elevated roadway to end at West Hampstead where it would have met the North Cross Route, the northern section of the London Motorway Box, a proposed ring of urban motorway around the central area. The layout of the Staples Corner junction was originally built in accordance with these plans although most of the London Ringways Plan had been cancelled by 1973. Around the same time the section between the M10 and junction 5 was widened from the original two lanes to three.

On its completion, the M1 acted as a fast link road between London and Birmingham. It also provided a link to London Luton Airport for these regions, and its proximity to the site of the Milton Keynes new town (designated in 1967) meant that it was soon providing a vital transport link to another major area.

In 2006 plans were developed to widen Template:Convert/mi from Leicester through to Leeds (junctions 21-42) which were subject to widespread road protests[10] The Transport Select Committee then claimed the Highways Agency had 'lost budgetary control' and the National Audit Office was asked to investigate why the price of the project has risen from £3.7bn to £5.1bn in 2007.[11] Plans were scaled back with widening to 4 lanes limited to the section from the M25 to Luton (Jct 6a to 10) which was already in progress and from Nottingham and Mansfield (junctions 25-28) with hard-shoulder running being proposed for other sections.

Recent developments[]

M1 Jct 6a to 10 Widening[]

A Template:Convert/mi section between the M25 and Luton (junctions 6a and 10) was widened to 4 lanes in both directions, this was completed in 2009. Work included the construction of new parallel roads between Junctions 7 and 8 for local traffic, widening or replacement of 11 underbridges on one or both carriageways and replacing 7 overbridges.[12] The cost was £294m.[13] As part of the project a variable speed limit system (MIDAS) has been installed, much like the one used on the M25. Also, the M10 spur was reclassified as part of the A414 road.

Current developments[]

M1 J10 to J13 improvement scheme[]

Template:Infobox Future Infrastructure Project

In January 2009 it was announced that hard shoulder running would be introduced on approximately Template:Convert/mi of motorway between Junction 10, south of Luton, and Junction 13 where it joins with the A421 and would include modification to junctions 11 and 12[14] at a cost of between £326m and £503m and opening in 2013.[15] This plan replaced the earlier proposals to widen this section which from 3 to 4 lane carriageways including the removal of bridges crossing the motorway that are considered of historical architectural value.[16] There was a four month delay to the planned Public Inquiry in 2007 while further traffic modeling work was undertaken[17] and then after the estimated cost escalated from £382m to £601m the plans were abandoned and a Hard Shoulder Running Scheme was developed instead.[14]

The Highways Agency is currently upgrading the A421 road from Junction 13 to the Bedford southern bypass by constructing a new dual carriageway.[18] There are also plans to dual the A421 from Junction 13 to Milton Keynes[19] and to add capacity to Junction 10a on the Luton spur are being developed.[20] The plans for the A5-M1 Link (Dunstable Northern Bypass) from new Junction 11a to the A5 road are currently on hold awaiting the next government spending review.[21][22]

M1 widening J25-28[]

Template:Infobox Future Infrastructure Project Work to widen the Template:Convert/mi section between Nottingham and Mansfield to four lanes each way began in January 2008 and is scheduled for completion in 2010[23] at a cost of £340m.[24]

Proposed developments[]

M1 J28-31 Managed Motorways[]

Template:Infobox Future Infrastructure Project To introduce managed motorway technologies between junction 28 (Mansfield) and Junction 31 (Sheffield) with work taking place between 2012 and 2014.[25]

M1 J32-35a Managed Motorways[]

Provisional plans for a managed motorway scheme including dynamic hard shoulder running on the M1 motorway between junctions 32 and 35a serving South Yorkshire and in particular the urban areas of Sheffield and Leeds was confirmed in November 2010.[26]

M1 Junctions 39–42 Managed Motorways[]

Provisional plans for a managed motorway scheme including dynamic hard shoulder running on the M1 motorway between junctions 39 and 42 serving South Yorkshire and in particular the urban areas of Wakefield and Leeds was announced in November 2010 which includes a link to the M62 at Junction 42.[26]

M1/M69 Junction[]

There are plans to widen the M1 to dual 4 lane or dual 5 lane between junctions 21 and 21a and construct a new link road between the M1 and the M69 including a new road bridge to take southbound M1 traffic over the motorway to connect to the M69. During this work the Leicester Forest East services would be closed.[27] Consultation took place in 2007 and a completion date of 2014 is suggested.[28] However the Highway Agency separately suggests that scheme development will 'recommence' in 2014/15 with a provisional programmed start of works 2017/18.[29]

Other proposals[]

A planned £201 million to £302 million upgrade to the overloaded Catthorpe Interchange between the M1 motorway, M6 motorway and A14 road close to Catthorpe[30] was put on hold in June 2010[31] and was then 'shelved' as a result of the government spending review.[32]

In addition to the above schemes, the Highways Agency also plans to add capacity and improve flows on the following sections of motorway in the longer term.[29]

Location Works Start date
M1 J21a - J23a Hard shoulder running after 2020
M1 J23a - J24a Various works including hard shoulder running after 2015
M1 J24 - J25 Hard shoulder running after 2015


Data[33] from driver location signs are used to provide distance and carriageway identifier information. Where a junction extends over several hundred metres and the start and end points of the junction are available, both are quoted.

M1 Motorway
km Southbound exits (B Carriageway) Junction Northbound exits (A Carriageway)
11.3 North Circular (West), Brent Cross A406 J1 Start of motorway
North Circular (East) A406
The City A1
J2 Template:No2 No access
19.3 London Gateway services Services London Gateway services
Edgware A41 J4 Template:No2 No access
Harrow A41
Watford A4008
J5 Aylesbury, Watford A41
North Watford A405 J6 St Albans, Heathrow Airport, Harlow A405
Heathrow, Gatwick, M40, M4, M23, Stansted Airport M11, M20
J6a Template:No2 No access
St Albans, Hatfield A414 J7 Template:No2 No access
Hemel Hempstead J8 Hemel Hempstead A414
Redbourn A5183 J9 Dunstable A5, Redbourn A5183
Luton Airport A1081 J10 Luton Airport A1081
Luton, Dunstable A505 J11 Luton, Dunstable A505
61.5 Toddington services Services Toddington services
Flitwick, Houghton Regis A5120 J12 Flitwick, Woburn A5120
Bedford A421
Woburn, Ampthill A507
J13 Milton Keynes, Bedford A421
Ampthill A507
Milton Keynes, Newport Pagnell A509 J14 Milton Keynes, Newport Pagnell A509
89.4 Newport Pagnell services Services Newport Pagnell services
Northampton A45
Milton Keynes A508
J15 Northampton A45
Milton Keynes A508
Northampton, Oxford A43 (M40)
Northampton services
Northampton, Oxford A43 (M40)
Northampton Services
Northampton A4500 J16 Daventry A45
120.8 Watford Gap services Services Watford Gap services
Template:No2 No access J17 Coventry M45
Daventry, DIRFT A428 J18 Hinckley A5
Rugby A428
Felixstowe, Corby, Kettering A14
Lutterworth, Rugby A4303 J20 Lutterworth A4303
Market Harborough A4304
Coventry, Birmingham M69
Leicester A5460
J21 Coventry M69
Leicester A5460
Leicester Forest East services Services Leicester Forest East services
Template:No2 No access J21a Leicester, Newark A46
Leicester A50, Coalville A511 J22 Coalville, Ashby-de-la-Zouch A511
Loughborough, Ashby-de-la-Zouch A512 J23 Loughborough, Ashby-de-la-Zouch A512
The SOUTH WEST, Tamworth, Birmingham,
Ashby-de-la-Zouch, A42 (M42)
The SOUTH WEST, Tamworth, Birmingham A42 (M42)
East Midlands Airport A453
Donington Park services
Loughborough A6
East Midlands Airport A453
Donington Park services
J24 Stoke A50
Derby A6
Nottingham South/Centre A453
Stoke A50, Derby A6 J24a Template:No2 No access
Nottingham South, Derby A52 J25 Derby, Nottingham West/Centre A52
Trowell services Services Trowell services
Nottingham, Ilkeston A610 J26 Ripley, Eastwood, Nottingham North/Centre A610
Heanor, Hucknall A608 J27 Mansfield A608
Matlock A38 J28 Mansfield, Matlock A38
Tibshelf services Services Tibshelf services
Mansfield, Matlock A617 J29 Chesterfield A617
Markham Vale A6192
Bolsover (A632)
J29a Markham Vale A6192
Bolsover (A632)
Chesterfield, Newark A616 J30 Sheffield, Worksop A6135
Woodall services Services Woodall services
Worksop A57 J31 Sheffield (SE) A57
The NORTH, Doncaster, Hull M18 J32 The North, Doncaster, Hull M18
Sheffield (centre), Rotherham, A630 J33 Sheffield (centre), Rotherham, A630
Meadowhall, Rotherham A6109: J34 Meadowhall, Sheffield, Rotherham A6178:
Rotherham A629 J35 Rotherham A629
Template:No2 No access J35a Manchester A616
Sheffield A61 J36 Barnsley A61
Barnsley, Manchester A628 J37 Barnsley, Manchester A628
Huddersfield, Barnsley A637 J38 Huddersfield, Barnsley A637
Woolley Edge services Services Woolley Edge services
Denby Dale A636 J39 Denby Dale A636
Wakefield, Dewsbury A638 J40 Wakefield, Dewsbury, Batley A638
Wakefield, Morley A650 J41 Wakefield, Morley A650
Hull, Manchester M62 J42 Hull, Manchester, Bradford, Liverpool M62
Template:No2 No access J43 Leeds M621
Leeds A639 J44 Leeds A639
Leeds A63 J45 Leeds A63
Leeds A6120 J46 Leeds A6120
Selby A63
Castleford A656
Garforth A642
J47 Garforth A642
The SOUTH (A1)
318.1 Start of motorway A1(M), J43 The NORTH, Wetherby A1(M)

List of sights visible from the M1[]

  • Midland Main Line and Thameslink (between London Gateway services and junction 1, and also between junctions 11 and 12)
  • Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal (Buncefield) (after junction 8 northbound)
  • The Point, Xscape and Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes (between junction 13 to 14)
  • Express Lift Tower in Northampton (between junctions 14 and 16)
  • West Coast Main Line (runs alongside between junctions 16 and 18)
  • Rugby VLF transmitter (between junctions 18 and 19)
  • East Midlands Airport (between junctions 23A and 24)
  • Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station (between junctions 24 and 25)
  • Sutton Scarsdale Hall (on southern approach to junction 29 - visible only to southbound traffic)
  • Hardwick Hall (between junctions 28 and 29)
  • Bolsover Castle (between junctions 29 and 30)
  • Meadowhall shopping centre (Sheffield, near junction 34)
  • Former site of the Blackburn Meadows Power Station (Sheffield, near junction 34, opposite Meadowhall)
  • Wentworth Castle (between junctions 36 and 37)
  • Barnsley Town Hall (visible travelling southbound between junctions 37 and 38)
  • Emley Moor mast (between junctions 37 and 38, again between junctions 39 and 40 and also between junctions 45 and 46)
  • Ferrybridge Power Station (Leeds, at junction 42 slip road North and Southbound)
  • Bridgewater Place (Leeds, between junctions 43 and 45)
  • Temple Newsam (Leeds, between junctions 44 and 45)

Notable events[]

On 8 January 1989 a Boeing 737 crashed onto the embankment of the M1 whilst attempting an emergency landing at East Midlands Airport in Leicestershire, killing 47 passengers.

Main article: Kegworth air disaster

On 6 September 1997 large sections of the northbound carriageway were closed between London and Althorp, Northamptonshire to allow for the funeral procession of Diana, Princess of Wales. In an unprecedented event, police allowed pedestrians onto the normally busy northbound carriageway almost the entire length of the route to pay their respects.

In 2002, a section of the M1 near Milton Keynes was cleared using mobile police roadblocks to allow for filming of the movie 28 Days Later.

An Template:Convert/mi stretch of the motorway was closed entirely on the morning of 11 December 2005 following a major explosion and fire at the Buncefield Oil Depot, which is less than half a mile (800 m) from the M1.

Main article: 2005 Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal fire

In June 2007 the section of M1 between Junctions 32 and 36 was closed for a number of days after the Ulley reservoir developed cracks after being deluged in the June 2007 floods.

Main article: June 2007 United Kingdom floods

On the morning of 24 August 2008 the Tinsley Viaduct and surrounding motorway were closed to allow safe demolition of the Tinsley cooling towers. The demolition occurred at 0300 BST,[34] the M1 remaining closed for much of the day until the stability of the viaduct was confirmed.

The M1 is the only UK motorway to use transition curves (spirals) to connect straights to curves (circles) as is usual with railways. This was found to be unnecessary and curves connect directly to straights (or curves of a different radius) on later motorways.

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Motorway archive. The Motorway Archive. Institute of Highways and Transportation. Retrieved on 2008-01-20.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Key facts about England's motorways and trunk roads. Highways Agency. Retrieved on 2008-01-20.
  3. (2004) The motorway achievement volume 1, 57. ISBN 9780727731968. 
  4. Chris Marshall. Motorway Database - M1. CBRD. Retrieved on 2009-10-31.
  5. Tri-tandem roller 45655 of 1930. The Robey Trust.
  6. The Slab. Retrieved on 2008-01-20.
  7. list of material held by Northamptonshire CC. Motorway archive. Retrieved on 2008-01-20.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "News: Motorway lighting" (13 July 1972). Autocar 137 nbr 3978: page 19. 
  9. "Motorweek: More M1 barriers" (31 March 1973). Motor nbr 3677: page 40. 
  10. Template:Cite news
  11. Template:Cite news
  12. M1 Jct 6a to 10 Widening. Highways Agency.
  13. 9 Mar 2009 : Column 10W—continued. Hansard.
  14. 14.0 14.1 M1 Jct 10 to 13 Improvements. Highways Agency.
  15. Public exhibitions announced for M1 j10 to j13 improvement scheme. Highways Agency.
  16. Environmental Effects – Cultural Heritage. Highways Agency. Retrieved on 2008-11-10.
  17. Note of the Pre-Inquiry Meeting (PDF). Highways Agency. Retrieved on 2008-11-10.
  18. A421 Bedford to M1 Junction 13. Highways Agency.
  19. Bedfordshire Local Transport Plan 2006/07 - 2010/11 - Major projects. Bedfordshire County Council. Retrieved on 2008-12-09.
  20. All change at 10A?.
  21. A5-M1 Link (Dunstable Northern Bypass). Highways Agency. Retrieved on 2008-11-12.
  22. Highways Agency's Future Delivery Programme. Highways Agency. Retrieved on 2008-12-06.
  23. M1 widening J25-28: work to reduce congestion and improve safety starts in earnest. Highways Agency. Retrieved on 2008-01-20.
  24. £340m M1 contract to MVM consortium.
  25. M1 J28-31 Managed Motorways. Highways Agency.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Transport Secretary gives the go-ahead to 24 New Schemes and announces over £600M of further funding. Department for Transport.
  27. M1/M69 Public Consultation Information - The new solution. Highways Agency. Retrieved on 2010-01-07.
  28. M1/M69 Public Consultation Information - what happens now. Highways Agency. Retrieved on 2010-01-07.
  29. 29.0 29.1 M1 Junctions 21 to 31 Improvements. Highways Agency.
  30. M1 Jct 19. Retrieved on 2008-02-28.
  31. M1 Junction 19 news.
  32. Template:Cite news
  33. Traffic England Live Traffic Condition Map. Locations extracted from Traffic Camera Popup identifier text 1. Highways Agency. Retrieved on 2009-09-08.
  34. Template:Cite news

External links[]


|group2= Northern Ireland |list2= M1Template:·w M2Template:·w M3Template:·w M5Template:·w M12Template:·w M22Template:·w A8(M)

|group3= former |list3= M10Template:·w M41Template:·w M63Template:·w A18(M)Template:·w A40(M)Template:·w A41(M)Template:·w A102(M)Template:·w A6144(M)

|group4= unbuilt |list4= New M4 Template:·w M12Template:·w M13Template:·w M15Template:·w M16Template:·w M31Template:·w M64 }} Template:Transport in Buckinghamshire Template:Transport in Bedfordshire Template:Transport in London

Coordinates: 52°40′37″N 1°17′12″W / 52.6769°N 1.2868°W / 52.6769; -1.2868 (M1 motorway)

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