M1 motorway

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M1 sign
The M1 south at Barnsley, Yorkshire

The M1 is a north–south motorway in Great Britain connecting London to Leeds, where it joins the A1(M) near Aberford. It was 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 By-pass, which later became part of the M6.[2]

The motorway is 193 miles 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.

The M1 is the major north-south route and heavily used. It is also notorious for its constant roadworks and accordingly unpredictable, lengthy delays to each journey.



The M1-M621 interchange at Leeds

The northern end of the M1 is Junction 48; its junction with the A1M between Micklefield and Aberford in the West Riding of Yorkshire. From here it runs west and south-west to pass to the south of Leeds, the spurs off to the city at Junctions 44 and 43, the latter with the M621 Leeds South Eastern Urban Motorway. With the M62 and M621, the M1 forms a ring of motorways around the south of Leeds.

From Leeds, the M1 heads generally south between the West Riding towns, west of Wakefield then Barnsley. From junctions 34 to 33, the M1 passes south-eastwards between the vast urban areas of Sheffield (west) and Rotherham (east), then heads east to meet the M18 (to Doncaster and Hull) at junction 32. From here the M1 heads due south once again, entering Derbyshire at Woodhall Services, north of Junction 30.


The M1 is the major arterial route north-south through the Midlands, though it passes through no major Midland towns. The route takes the motorway south through:

- and into Hertfordshire.

Home Counties

In the Home Counties, the M1 passes through:

Entering Middlesex near Bushey Heath, the M1 has little open countryside left on its route as the metropolitan conurbation soon swallows its corridor, and from Edgware south it is an urban motorway.

The M1 ends, or begins, at Junction 1 with the North Circular Road (the A406) at Brent Cross / Dollis Hill in Middlesex, close by a more ancient route; Watling Street, a Roman road.


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, but 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 Bypass 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.[3]

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).

The M1 was officially inaugurated from Slip End (close to Luton), this was celebrated by a large concrete slab[4] on the bridge next to the village with inscription "London-Yorkshire Motorway - This slab was sealed by the Rt Hon Harold Watkinson MP - Minister of Transport - Inauguration Day - 24th March 1958". It was removed during widening works in 2007-8.

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 11-mile section to the A1(M) south of Doncaster given a separate motorway number.

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).

New concepts

Motorways required new thought, much of it developed on the M1 as it was developed and as use of the motorway continued. The lighting of motorways began here in 1973. The now familiar "tensioned safety barriers" were announced for the M1 in March 1973.

Notable events

  • In March 1972, 200 vehicles crashed in thick fog resulting in the deaths of nine people on the M1 north of Luton, Bedfordshire.[5]
  • On 8 January 1989, The Kegworth air disaster: forty seven passengers died when a Boeing 737 crashed onto the embankment of the M1 whilst attempting an emergency landing at East Midlands Airport in Leicestershire.
  • 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 film 28 Days Later.
  • An 18-mile 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 in Hemel Hempstead, which is less than half a mile from the M1.
  • 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 United Kingdom floods.
  • Part of the motorway close to Tinsley Viaduct was closed to allow safe demolition of the Tinsley cooling towers in the early hours of the 24 August 2008.[6] the M1 remaining closed for much of the day until the stability of the viaduct was confirmed.
  • On 15 April 2011, a seven-mile stretch of the road was closed between junctions 1 and 4 due to a fire at a scrapyard underneath the motorway,[7] which turned out to be arson.


M1 motorway
Junction miles Northbound exits (A Carriageway) Southbound exits (B Carriageway)
M1 - Southern terminus
7 Start of motorway North Circular (West), Brent Cross A406
J2 9 No access North Circular (East) A406
The City A1
Services 12 London Gateway services London Gateway services
J4 13 No access Edgware A41
J5 17 Aylesbury, Watford A41 Harrow A41
Watford A4008
J6 20 St Albans, Heathrow Airport, Harlow A405 North Watford A405
M1 - M25 interchange
21 No access Heathrow, Gatwick, M40, M4, M3,
Stansted Airport M11, M20, M25
J7 23 No access St Albans, Hatfield A414
J8 24 Hemel Hempstead A414 Hemel Hempstead
J9 28 Redbourn A5183 Dunstable A5, Redbourn A5183
J10 31 Luton Airport A1081 Luton Airport A1081
J11 34 Luton, Dunstable A505 Luton, Dunstable A505
Services 39 Toddington services Toddington services
J12 39 Flitwick, Woburn A5120 Flitwick, Houghton Regis A5120
J13 45½ Milton Keynes (South), Bedford A421
Ampthill A507
Milton Keynes (South), Bedford A421
Woburn, Ampthill A507
J14 50 Milton Keynes (Central), Newport Pagnell A509 Milton Keynes (Central), Newport Pagnell A509
Services 54 Newport Pagnell services Newport Pagnell services
J15 62 Northampton A45
Milton Keynes (North) A508
Northampton A45
Milton Keynes (North) A508
65 Northampton, Oxford A43 (M40)
Northampton Services
Northampton, Oxford A43 (M40)
Northampton services
J16 68 Daventry A45 Northampton A4500
Services 75½ Watford Gap services Watford Gap services
J17 77 Coventry M45 No access
J18 79 Hinckley A5
Rugby A428
Daventry, DIRFT A428
M1 - M6 - A14 interchange
83 The North West M6 The North West M6
Felixstowe, Corby, Kettering A14
J20 86 Lutterworth A4303
Market Harborough A4304
Lutterworth, Rugby A4303
J21 97 Coventry M69
Leicester A5460
Coventry, Birmingham M69
Leicester A5460
Services 98 Leicester Forest East services Leicester Forest East services
J21a 100 Leicester, Newark A46 No access
J22 105 Coalville, Ashby-de-la-Zouch A511 Leicester |A50, Coalville A511
J23 109 Loughborough, Ashby-de-la-Zouch A512 Loughborough, Ashby-de-la-Zouch A512
114 The South West, Tamworth, Birmingham A42 (M42)
East Midlands Airport A453
Donington Park services
The South West, Tamworth, Birmingham,
Ashby-de-la-Zouch, A42 (M42)
J24 116 Stoke A50
Derby A6
Nottingham South/Centre A453
Loughborough A6
East Midlands Airport A453
Donington Park services
J24a 116 No access Stoke A50, Derby A6
J25 121 Derby, Nottingham West/Centre A52 Nottingham South, Derby A52
Services 125 Trowell services Trowell services
J26 127 Ripley, Eastwood, Nottingham North/Centre A610 Nottingham, Ilkeston A610
J27 132 Mansfield A608 Heanor, Hucknall A608
J28 136 Mansfield, Matlock A38 Matlock A38
Services 139 Tibshelf services Tibshelf services
J29 143 Chesterfield A617 Mansfield, Matlock A617
J29a Markham Vale A6192
Bolsover (A632)
Markham Vale A6192
Bolsover (A632)
J30 149 Sheffield, Worksop A6135 Chesterfield, Newark A616
Services 152 Woodall services Woodall services
J31 155 Sheffield (SE) A57 Worksop A57
M1 - M18 interchange
157 The North, Doncaster, Hull M18
J33 160 Sheffield (centre), Rotherham, A630 Sheffield (centre), Rotherham, A630
J34 162 Meadowhall, Sheffield, Rotherham A6178 Meadowhall, Rotherham A6109
J35 166 Rotherham A629 Rotherham A629
J35a 168 Manchester A616 No access
J36 169 Barnsley A61 Sheffield A61
J37 173 Barnsley, Manchester A628 Barnsley, Manchester A628
J38 177 Huddersfield, Barnsley A637 Huddersfield, Barnsley A637
180 Services Woolley Edge services Woolley Edge services
J39 181 Denby Dale A636 Denby Dale A636
J40 184 Wakefield, Dewsbury, Batley A638 Wakefield, Dewsbury A638
J41 186 Wakefield, Morley A650 Wakefield, Morley A650
M1 - M62 interchange
188 Hull, Manchester, Bradford, Liverpool M62 Hull, Manchester M62
J43 189 Leeds M621 No access
J44 191 Leeds A639 Leeds A639
J45 192 Leeds A63 Leeds A63
J46 195 Leeds A6120
Selby A63
Leeds A6120
J47 198 Garforth A642
The SOUTH (A1)
Castleford A656
Garforth A642
A1(M), J43
M1 - Northern terminus
199 The North, Wetherby A1(M) Start of motorway

Outside links


  1. "Motorway archive". The Motorway Archive. Institute of Highways and Transportation. http://www.iht.org/motorway/m1m10m45.htm. Retrieved 20 January 2008. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Key facts about England's motorways and trunk roads". Highways Agency. http://www.highways.gov.uk/knowledge/338.aspx. Retrieved 20 January 2008. 
  3. Chris Marshall. "Motorway Database - M1". CBRD. http://www.cbrd.co.uk/motorway/m1/. Retrieved 31 October 2009. 
  4. "The Slab". http://www.slipend.co.uk/Info/Local%20History/images/The%20Slab.jpg. Retrieved 20 January 2008. 
  5. "Death toll on British roads". Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-187995/Death-toll-British-roads.html. "Thick fog was a factor in the deaths of nine people and injuries to 51 others in a massive 200-vehicle crash on the M1 north of Luton, Beds, in March 1972." 
  6. "Blast demolishes landmark towers". BBC News (BBC News). 24 August 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/south_yorkshire/7578266.stm. Retrieved 24 August 2008. 
  7. "M1 is fully reopened after Mill Hill scrapyard fire". BBC News (BBC News). 26 April 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-13154063. Retrieved 26 April 2011. 


  • History of design, construction and use of M1 in late 1950s and 1960s [1]
Motorways in the United Kingdom

Great Britain: M1  • M2  • M3  • M4  • M5  • M6  • M6 Toll  • M8  • M9  • M10  • M11  • M18  • M20  • M23  • M25  • M26  • M27  • M32  • M40  • M42  • M45  • M48  • M49  • M50  • M53  • M54  • M55  • M56  • M57  • M58  • M60  • M61  • M62  • M63  • M65  • M66  • M67  • M69  • M73  • M74  • M77  • M80  • M85  • M90  • M180  • M181  • M271  • M275  • M602  • M606  • M621  • M876  • M898  • Sections of A road: A1(M)

Former motorways marked in italics

Northern Ireland: M1  • M2  • M3  • M5  • M12  • M22