M42 - A446 - A4097
Where is it?
M42 junction 9, the place where a busy radial motorway from Birmingham meets the busy A446 and the busy A4097. It's a busy motorway junction.
What's wrong with it?
It's a basic, bog-standard roundabout interchange. The trouble is that several years ago, traffic levels here hit the roof, and the solution to this was to expand the roundabout itself to having four lanes all the way around (by comparison, the M42 underneath is only two). Four lanes is too many for a roundabout, and most people have little idea what's going on.
Why is it wrong?
The upgrade was a bad idea in the first place, and the execution lets it down too. The advance signing for the junction when exiting the M42 is somewhere between laughable and frightening.
For a long time the signs around the roundabout used abbreviations for brevity, so first came a legend: for Kingsbury follow "Kby", for Coventry follow "Cov", for Tamworth follow "Tam" and so on. This flies past before you have a chance to absorb it. There were then lane designation signs for the four sliproad lanes, some distance after those lanes had opened out. All of them used the three-letter abbreviations, and it was impossible not to have committed yourself to a lane by the time you reach them.
Those abbreviations have now gone, replaced with even bigger signs that spell everything out in full. That's an improvement but it's still a case of sign overload. The result of all this is that the roundabout today is a chaotic frenzy of lane changing and near misses.
There is the added excitement of traffic islands in the middle of the road as you travel around the roundabout, each with an additional traffic light on it. They're unusual, unexpected and quite unnerving. Not to mention completely unnecessary.
What would be better?
The construction of the nearby M6 Toll should remove some traffic from the A446, which might make it a bit more bearable. A better solution would be to remove the A4097 from the equation, having it cross the M42 separately and have another junction elsewhere with the A446.
Right to reply
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These are the most recent comments on this junction. You can see all comments if you prefer.
Jonathan Heeley is a fan:
What are you all whining about.I think this is a brilliant junctions. I have been travelling to the West Midlands for a few years now and regularly used this junctions to leave the M42 southbound and head to Sutton Coldfield and never had any problems. On approach pick the right lane and keep to it and the markings spit you off at the correct exit. BRILLIANT. No looking over your shoulder hoping the HGV moves over etc.
I am now a driving instructor and regularly take pupils over this from all directions and they can manage it even when they are only told to follow the signs to which ever destination I pick.
My only gripe would be the lights. It doesn't matter how hard you try, you can't get round in one go. You always get stopped somewhere while going round. Stephen Hawking must have worked out the timings...
Matthew looks upon it as a Darwinian experiment:
It's the traffic island of natural selection. It favours the strong and roots out the weak! Great island (if you know where you're going).
I think it's got lots of character.
Graham Johnson is a bit confused:
I have been unfortunate to live to the north of this junction and travel over it, around it, through it, on a daily basis. Yes, the signage is appaling to the uninitiated, and I am really surprised than shunts and bumps are not more frequent. I have only been hit once in six years of using it - not bad eh?
The junction is at its worst of a weekday winter's morning when the junction is always gridlocked and traffic backs up in all directions. Being a morning Radio FiveLive junkie, I am always amused when the airwaves inform me that "the lights are out on J9 of the M42, approach with care!". Without exception though, the failure of the lights means that the traffic will be flowing freely around the junction and there will be no delays at all. Can this be right?
Estelle Haviland has spent a lot of quality time here:
I live in Tamworth and work in Birmingham. Yeh... Dunton Island is appalling - you remember that night in about 2001 - a Thursday night, when we all sat in traffic at Dunton Island for 4 hours? Left work at 5pm, home at 10pm.
Martin Brown quite likes it:
Although it's signalised - I'd say it's no worse than others on the network - indeed isn't 5 lanes on the highway a blessing rather than a hindrance? Plus if you stick to the same lane all the way round you can't go wrong. Indeed it should be praised - it's the only place in the UK I've seen dark blue lane markings! Loads of 'em!
Really it should have been made a "magic roundabout" when the Toll was built, but even now I'd say it's an average rather than bad junction.