Originally conceived as the London to Yorkshire Motorway, the M1 was the first inter-urban motorway in the United Kingdom. It was, however, not the first motorway as the M6 Preston Bypass holds that honour. The initial section between what are now junctions 5 and 18, together with the M45 and the then M10, opened in November 1959 and remains the longest stretch of any motorway (or probably any road) to have opened on one day.
The route of the M1 has evolved over the years, initially through Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire and rapidly extended south and north to create a motorway alternative to the A1 between Edgware and Doncaster by 1967, extending further north to Leeds with the opening of the Tinsley Viaduct by 1968 and south to the A406 North Circular Road by 1977. Further work completed in 1999 saw the north end of the M1 diverted and extended eastward to meet the A1(M) near Garforth; the original north end within Leeds became part of the M621.
The M1 forms the backbone of the English motorway network, with key connections in the south with the M25 London Orbital, in the Midlands with the M6 and in the north with the M62 and A1(M), along with other less important motorways along the way. Because some parts of the M1 are more important than others, some sections carry significant varying volumes of traffic with the predominant D3M design of the original route has some sections reduced to D2M (at J19 & J34 for example) and significant sections upgraded to D4M in more recent years.
The section between J20 and J22, opened in 1965, pioneered the use of an increased width from 112ft to 129ft. This allowed for wider lanes, wider hard shoulders and grass verges. As a result the cost rose from £350,000 per mile to £700,000 per mile.
Mid 1980s - M1 Jct 5 to 8 Widening
1988 - M1 Jct 35a
1991 - M1 Jct 19 Improvement
1991 - M1 Jct 23a
New junction for the A42.
1993 - M1 Jct 9 to 10 Northbound Widening
The motorway was widened to four lanes northbound from junctions 9 to 10. This required the widening of Friars Wash Bridge over the A5, the demolition and construction of a new bridge to take Watery Lane over the M1, and widening of a further underbridge at Coles Lane. The northernmost northbound on-slip at Jct 9 was removed as part of this work. The project was designed with the proposed J6A to 10 widening project in mind.
1995 - M1 Jct 21a
New junction for the A46 Leicester western bypass.
1999 - M1 Jct 24a
New junction for the A50.
1999 - M1 Jct 42 to 43 Widening and loss of M1 to Leeds
2007 - M1 Jct 31 to 32 Widening
£20M widening of the M1 from D3M to D4M over 2 km (1.25 miles), opened fully to traffic in December 2007 - Highways England Link
2008 - M1 Jct 29a
New junction costing £8M opened to traffic in June 2008 - GOEM Link - Page 8
2009 - M1 Jct 45
Originally built in 1999, but not opened until the A63 East Leeds Link Road was opened.
2009 - M1 Jct 6a to 10 Widening
£291M widening of the M1 from D3M to D4M over 17 km (11 miles), opened to traffic on 19th December 2008, with an official opening on 23rd January 2009 - Highways England Link
2009-2010 - M1 Jct 32 to 35a Barrier
Scheme to provide new central concrete step barrier in advance of a planned managed motorway scheme along the same length, opened in phases through 2009 and 2010
A 1-km-long viaduct, with a troubled past and uncertain future, designed by Freeman Fox and Partners, an iconic steel monument to the valley it passes over.
The Catthorpe Interchange, Junction 19, links the M1 to the M6 and A14. It was notable for being one of the most poorly thought out junctions in the Great British road network before redevelopment in 2014. Formerly, the M1 and M6 had a simple fork, and the A14 ended at a modified dumbbell interchange, with an unclassified road providing a link to the motorways.
A cheap solution at first, gradually becoming a big headache, eased by the spending of private sector money and given a stay of execution with a few traffic signals. Lofthouse Interchange to be fair works quite well, sadly, the M1 to the south and north suffers congestion each evening due to the close proximity of J41 and the weaving of traffic getting on at J42 to head south and the traffic from the north wanting to exit at J41.
Most junctions on the M1 have names as well as junction numbers, these names sometimes come from the construction name, some are more popular names developed after the motorway opened.
Find out more on the M1 Named Junctions page
- M1 Jct 10 to 13 Improvements - Hard Shoulder Running and Junction Improvements (national archives)
- M1 Jct 19 Improvement - £300M of Junction Improvement
- M1 Junctions 21 to 25 Improvements - Previous major improvement now several separate schemes (national archives)
- M1 J25-28 Widening Scheme - Major Motorway Widening to D4M (national archives)
- M1 J28-31 Managed Motorway - Hard Shoulder Running (national archives)
- M1 J32-J35a Managed Motorway - Hard Shoulder Running (national archives)
- M1 J13 – 16 Smart Motorway
- M1 J16 – 19 Smart Motorway
- Post Opening Project Evaluation: M1 junction 6a to 10 widening - Five Years After October 2015 (archive.org)
- Post Opening Project Evaluation: M1 junction 10 to 13 smart motorway and junction improvements - One Year After March 2020 (archive.org)
- Post Opening Project Evaluation: M1 Junction 25 to Junction 28 Widening – Five Years After May 2017 (archive.org)
- Post Opening Project Evaluation: M1 Junction 39 to Junction 42 Smart Motorway (All Lane Running) – One Year After January 2020 (archive.org)
- The M1 London – Yorkshire Motorway (The North of Edgware Bury – Aldenham Special Roads Scheme 1962) (Partial Revocation) Scheme 1990 - I am not currently clear what is being revoked here
- The M1–A1 Link (Belle Isle To Bramham Crossroads Section And Connecting Roads) Scheme 1994 (Variation) Scheme 1995
- The M1–A1 Link (Belle Isle to Bramham Crossroads Section And Connecting Roads) Scheme 1994 (Variation) (No. 2) Scheme 2000
- The Crick (Northamptonshire) to Doncaster Bypass Motorway Connecting Roads (No 2) Special Roads Supplementary Scheme 1986
- The Crick (Northamptonshire) to Doncaster Bypass Motorway Connecting Roads (No 2) Special Roads Supplementary Scheme 1986 Variation Scheme 1989
- The Hendon Urban Motorway Special Roads Scheme 1961 (Variation) Order 2009 - this looks to be a tiny piece of land being de-specialised that does not form part of the current carriageway
- The M1 Motorway (Junctions 10 to 13) (Actively Managed Hard Shoulder and Variable Speed Limits) Regulations 2012
- The M1 Motorway (Junctions 23A to 25) (Variable Speed Limits) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 - These Regulations amend the M1 Motorway (Junctions 23A to 25) (Variable Speed Limits) Regulations 2018 to introduce variable speed limits to the off-slip road on the southbound carriageway of the M1 at junction 24 and the carriageway linking the eastbound carriageway of the A50 to the southbound carriageway of the M1 at junction 24A.
- The Managed Motorway (Actively Managed Hard Shoulder and Variable Speed Limits) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013 - This amends M1 Motorway (Junctions 25 to 28) (Variable Speed Limits) Regulations 2011 and M1 Motorway (Junctions 10 to 13) (Actively Managed Hard Shoulder and Variable Speed Limits) Regulations 2012
- Motorway Database: M1
- Photo Gallery: M1 Architecture
- Photo Gallery: M1 Under Construction
- Articles: M1-A1 Link Road
- Bad Junctions: M1-A41-A4008
- Bad Junctions: M1-A405
- Bad Junctions: M1-M25
- Bad Junctions: M1-A421-A507
- Bad Junctions: M1-M6-A14
- Bad Junctions: M1-M62
- M1 extension to A1(M)
- M1 Aston – Sheffield – Leeds
- M1 Wadworth – Barlborough
- M1 Crick – Barlborough
- M1 Hendon – Crick