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The M1 is a major north–south motorway in Englandmarker primarily connecting Londonmarker to Leedsmarker, where it joins the A1marker near Aberfordmarker. While the M1 is considered to be the first inter-urban motorway to be completed in the United Kingdom, the first road to be built to motorway standard in the country was the Prestonmarker Bypass, which later became part of the M6.

The motorway is long and was constructed in four phases; the majority of the motorway was opened in 1959 and between 1965 and 1968. The two ends of the motorway were extended later; the southern end in 1977 and the northern end in 1999. It forms part of the unsigned European route E13.


The first motorways were built in Italymarker in the 1920s, with other countries subsequently following, notably Germanymarker where Adolf Hitler ordered the construction of Autobahns in the 1930s. There had been plans since before the Second World War for a motorway network in the United Kingdommarker, but not until the 1950s, did these come to fruition when the country's first motorways were given the government go-ahead.

The M1 was Britain's first full-length motorway. The first motorway was the Prestonmarker By-pass in Lancashiremarker, which opened the previous year.

First section, 1959

The first section of the motorway opened between junction 5 (Watfordmarker) and junction 18 (Crickmarker/Rugbymarker) on 2 November 1959 together with the motorway's two spurs, the M10 (from junction 7 to south of St Albansmarker originally connecting to the A1) and the M45 (from junction 17 to the A45 and Coventrymarker).

The M1 was officially inaugurated from Slip Endmarker (close to Luton), this was celebrated by a large concrete slab 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 A1marker 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 M25marker) where it also met the A5 (now renumbered here as the A5183) and, two miles 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 and the southern part (the St Albans Bypass) being built by Tarmac Construction.

Rugby to Leeds, 1965 to 1968

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 Leicestermarker, Loughboroughmarker, Nottinghammarker to Sheffieldmarker where the M18 splits from the M1 at junction 32 to head to Doncastermarker.

Originally, the M1 was planned to end at Doncaster but it was decided to make what was going to be the "Leedsmarker and Sheffieldmarker Spur", the primary route with the section to the A1 south of Doncaster given a separate motorway number.

From junction 32, the motorway passes between Sheffield and Rotherhammarker, towards Barnsleymarker then heads towards Wakefieldmarker and reaches 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 Dishforthmarker; 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

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 of UK motorway particularly prone to fog would benefit from lighting in a project which "should be" completed by 1973. Sections to be illuminated included the M1 between junctions 3 and 14, and between junctions 24 and 16.

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 Aberfordmarker. 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

Map showing construction dates of sections of the M1
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 Elstreemarker. 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 Hendonmarker 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 650 yards (600 m) 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 Cornermarker in 1977. There the motorway meets the North Circular Roadmarker (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 Hampsteadmarker 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 Londonmarker and Birminghammarker. It also provided a link to London Luton Airportmarker for these regions, and its proximity to the site of the Milton Keynesmarker 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 240 miles from Leicester through to Leeds (junctions 21-42) which were subject to widespread road protests 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. 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 10 mile 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. The cost was £294m. As part of the project a variable speed limit system has been installed, much like the one used on the M25marker.

Current developments

M1 J10 to J13 improvement scheme

In January 2009 it was announced that hard shoulder running would be introduced on approximately of motorway between Junction 10, south of Lutonmarker, and Junction 13 where it joins with the A421 and would include modification to junctions 11 and 12 at a cost of between £326m and £503m and opening in 2013. 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. There was a four month delay to the planned Public Inquiry in 2007 while further traffic modeling work was undertaken and then after the estimated cost escalated from £382m to £601m the plans were abandoned and a Hard Shoulder Running Scheme was developed instead.

The Highways Agency is currently upgrading the A421 road from Junction 13 to the Bedfordmarker southern bypass by constructing a new dual carriageway. There are also plans to dual the A421 from Junction 13 to Milton Keynesmarker
 and to add capacity to Junction 10a on the Lutonmarker spur are being developed. The A5-M1 Link marker from Junction 10 to the A5 road are currently on hold awaiting an assessment of the implications of the change from widening the M1 to hard shoulder running.

M1 widening J25-28

Work to widen the 15-mile section between Nottinghammarker and Mansfieldmarker to four lanes each way began in January 2008 and is scheduled for completion in 2010 at a cost of £340m.

Proposed developments

Junction 19

The Highways Agency is planning a major upgrade to the overloaded interchange between the M1 motorway, M6 motorway and A14 road close to Catthorpemarker. The preferred option is for a three level junction at an estimated cost of £201 million to £302 million with construction due to start in 2011 In March 2005 the contract for the planning, design, management and construction of the scheme through the Statutory Procedures from preparation of draft Orders to completion of construction was awarded to Skanska/Jacobs Babtie and the Highways Agency started working with Skanska to prepare the plans for a Public Inquiry. Currently two miles (3 km) of stationary traffic is the norm on the westbound carriageway of the A14 and the M6 for traffic joining the A14 and a campaign group had been established to support the scheme.

M1 J28-31 Managed Motorways

To introduce hard-shoulder runnning on between junction 28 (Mansfield) and Junction 31 (Sheffield) with work taking place between 2012 and 2014.

Other proposals

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.
Location Works Start date
M1 J21 - J21a Various works 2017/2018
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 from driver location signs are used to provide distance and carriageway identifier information.
M1 Motorway
km Southbound exits (B Carriageway) Junction Northbound exits (A Carriageway)
11.3 North Circular (West), Brent Crossmarker A406marker J1 Start of Motorway
14.7 North Circular (East) A406
The Citymarker A1marker
J2 No access
19.3 London Gateway services Services London Gateway services
21.4 Edgwaremarker A41 J4 No access
25.9 Harrowmarker A41
Watfordmarker A4008
J5 Aylesburymarker, Watford A41
32.0 North Watford A405 J6 St Albansmarker, Heathrow Airportmarker, Harlow A405
32.5 Heathrowmarker,Gatwick,(M40, M4,M23) M11, M20, M25marker J6a No access
37.1 St Albans, Hatfieldmarker A414 J7 No Northbound Junction 7
37.6 Hemel Hempsteadmarker J8 Hemel Hempstead A414
44.6 Redbournmarker A5183 J9 Dunstable A5, Redbourn A5183
48.7 Luton Airportmarker A1081 J10 Luton Airport A1081
54.3 Lutonmarker, Dunstablemarker A505marker J11 Luton, Dunstable A505
61.5 Toddington services Services Toddington services
62.3 Flitwickmarker, Houghton Regismarker A5120 J12 Flitwick, Woburnmarker A5120
72.8 Bedfordmarker A421
Woburn, Ampthillmarker A507
J13 Milton Keynesmarker, Bedford A421
Ampthill A507
80.4 Milton Keynes, Newport Pagnellmarker A509 J14 Milton Keynes, Newport Pagnell A509
89.4 Newport Pagnell services Services Newport Pagnell services
100.2 Northamptonmarker A45
Milton Keynes A508
J15 Northampton A45
Milton Keynes A508
103.4 Northampton, Oxfordmarker A43
Northampton services

Northampton, Oxford A43
Northampton Services
109.6 Northampton A4500 J16 Daventrymarker A45
120.8 Watford Gap services Services Watford Gap services
123.5 No access J17 Coventrymarker M45
125.9 Daventry, DIRFTmarker A428 J18 DIRFT
Hinckleymarker A5
Rugbymarker A428

132.4 The NORTH WEST M6
Felixstowemarker, Corbymarker, Ketteringmarker A14
137.9 Lutterworthmarker, Rugbymarker A4303 J20 Lutterworthmarker A4303
Market Harboroughmarker A4304
Coventrymarker, Birminghammarker M69
Leicestermarker A5460
J21 Coventry M69
Leicester A5460
Leicester Forest East services Services Leicester Forest East services
159.2 No access J21a Leicestermarker, Newarkmarker A46
168.2 Leicestermarker A50, Coalvillemarker A511
Markfield services
Coalvillemarker, Ashby-de-la-Zouchmarker A511
Markfield Services
175.4 Loughboroughmarker, Ashby-de-la-Zouchmarker A512 J23 Loughborough, Ashby-de-la-Zouch A512
182.1 The SOUTH WEST, Tamworthmarker, Birminghammarker,
Ashby-de-la-Zouchmarker, A42 (M42)
The SOUTH WEST, Tamworth, Birmingham A42 (M42)
East Midlands Airportmarker A453
Donington Park services

Loughboroughmarker A6
East Midlands Airportmarker A453
Donington Park services

J24 Stokemarker A50
Derby A6
Nottinghammarker South/Centre A453

Stoke A50, Derbymarker A6 J24a No access
193.5 Nottingham South, Derby A52 J25 Derby, Nottingham West/Centre A52
Trowell services Services Trowell services
Nottingham, Ilkestonmarker A610 J26 Ripley, Eastwood, Nottingham North/Centre A610
Heanormarker, Hucknallmarker A608 J27 Mansfieldmarker A608
217.6 Matlockmarker A38 J28 Mansfield, Matlock A38
Tibshelf services Services Tibshelf services
Mansfield, Matlock A617 J29 Chesterfieldmarker A617
Markham Vale A6192
Bolsovermarker (A632)
J29a Markham Vale A6192
Bolsover (A632)
239.0 Chesterfield, Newark A616 J30 Sheffieldmarker, Worksopmarker A6135
Woodall services Services Woodall services
Worksop A57 J31 Worksop A57
252.4 The NORTH, Doncastermarker, Hullmarker M18 J32 The North, Doncaster, Hull M18
256.0 Sheffield, Rotherhammarker, Robin Hood Airportmarker A630 J33 Sheffield, Rotherham, Robin Hood Airport A630
259.5 Meadowhallmarker, Rotherham A6109: J34 Meadowhall, Rotherham, Robin Hood Airport A6178:
266.0 Rotherham A629 J35 Rotherham A629
267.9 No access J35a Manchestermarker A616
270.1 Sheffield A61 J36 Barnsleymarker A61
276.0 Barnsley, Manchester A628 J37 Barnsley, Manchester A628
283.9 Huddersfieldmarker, Barnsley A637 J38 Huddersfield, Barnsley A637
Woolley Edge services Services Woolley Edge services
Denby Dalemarker A636 J39 Denby Dale A636
294.1 Wakefieldmarker, Dewsburymarker A638 J40 Wakefield, Dewsbury, Batleymarker A638
Wakefield, Morleymarker A650 J41 Wakefield, Morley A650
Hull, Manchester M62 J42 Hull, Manchester, Bradfordmarker,Liverpoolmarker M62
303.7 No access J43 Leedsmarker M621
305.2 Leeds A639 J44 Leeds A639
Leeds A63 J45 Leeds A63
311.8 Leeds A6120 J46 Leeds A6120
Selbymarker A63
Castlefordmarker A656
Garforth A642
J47 Garforth A642
The South (A1)
318.4 Start of Motorway A1(M), J43 The NORTH, Wetherbymarker A1(M)

List of sights visible from the M1

Notable events

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

On 6 September 1997 large sections of the northbound carriageway were closed between London and Althorpmarker, Northamptonshiremarker 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 Keynesmarker was cleared using mobile police roadblocks to allow for filming of the movie 28 Days Later.

An stretch of the motorway was closed entirely on the morning of 11 December 2005 following a major explosion and fire at the Buncefield Oil Depotmarker, which is less than half a mile from the M1.

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, the M1 remaining closed for much of the day until the stability of the viaduct was confirmed.

See also


External links

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