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10 Facts about Spaghetti Junction: Happy 40th Birthday!Back

We take the road network for granted. While we are prepared to coo over Hadrian’s wall or the Great Pyramids it’s easy to overlook that in the last century, we have built thousands of miles of paved roads which provide billions of miles of travel for millions of people.

While most roads are (forgive the pun) pedestrian in design, one junction stands alone in the popular imagination as a testament to the ingenuity and skill of Britain’s roadbuilders – the A38/M6 Junction at Gravelly Hill, Birmingham or as you may know it: “Spaghetti Junction”.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of its opening, we present some incredible facts about this unappreciated wonder of engineering.

  1. Across 5 different levels, the junctions boasts 559 concrete columns – the tallest of which is fully 80ft in height.
  2. To accommodate 2 existing railway lines, two rivers three canals the engineers had to elevate an astonishing 13 and a half miles of motorway and A-road into the sky.
  3. There are 2.5 miles of sliproads alone
  4. The junction covers an area equivalent to 30 football pitches.
  5. Commissioned in 1968, the junction was expected to cost £8 million and take 3 years to build. In what should shame today’s planners, the road was opened on budget and a mere 2 months behind schedule following late testing on the box girder construction.
  6. The name “Spaghetti Junction” was coined by local journalist Roy Smith and so popular did it prove that it was taken up around the world. Today Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA all boast their own ‘spaghetti junctions’. As far as we’re concerned however, there can be only one.
  7. An estimated 210,000 cars use the junction every single day. When it was opened, the traffic was a ‘mere’ 40,000 a day.
  8. Over its history, it is reckoned that over 2 billion cars have driven through the junction.
  9. Not everyone loves the junction: the Highways Traffic Agency attend 20 incidents per week at the junction, and historian Vivan Bird described it as an act of ‘plandalism’ in a damning critique of the junction’s effect on the local environment in the 1970s.
  10. It is expected that the junction will last a further 80 years before it will need to be replaced (at which point we’ll be using hovercars anyway).

So while you’re driving around today, spare a thought for the engineers who made achievements like this possible. Happy birthday Spaghetti Junction!

Posted by Paul Carpenter on 24/05/2012