A1 - A421
Where is it?
On the Bedfordshire section of A1, notorious as an ancient section of A1 full of roundabouts and right-turns, where the A421 trunk route from Bedford joins in.
What's wrong with it?
This whole section of A1 is at best unacceptable, and at worst downright dangerous. The Black Cat Roundabout is certainly a contender for the most dangerous junction on it. Considering this stretch of all-purpose A1 is between two sections of A1(M), the place where it meets another trunk route (and one which is a grade separated dual carriageway just a few miles further on) is not the place for a cramped roundabout. The Black Cat is a regular on traffic reports for overturned lorries and general congestion as the sheer volume of traffic finds it hard to get through.
Why is it wrong?
This section of the A1 was upgraded quite a while before the sections around it - it was dualled when the rest of the road was still single carriageway, by slapping another two lane carriageway next to the existing one. Back in the 1950s it must have been a dream, but now, stuck between two sections of fast A1(M), it's abysmal and traffic using it isn't used to travel on such a low-grade overused road. This junction simply hasn't been updated and is long overdue for an overhaul.
What would be better?
The A421 upgrade works could have included a new junction. It wouldn't be achieving the impossible to build a new roundabout with the A1 flying over the top - basic and very much a plain-vanilla option but it would be perfectly adequate here. Sadly all that happened was that the existing roundabout was made larger. Alternatively, since there's no other roads involved, how about a free-flowing trumpet, costing not much more in land, less in overbridges, and returning more in capacity?
Right to reply
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These are the most recent comments on this junction. You can see all comments if you prefer.
Wojciech finds some future plans:
There has been a study to upgrade A428 between Black Cat roundabout and Caxton Gibbet.
If such thing ever gone into action, I guess it should include some improvements to Black Cat roundabout. An overpass for A1 traffic should really be considered there...
Tony has bad news:
We all agree that this roundabout is a dangerous blackspot. Did you know that Bedford Borough Council is about to abstract gravel? That means 200-500 slow moving trucks per day coming off those fields onto the roundabout starting March 2012.
Bain M stays away:
I would agree with all comments that this junction is a nightmare. I work out of St. Neots, and I actually avoid this roundabout by heading south through the villages before joining the A1 at Sandy.
I think the main problem with this junction is the marina just to the south. There's some nasty turns in the dual carriageway there, and any improvement to this junction in terms of a flyover would be hampered by its close proximity. A solution would be to shift the whole lot east a bit into the fields, and then give the A1 a flyover above the junction, also adding in a decent "straight" river crossing.
Glenn Aylett isn't happy:
I used to think the old A74 Cumberland Gap was bad until I saw this. How on earth this dangerous throwback persists as the congestion is atrocious and anyone who lives in Great Barford must be taking their lives in their hands trying to get onto the A1 or the A421. More proof that the government should have pressed ahead with making the A1 into a motorway all the way to Newcastle. However, instead we got piecemeal improvements, which while welcome, left out such sixties relics as the Black Cat Roundabout, which should have been replaced 20 years ago.
Michael F has a cautionary tale:
This junction nearly killed me in June 1969, when I wrote-off my 6 week old Triumph Vitesse. Approaching from Bedford at night, the road markings were entirely wrong, and there was a sharp bend just before the roundabout in those days, which took me by surprise because of these markings, the lack of any chevrons or signs indicating a bend, and no hedge or buildings for my headlights to reflect onto.
The bend forced air out of my rear tyre, I lost control, and ended upside down the far side of the roundabout, after demolishing one keep left bollard, a lamp post, and resting against another.
I still have one hub cap that came off the car, and only the boot lid was undamaged.
Luckily, there were no seat belts, I fell across the front footwells, and the hinged seats came forward and protected me. The roof was sat on the top of the dashboard and parcel shelf, all the pillars had collapsed, and all windows were out.
I was a stranger to the area, and did not know the road, and relied on the signs and markings to guide me, especially at night. These were all changed after my accident, but it made no difference to me being prosecuted for 'due care and attention'!