A1 - A421

You are here: Home » Bad Junctions » A1-A421

Where is it?

Junction diagramOn 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

Hate this junction? Or do you think it hasn't had a fair trial? Make yourself heard! Post a comment.

These are the most recent comments on this junction. You can see all comments if you prefer.

October 2015

L Saunders is stuck:

So months of misery, congestion and frustration and the not inconsiderable sum of £6million, has resulted in huge queues and more misery.

I was actually stuck on the slip-road at Eaton Socon last week, so bad was the congestion.

Everyone involved in this farce should hang their heads in shame!

May 2015

Grahame is stuck at the lights:

I regularly use this part of the A1 at weekends, when the roundabout has always had reasonably light traffic compared to weekday rush hour. Last night, Sunday, was our first hold up - in over 20 years - at this time! Traffic lights? Appalling decision. God knows what it is like at peak times. Cheap wins - again. There's no logic to HA policy. North of Peterborough there has been a systematic policy of removing roundabouts, with dramatic effect on journey times. Further south, chaos and misery with a wider roundabout and longer queues. You couldn't make it up.

April 2015

Nick is seeing red:

It seems fashionable at the moment to favour traffic lights over free-flow roundabouts, even though they consistently make peak queues worse. Not a great surprise then that the Black Cat roundabout has gone from 100yd queues to 3 mile queues since they switched on the lights. Well done all - £6m well spent, I say...

April 2015

Mal J has a message for the engineers:

Well done planners, you have now had three opportunities to do something about this junction and have always gone for the cheap option. Now we have got the ludicrous situation of a major East-West route meeting a major North-South route controlled by traffic lights. Who was the genius who dreamt this up? In a few years time when the traffic has finally ground to a halt for ever, what are you going to do next, make the roundabout even bigger. When it's the size of the M25 maybe the traffic may start moving again. You just couldn't make it up.

January 2015

Steve has an update:

Current works to this roundabout (Dec 14) include adding full time traffic lights and installing extra lanes. The Highways Agency told me "in peak hours we expect any congestion to be almost cleared in one full cycle of lights". A brave statement indeed, when you consider the rush hour tailbacks currently reach over 2 miles. I'll not be holding my breath then...