Saturday, 11 December 2010

Don't talk to me about.....

Some tell of the Gravelly Hill Interchange (aka "Spaghetti Junction"). Others shiver at the thought of Swindon's "Magic Roundabout" or its half cousin outside Hemel Hempstead. However I think it is fair to claim that I live near the two worst road junctions in the country.

First up to the north of us is the A14, M1, M6 intersection. It looks innocuous on the map. After all it's a dual carriageway and two motorways, all going in slightly different directions. In total that's 16 lanes to send traffic North, South, East and North West. Plus it's at the beginning of the A14 and practically the start of the M6 so that should make it fairly easy too.

The junction is a work of genius. It runs under the M1 and involves two inter-connected single carriageway roundabouts plus two or three single track country roads also feeding in. So the main route to and from East Anglia and the various ports on the East Coast plus the road one stop down from the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal all come down to a single carriageway under a bridge where priority goes to a country lane. Half an hour either side of rush hour in morning and evening the queues will be 30 minutes in every direction, backing up onto the M1. Add to that there is no way a contraflow can be set up and any road repairs mean you have to shut the junction completely. If anyone wishes to see evidence of true evil in the world I commend this spot to you.

To the south is the M40/A43 junction. This was another one that ran two major cross country routes down to one roundabout with extra country roads added. At least this one has two lanes but to counteract this it also has the entrance to the motorway services off it. Thus everyone who wants to stop whether going north or south has to drive round it. Brilliant. Add to that that this section of the M40 forms the Middleton Stoney bypass linking the A43 & A34 so you get loads of traffic that only travels between two junctions, - this one and the next one south.

Now after a year or so it was clear this wouldn't work so at the cost of millions they put bin an extra roundabout to alleviate the problem. Only of course two interconnected roundabouts (see above) never make it any better. Plus the new roundabout is concealed in a dip so you can't see how busy it is when choosing your approach lane. And it blocks the view of the M40, so you can't see how busy that is. Overall a completely rubbish design, compounded by the fact they've had two goes at getting it right.

And what has this to do with wargaming? Nothing at all. Sometimes I just like to share.


  1. My life feels so much more complete knowing about that mess. Dick Francis never mentioned it in any of his racing-related mysteries, but I suppose it could be the legitimate cause of at least a few cases of road-rage inspired murder.

  2. Steve,

    As an American you probably don't suffer as much as we do from roundabout inspired road mayhem.

    The A14 actually does go to Newmarket (eventually) but it post dates Dick Francis by a few years. Of course as both of these junctions are both literally and figuratively situated in Middle England we don't have road rage. We just sit in our cars and put up with it.

  3. Hemel Hempstead's was the original 'magic roundabout' and after 30 (35?) years, it continues to work brilliantly (has never faltered for a moment).
    Conversely, you are right, the A43/M40 intersection is the most stupid design I have ever encountered (a finger painting infant could have done better). The earlier bad design was actually far better.
    This is a worthy topic for any sort of blog post: just for the fleeting possibility it might expose the designer of the mess to public ridicule.
    It seems to me artists from Emin to Hirst earn megabucks for coming up with designs and ideas that are always subject tp public scrutiny and often ridiculed. Architects maybe more so ... but designers of road systems (and I bet they do just as well out of it) never get tagged to their work (and the papers never show them together with their questionable masterpieces).
    Maybe this is why their work is so obviously incompetent and slap-dash. They just get away with it.

  4. Or maybe because they are all funded by us, the tax payer, and our duly elected egomaniacs and incompetents we end up with the lost competitive tender put together by the man who can't get a job as a consultant in the private sector.