London’s ‘Orbital Car Park’, better known as the M25 (or, for those in the know, the sigil odegra*), turned 25 today.
Encircling London, aside from the six mile stretch on the east side where the road crosses the Thames at Thurrock (this stretch is designated as the A282**), the 117 mile behemoth was built over a period of 13 years and is the second longest ring road in Europe as well as being one of the busiest roads on the continent.
The first section of the road opened in 1975 between South Mimms (now junction 23) and Potters Bar (now junction 24) with the last section between London Colney (junction 22) and South Mimms being officially opened by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on this day in 1986.
Traffic levels on this new motorway were soon far beyond designed capacity leading to plans to widen it to four lanes each way being considered. Those never fully come to fruition but some widening has taken place with the stretch between junctions 12 and 14 being 5 lanes in each direction and that between junctions 14 and 15 having 6. The sections between junctions 16 and 23 and junctions 27 to 30 are in the process of being widened to 4 lanes and this work should be completed in 2012.
For me the M25, for all of its annoyances, is almost unavoidable because there is simply no other road to use if I wish to head south or west. As for going north, it is potentially avoidable but that depends on how far north I am heading.
Join me then by lifting a glass or two of your favourite tipple and saluting the birthday of this most frustrating of roads – before drowning the rest of the bottle as you think of how much hassle it will cause you in the next 25 years.
* If you haven’t read ‘Good Omens’ by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett this will mean nothing to you. MG politely suggests that you may wish to remedy this failing.
** If it wasn’t then non-motorway traffic wouldn’t be able to cross the river at any point further east than the Woolwich ferry. Imagine the fun that would cause.