15 September 2020
The Worst Road Junctions Across The UK
We never really think about it, but it takes a lot of careful planning and detail when designing junctions across the UK road network. As a taxi driver, you’re tasked with knowing the quickest routes, the safest roads, and knowing which junctions take you to which places.
However, sometimes junction planning can have messy results. On this page is a compilation of the worst and most dangerous junctions in the country, and what exactly went wrong.
M57/M58/A59/A5758/A5036 Junction (Liverpool)
Nothing says “disaster” more than 2 major motorways and 3 dual carriageways colliding together at one single junction. Driving through this junction is one complicated mess, and if you’re not paying attention, you could easily find yourself heading the wrong way.
The design of this junction wasn’t intentional, however. Both motorways were meant to continue on from here, as evidenced by the large empty gaps between the carriageways built to accommodate such an extension. However, both extensions were cancelled before construction could even start, leaving us with this mess we have today.
M6/M6 Toll Junctions (Birmingham)
The junctions between the M6 and the M6 Toll can be extremely confusing if you don’t know which road to turn on, especially if you’re a taxi driver taking a passenger to Birmingham. This is one of the few cases where you have to turn off the main motorway in order to stay on it. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself on the M6 Toll, paying a hefty price to get back onto the main road.
The Magic Roundabout (Swindon)
This roundabout is probably the most famous on this list due to its unique, incredibly scary-looking design. When you first look at the roundabout, you’d probably think it was designed by a 5 year-old who thought it’d be fun to link all the roundabouts together and have the cars drive in and out of each of them. Perhaps the department for transport all got together and had a bit too much to drink whilst designing this roundabout. One way or another, it’s sure to leave you with wide eyes upon seeing it for the first time.
Spaghetti Junction (M6/A38(M))
Another junction famous for how messy and scary it looks. True to its name, the whole junction looks like a pile of spaghetti messed up together. Whilst the junction is relatively easy to use once you’re used to it, you’re still bound to find yourself closely watching the signs when first using it, to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. The A38(M) is another experience in itself. Unlike most motorways where each carriageway is physically split, this is just one long road with the middle lane being used for both directions depending on the time of the day.
Rather than being one single bad junction, the M8 in central Glasgow is a cluster of junctions closely placed together with very little space between them. For both junctions at either end of the central section, you even have to exit from the “wrong” side of the motorway.
Like the first junction, a large reason for why these junctions are a mess is because the motorway was never completed as intended. The reasons why the 2 junctions at both ends exit at the “wrong” side is because they were meant to continue on as an orbital motorway, whilst the rest of the motorway would split to head on to Edinburgh. One look at the map and you can clearly see where the road was meant to continue onwards, as well as the path it would have taken.
Hanger Lane Gyratory
At first glance, the Hanger Lane Gyratory system looks like an average roundabout. However, after further inspection, the horror of the Hanger Lane Gyratory system really begins to unravel itself.
A grade-separated roundabout junction with 8 lanes at its widest, the road is in heavy need of an upgrade due to the overwhelming amount of traffic that uses it. The grade-separated A40 passes through this junction to take drivers to Heathrow and Oxford in the west, and Central London in the east. On the roundabout, the A406 North Circular road takes drivers who wish to connect to the M1 and M4, or those who need to avoid the busy central London roads (it’s essentially the M25 of central London). Additionally, the A4005 is there to take drivers to central Alperton.
To add insult to injury, right in the middle of the roundabout is the awkwardly-placed Hanger Lane Underground Station, meaning traffic also has to regularly stop to allow passengers to cross and get to the trains.
M90/A9/A93 Broxden Roundabout
Like the above Hanger Lane Gyratory, it’s a roundabout that doesn’t look too bad at first glance. Additionally, with this road, you wouldn’t look at this one and have a double-take, hoping that the first glance was just a horrible trick of the mind. However, the problem with this one is that it dumps a motorway and 2 major dual carriageways onto a single junction. To make things worse, this is the point where 3 major journeys meet, from Glasgow to Inverness, Glasgow to Aberdeen and Edinburgh to Inverness. Added to that is the placement of Broxden service station right next to the roundabout, this means that the junction can often get very busy with traffic heading in all directions.
This issue could have been largely fixed by turning the junction into a grade separated flyover, meaning traffic from the M90 would drive straight onto the A9 without having to stop for other traffic heading in other directions.
M6/A34 Great Barr Interchange
A junction that’s half-right, half-wrong. If you’re driving to or from the east, this junction flows as normal. But if you’re driving to or from the west/north, there’s likely to be some complications.
Firstly, traffic wishing to join the M6 will have to take the sliproads from the inside, instead of the outside as usual. Meanwhile, M6 traffic wanting to join the A34 will find themselves driving onto the right side of the roundabout rather than the usual left.
For those wondering why the junction turned out this way, it should be noted that the interchange with the M5 is almost immediately to the left. Had the sliproads been in their usual places on the junction, this would have likely had a huge effect on the traffic, as the M6/M5 interchange is usually an incredibly busy junction.
This junction is one confusing mess that looks like a disaster just waiting to happen. For eastbound traffic, drivers enter the motorway before anyone can get the chance to leave. For those drivers who do wish to brave the oncoming traffic to leave at this junction eastbound, the road takes a confusing turn southwards down a loop before heading north. What’s worse, those exiting and joining the motorway westbound also have to take this loop, meaning this one piece of road has to take traffic from three directions.
The reason this confusing junction design exists was because it was originally designed as a variant of the cloverleaf junction commonly found in the USA. The reason for this design was to accommodate the planned extension southwards of the A577. When that didn’t happen, it left the junction in the confused state it’s in today.
An easy fix would be to give this junction an upgrade and change it into the typical grade-separated junction usually found on motorways.
With stubs on the north side of the junction for sliproads that were never built, and two very wavy roads to the south that make it look like the A3220 had a bit too much to drink on a Saturday night, this junction is nothing short of a mess.
These days, it’s essential for anyone wishing to drive to the Westfield London shopping centre. However, it’s also an example of what can go wrong if you start building roads without a proper plan on where, or if, the connecting roads will continue on from here.
The reason this junction turned out so badly was because the short A3220 here used to be the all important-sounding, but very insignificant M41, meeting the A40(M) in the early 2000s. The M41 was originally planned to be part of an inner-London orbital road, meaning it was planned to be one of the most important roads in the city. The road was going to continue northwards, with the current wonky roads to this junction planned as sliproads. When that didn’t happen, both motorways were eventually downgraded and we were left with the cluttered, claustrophobic mess we see today.
At the other end of the old motorway, just half a mile away, the traffic all gets dumped at a single roundabout – not a good end for something that was meant to be built to alleviate traffic. If you ever have a passenger wanting to get to the Westfield London centre, it might be best to take an alternative route.
A167/A184 Eastgate Roundabout (Gateshead)
This confusing cluster of roads looks like a confusing unfinished junction with a half-roundabout. Right next to that is the A184, passing from the north as if it was looking at the mess of the A167 junction and thinking, “I don’t wanna be part of that!”
Like many of the examples here, this confusing cluster of roads was the result of unfinished work. Back in the 1960s, Newcastle and Gateshead had big plans to transform the A167 into the A1(M) plowing through the metropolitan area. However, the A1 had plans of its own, and decided it’d rather avoid Newcastle, and head to Edinburgh through the outskirts of the city.
Though much of the A167 was already grade-separated, some parts even becoming the A167(M), the changing of plans led to this part remaining untouched and unfinished, leading the developers to try and come up with something quick to make this junction and keep traffic flowing.
Will this ever become the grade-separated junction it was intended to be? Probably not.
And the award for the unluckiest A road number goes to the A666! (Though some may argue the award belongs to the A13.)
This is what you get when trying to free-flow four major roads together at such a close distance. To connect to the M61 from the M60 from any direction, drivers must join the M61, leave that road almost immediately to avoid going directly onto the A666, and then join back onto the M61 main road. What adds to the confusion is the A580 directly to the south, which is so desperately trying to connect to the M60, M61 and A666 as seamlessly as possible. It manages to connect to the M61 fairly well through slip roads, but any taxi driver must look carefully if they want to avoid accidentally turning onto the A666.
The A580 eastbound manages to connect to the M60 clockwise seamlessly with one sliproad. However, getting onto the M60 otherwise requires a detour on the single carriageway A575, which itself is trying its best to manage being both a major route and residential road at the same time. Poor A575.
It’s not always easy to build an interchange between 2 motorways. Add a third to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for confusion, missed turns and lots of traffic.As a bonus, add a half-junction for an unclassified road, and you’ve turned confusion into a nightmare.
At its widest, this three-motorway interchange turns into 8 different carriageways; a whopping 16 lanes, all flowing beside each other. If you’re on the M8 trying to turn onto the M74, then you’ve got to compete for space on the same sliproad as those from the M77 to the M74. as well as the additional traffic from both motorways trying to get off at the unclassified road and the A8.
What’s strange is that the M74 does not have sliproads to the M8 eastbound, despite the fact that directly above the interchange is the M8’s unfinished junction for the motorway that was never built.
This junction manages to connect 2 major roads into Manchester in one of the worst ways possible. At first glance, it looks as though the designers wanted traffic to flow amongst the roads as quickly and easily as possible, but nobody was quite sure on how to do it. With traffic lights all over the junction, this road is often subject to traffic in most directions.
A likely reason for this mess is that, like many roads on this list, this was mostly unfinished at the time of opening. Lying right between where the M602 ends and the A57(M) begins, this road was meant to be one continuous motorway through Manchester. When that scheme was cancelled, the designers had to quickly come up with a way to deal with the heavy traffic from the M602.
An easy fix to this would be to make the junction grade-separated, much like the A57(M) that follows.
A busy motorway should never end directly on traffic lights without an alternative road to flow onto. A dual carriageway should never cut through a busy roundabout where 2 other major dual carriageways meet. This junction breaks both of these rules.
Directly next to the above A57/A6042 interchange looks what should have been a grade separated junction done on the cheap. Rather than have the M602 meet the A57 under the junction like most motorways would do, it cuts right in the middle of the roundabout, making the need for multiple traffic lights across the interchange necessary.
This should have been grade separated from the start. Had it gone this way, there would have been no need for traffic lights in any direction. Additionally, had both this junction and the A57/A6042 interchange been grade separated, there would have been a seamless transition between the M62/M602 and the A57(M).
A minor addition here as the M5/M4 interchange is actually almost the most perfect way for 2 motorways to integrate seamlessly, and for a while, this is just what it did. However, not far from the interchange, a large shopping centre was built, and suddenly there needed to be easy motorway access to the new centre. In comes the A38 to save the day! However, this unfortunately meant those leaving for the newer A38 junction had to fight for space on the same sliproad as those trying to join the M5 southbound from the M4 in both directions.
Image Credit: Google Maps