|Location Map ( geo)|
|From:||Appleby Magna (SK306102)|
|Distance:||15 miles (24.1 km)|
|Meets:||M42, A444, B4116, A511, A512, A453, M1, A453|
|Route outline (key)|
The A42 is a bizarre and probably unique road. It doesn't follow its original 1922 course (in fact, it's more than 20 miles away from any part of it), it was built because of a budget cut and a numbering fluke, it's entirely dual-carriageway, entirely grade-separated, and is numbered entirely and knowingly out-of-zone. Spot another one like that!
From the terminal junction of the M42, the two lanes pass under the A444 roundabout and we pass end-of-motorway-restrictions signs, followed by sliproads merging that are less than motorway standard. There is no hard shoulder, and as a final touch there is a green sign that reads "No hard shoulder for 16 miles". It's actually a nice drive, and makes a slight change from motorway driving.
The first junction, numbered 12 to continue the M42's junctions, is the B5006 giving access to Ashby-de-la-Zouch. The B5006 is part of what used to be the A453, which is now curtailed at Isley Walton but which used to carry on along unclassified roads to Lount, then along the B587 to Ashby and beyond.
We continue to the second junction, 13, with the A511 and A512 (coming the other way this was handy when we missed the A42 exit from the M1). The new Ashby business park is on the north side, with an unfinished car park that suggests it was going to be bigger. The A42 carries on roughly north-east in a relatively straight line, passing signs for the National Forest after which all the trees evaporate and we find ourselves in rolling farmland. After four miles or so the road begins to curve east and to your left you can see a church looking rather oddly isolated on top of a large hill, sticking high up above the others. This belongs to the aptly named village of Breedon on the Hill, although the village centre is at lower altitude.
Our final junction, with the rerouted A453, follows - this will take you on a picturesque, if somewhat lazy, loop around past Donington Park (the race track) and East Midlands Airport to meet the M1 at the same place as the A42 does. From here the road curves north-east once more, passing larger lay-bys (chances are there will be German truckers asleep in these) and three miles later non-motorway traffic is ushered off to the left to rejoin the A453 at Donington Park services and we merge with the M1. Hardly an inspiring trip and it makes you wonder just how much money was saved by not providing a hard shoulder - surely they could have scrapped the B5006 junction instead?
In the 1970s a short section of motorway was built as a spur south from the M6 to the east of Birmingham, mainly to serve the NEC, and it was called M42, probably so it wasn't tied to an existing number. In the early-mid 1980s, traffic on the only link road providing access from the north east to the south west, the A38 between Birmingham and Derby, was getting pretty ridiculous - the road was fine but both ends tipped the traffic into a large urban tangle before a decent motorway connection. The decision was taken to extend the M42, both to provide a southern bypass for Birmingham to link with the M5 and to replace the A38 link (and the redundant too-indirect M69) by joining up with the M1 around Nottingham.
Construction started and the M42 today begins at the M5, running across the south of Birmingham to hit the even more recent M40, then turns north to skirt the east side of Brum, taking in its original section and then crossing the M6 and heading on to Tamworth.
Signs of a budget cut at the last minute become evident. As the M42 progresses north, at junction 9 (the A446, and now the M6 Toll) three lanes drop to two, and twelve miles later we reach the A444 at Measham. There were just 15 miles left to the M1 and Nottingham, and the budget wouldn't stretch. So the M42 ends here, and a dual-carriageway link that didn't have the money to be a motorway link starts - and they called it the A42. Seven miles north of the A5, with three local junctions and frequent lay-bys as an apology for the missing hard shoulder, the would-be motorway limps north through quite pleasant scenery and hits the M1 with a note explaining that the M42 couldn't make it.
February 1978 route proposals
A new plan was put forward in February 1978 by the Department of Environment's Midland Road Construction Unit, following the decision that the section northwards from Appleby Magna would be a dual carriageway and not motorway. Four routes were suggested and the Unit mounted a public participation programme before making its choice. The new road would be about 15 miles long and would connect the northern terminal of M42 to the M1 at Kegworth.
The pink route was generally an improvement to the existing A453 and A648 with bypasses of towns and villages along it. The red and orange routes consisted of new roads, the red route passing to the east and the orange route passing to the west of Ashby-de-la-Zouch. The blue route consisted of a new road passing to the east of Ashby-de-la-Zouch but incorporating sections of the red route at the south and orange route at the north. The blue route was chosen.
When asked at the A42's opening ceremony why the road hadn't been built as a motorway, the Minister for Aviation and Shipping said: "There's always questions as the standards of roads but we have to make our judgements on the best available information to us at any one time."