The M1 is 50 today

Happy birthday the M1. I’ve spent many a long hour in your company and you’ve always been very good to me. When I was commuting to work in Kilmarnock from Nottingham, I used to drive with you up to Leeds and then join the A1 north. When I head south, it’s still you I choose over the A1 every time.

When it was built and opened in 1959 it didn’t go very far and ran from St Albans (J5) to crick (J18). Over the years it has been lengthened to its current 193 mile length, linking London to Leeds.

The M1, when it opened in all it's three lane glory back in 1959 - note the lack of crash barriers and even speed limits!
The M1, when it opened in all it's three lane glory back in 1959 - note the lack of crash barriers and even speed limits!

So is the M1 a brand? And if it is, what does it stand for?

I think, when it first opened, it stood for freedom. It was the first truly joined up bit of quick road. Yes, it was a year later than the Preston bypass (now part of the M6) but it actually joined places rather than just went around them.

If there is a north/south divide in the UK, then the gap is closed by the M1. Life at the top is very different to life at the bottom. Leeds is a great city that is evolving into a fabulous cosmopolitan place to live and work, but it ain’t no London and never will be.

It’s seen many historical events too, from the Kegworth Air disaster in 1989 where its accessibility probably saved many lives, to the Buncefield Oil depot fire in 2005, which you can still see the aftermath of today.

It was closed on September 6 1997 to allow the funeral procession of Diana, Princess of Wales to drive from London to Althorp, Northamptonshire. They even allowed pedestrians to line the road to pass on their respects.

But like any 50 year old brand, the M1 has continued to evolve to stay relevant to it’s audience of road users. It’s being widened all over the place and is still a quick route for the north/south commute – at least most of the time anyway.

I am, perhaps slightly weirdly, an M1 fan.

Anyway, happy birthday M1. And any more.

And a late PS. According to the BBC, there is a musical called ‘Watford Gap – the Musical’ that is being launched at the services today too. I’m sure that will be absolutely brilliant!

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