|Ross Spur Motorway|
|Distance:||21 miles (33.8 km)|
|Meets:||M5, A38, A449|
|Route outline (key)|
The M50 is a spur of the M5, linking it to the A40 and A449 at Ross on Wye. It was one of the first motorways to be planned and constructed in the motorway network, which might look unusual at first glance, but was of political importance at the time.
The M50 begins at Strensham Interchange and heads west, crossing the A38 at junction 1. There's then a lengthy viaduct over the River Severn at Queenhill, followed by fairly flat ground over the river's flood plain, crossing the A438 without an interchange, up to junction 2 with the A417. The motorway then turns southwest, heading through forests up to the notorious Linton Interchange with the B4221. There's a short climb after this, through a rock cutting, to the terminal roundabout with the A449. The A40 is at the next roundabout.
The M50 was one of the first ever motorways to be planned and constructed. It opened before most motorways in the country - only the M6 Preston Bypass and the M1 (and associated spurs M10 and M45) are older. Junction 1 westwards was opened by then transport minister Sir Ernest Marples on 28th November, 1960 at a cost of £6m. The remaining eastern section was opened to tie in with the first section of M5, which opened concurrently with it. Because its planning predated the numbering of motorways, it was known in documentation as "The Ross Spur Motorway", and the name "Ross Spur" continued to be used some time afterwards.
The reason for being such a high priority project was to provide a link between the Midlands and South Wales. There was no direct route between the two, and indirect routes such as the A449 through the Malverns and the A40 through the Forest Of Dean were (and, indeed, still are) slow and winding. Consequently, a brand new road was planned as far as Ross on Wye, where contemporary online dualling was practical from that point. The original plan was for the A40 to be improved between Ross and Abergavenny, and the A465 over the Heads of the Valleys Road to Neath. The realignment of the A449 onto a new dual carriageway between Raglan and Newport appeared in a later 1970s plan.
Demand for the motorway appeared in motorway plans as early as 1946, and the Government were encouraged to go ahead with building on the advice of the Lloyd Committee, an organisation set up to encourage industrial development and growth in South Wales, whose flagship industry of coal mining was in decline.
In 1961, a report revealed only about 2,200 vehicles were using the motorway every day, compared to MoT estimates of around 11,000. This was explained by the lack of demand due to the M5 to Birmingham not being opened at this time.
In October 1986, a fire at the Harleton Road bridge caused by hay bails being stored under the road caused severe damage to the motorway.
Documents from the early 1970s reveal that the M50 was proposed to be the number for the Strensham - Solihull Motorway and the Birmingham to Nottingham motorway (which, while none of it was built, had the M42 number).
Main Article: Strensham Interchange
The Strensham Interchange is the junction linking the M5 to the M50. For the M5, it is a standard roundabout interchange, whilst it is a flat roundabout for the M50, of which it is also the terminus. The southbound exit for Strensham Services also feeds into this roundabout, merging with the off-slip from the M5.
Main Article: Linton Interchange
Linton Interchange on the M50 is arguably the lowest-standard motorway junction in England. It is a simple LILO interchange with very little in the way of acceleration and deceleration lanes. As it opened in the early 1960s it features many outdated design features and has more in common with all-purpose roads of the same era than of motorways.
Ross Spur services
Main Article: Ross Spur services
Ross Spur is a service station at the end of the M50, though technically on the A449 it is signed from the motorway. It now only consists of a petrol station, though it used to have a main services building operated by Welcome Break.