Where is it?
M1 junction 13, unlucky for some. The southern of two M1 junctions for Milton Keynes and Bedford.
It was nominated by Chris Williams and Paul Robson, among countless others.
What's wrong with it?
In simple terms, the main junction providing access between Milton Keynes and Bedford (collective population of around 200,000) and London and the south east looks like this. It's a diamond interchange that's had a small roundabout glued on one side. It's so ridiculously inappropriate for the amount of traffic using it that visitors to Milton Keynes must find themselves looking further up the M1 in disbelief, thinking this must be a local exit serving a few villages or something. I'm at a loss to come up with words to describe this; it's just truly absurd.
Why is it wrong?
To be fair, the reason for this junction's sorry state is because the chain of events leading to today's situation is in an unusual order. Milton Keynes is a new town, housing around 270,000 people, which was only built in the late 1960s. This junction and the M1 itself, however, have been here since 1959. The motorway's planners couldn't have envisaged anything much turning off here — let alone 230,000 people using it whenever they headed south — particularly when even Bedford traffic was expected to use the A6 and junction 12 further south.
What none of this answers satisfactorily is why neither the designers of Milton Keynes, with its countless miles of dual carriageway, nor any politician since, has done anything at all to improve access between the new town and the M1. It is this fact that makes the whole thing so utterly shambolic.
What would be better?
How about a dualled A421 leading to free-flow links with the southbound M1? The good news is that the Highways Agency now (at last) have plans to do something, though it's taken the possibility of a new dual carriageway from the Bedford Bypass to here to make them think about it. What's planned? Two more roundabouts and a new flyover to the north to bypass the junction for through traffic. Genius.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go cry into a pillow.
Right to reply
The main junction for MK is M1 J14, not J13, though I suspect a lot of people turn off here for destinations in the south of the town.
That aside, the junction is of course a relic from the original M1, but does need to be remodelled as a standard roundabout interchange to improve flow.
Defence? There is none! Guilty as charged - but it gets worse! In order to exit Milton Keynes to the south, the dualled A421 already squeezes into a single carriageway to M1 J13 causing semi-permanent tailbacks. Now, not only is our govt planning to widen the M1 to eight lanes from the M25 to this creaking junction, it also plans to complete the A507 A1/M1 Link by terminating the Ridgmont Bypass at this very same junction - as well as the Dual-Carriageway A421 A1/M1 Link as well! Whereas it is screamingly obvious that it needs to look to Junction 6 on the M20 with it's parallel running lanes for inspiration for the future layout of M1 J13, what is planned? Nothing more than throwing a couple of roundabouts at it! Oh, nearly forgot, it popped Amazon.com's gigantic distribution warehouse on a new business park - guess where? Move over and make room on that pillow!
There are no redeeming features about this junction. It is always congested, particularly on the A421 from Milton Keynes.
The worst thing about this junction is that it was improved about 5 years ago, with no thought about putting some simple measures like traffic lights controlling the roundabout so that traffic does not tail back on the roundabout causing more congestion.
The simple solution would be create a J13A and to dual the A421 between the new junction and Milton Keynes. Thus bypassing this bad junction.
Most of the problem stems from the fact that from the MK end of the A421 it is the resposibility of Buckinghamshire, and about halfway along this section it becomes the responsibilty of Bedfordshire. The terrible state of repair on the Beds section is an example of the lack of joined up thinking. Milton Keynes is a success story and will not go away - so it's time for local authorities, government and the county authorities to stop blaming each other and do something. Meanwhile Northampton, whose population is smaller, is served by three junctions, all with dual carriageway access. Why, because there is only one county authority and one town authority working together. We need joined up thinking on this problem. With growth planned in both Bedford and MK it will only get worse. The new A421 Bedford plan (much as it is needed) without other changes will just make the problem worse.
I live in Bedford and this junction is a nightmare at busy times for those who are expecting a 'normal' motorway junction layout.
As if to admit as much, where the A421 northbound runs parallel with the M1 there is a simple sign saying 'M1' with an arrow pointing ahead, but there are no turnings on or off the A421 between J13 and the next roundabout in Milton Keynes.
So they only purpose this sign can serve is to help people who have managed to miss the M1 at the M1 junction they have just come from. What an admission of guilt!
If I remember correctly, the problem regarding the roundabout and the A421 connecting road is one of two counties. Milton Keynes Development Corporation was prepared to pay for dualling the road up to the county boundary, but Bedfordshire was not prepared to pay for their section. This increased the load on the parallel A421 and the roundabout and M1 junction. Bedfordshire as usual could not plan for the future and still cannot.
I live in Milton Keynes close to the centre. I refuse to use the A421 to access M1 southbound at J13 as the whole junction is a shambles! Pity really as the MK grid road system itself is a pleasure to drive on, no jams or hold ups.
How the area copes with MK Bowl events with 70,000+ attendances is a mystery to me!
I always use J14 when I am going south on the M1 to Luton.
Possibly the worst junction I have come across, always a problem, always a bottleneck. Yes, we know Milton Keynes' main junction is 14, but that is not big enough to cope with the traffic either.
The A421 has become a link between the A1 and A43 (M40) and the problem stems from the fact that it's a heavily used route for lorries.
Pleased to hear plans for the dualing from the A6 to the M1, rebuild Junction 13, make it free flowing, and hopefully we won't have to wait much longer for it!
J13 was fine in the 1960s when it was in the middle of nowhere, Milton Keynes didn't exist and the Amazon warehouse was a brickworks! Incidentally the brickworks smelled of burning rubber, and there were always vehicles parked on the hard shoulder of the M1, wondering what was burning.
The A421 has never been dualled between Milton Keynes and J13, ironically because of another duel - between Bedfordshire County Council and MK. The southern section of the A421 north of J13 is in Bedfordshire and BCC never wanted to dual the A421 to the Bedfordshire boundary (about a mile north of J13) because of the fear that it would divert potential customers to MK rather than to Bedford. A cunning plan is hatched! Why not feed the dualled A507 straight onto a new roundabout depositing cars onto the A421 to Milton Keynes and leave a tantalizing two-lane road still to MK even if MK dualled to its boundary line! This will do wonders for the blood pressure of MK citizens trying to access J13. The joys of joined-up, customer-focussed thinking!
Part of the reason for the shambles is that H8, Standing Way was not meant to be the southern exit to the M1 in the original plan for Milton Keynes.
Bletcham Way, H10 however was. The residents of Wavendon were not happy about this and protested to the Planning Inspectorate. This was duly upheld and so H8 became the southern access to the M1 for MK. It's a bodge in amongst one of the best planned cities in the UK.
What was worse, was the MOT also threatened to close J14 to MK due to the pressure they felt it would add to the M1. Early MKDC plans show J14 having proper exit/entry loops on to H5 (Portway) rather than the roundabout.
I had the luck to go through this junction, and I thought to myself: How on earth this can be one of the two junctions for Milton Keynes? It's no fun going to M1 south from MK, especially when you are sitting on the roundabout while traffic is held up by traffic lights on the other side. It would be best to rip up the whole thing and try again - even a cloverleaf would be better than this, but it's not going to happen.
Oh dear god, the A421 is a nightmare east of MK. With this at one end and Black Cat at the other...all seems lost. There is hope, however, and let's pray the Highways Agency are listening on this one.
It's called...the A422. It's dualled through Milton Keynes, is rarely busy, and runs through a grand total of one village (Chicheley) between MK and the A428. Add a Junction 14A here, and problems with the Ridgemont Interchange *should* lessen.
The A421 from J13 to MK runs parallel with the M1 for a mile or two before diverging and heading off into MK. A quick win solution would be to build another interchange at the point of divergence thereby taking the MK traffic away from J13.
The Highways Agency are building a brand-new accident black spot at this terrible maze of a junction where the M1 and the new 4-lane A421 attempt to meet. When complete, traffic from Bedford leaving the new A421 at the exit slip to go south on to the M1 (via a new Magic Roundabout which joins the s/b M1 exit and entry slips) has to leave a 4-lane dual-carriageway and then give way to traffic on the unclassified road to Salford village!!! Motorists approaching from Salford, be warned; theyâ€™ll over-shoot!
Far worse however is the access on to the so-called M1-A1 link aka A507. The only way to get on to this long-awaited route is via a single right-hand filter lane controlled by traffic lights that are so soon after the new Magic Roundabout that awaiting traffic tails right across it. Try turning left here from Salford or M1 s/b in Lane One and, too late, you find that you have to veer across at almost right-angles to the end of the stationary queue in the right-hand filter lane. In the rush-hour, the queue in this filter lane blocks the whole Magic Roundabout. In light traffic however, fast traffic from M1 n/b and from A421 e/b from Milton Keynes has to swerve either side of you. Youâ€™re a sitting duck.
After a number of complaints to the HA & local MP, the traffic lights on the Ridgemont A507 turn have been reprogrammed to make the right turn much easier. I understand the queues back on to the new roundabout that occurred when the construction of the new A421 was ongoing and after the new road opened are much improved.
It is worth pointing out that the majority of the traffic using this junction is actually going between Bedford and Milton Keynes (according to the HA traffic figures I saw) and this traffic now misses the motorway junction completely.
January 10 - yippee! Apart from a bit of remedial work on the northbound exit slip from the M1, looking good! Access to Ridgemont bypass improved and MK-Bedford traffic nicely segregated from J13.
January 11 - spoke too soon. They have now closed the old J13 bridge to eastbound traffic. There is a lovely diversion - although technically this should be renamed as a scenic route as it sends you several miles down the new A421 towards Bedford, round the Morston Moretaine roundabout and back to the Salford road. I fear some drivers are actually stuck for the rest of eternity on this diversion, as they miss the original signs up the A421, wander round the roundabout at the old J13, go up and down the A421, miss the Salford turn off, and start all over again.