The A38(M) Aston Expressway is a motorway like no other. Not only does this road have the honour of starting at the magnificent Spaghetti Junction, it is also probably the most bizarre motorway in the UK. It has seven undivided lanes that are controlled by overhead signal gantries. Most of the time there are three lanes each way, but at peak hours the balance is tipped 4-2, always using one empty lane as a buffer.
Apparently there has never been a fatal head-on accident on this road (ie, no fatality has been caused by the lack of a central reservation), which is a tribute to the responsibility of those who use it. Nonetheless, motorcycles are now banned from the central lane because it contains a narrow drainage channel, and prior to the ban a fatality resulted from the covers of this channel working loose.
Motorways are crossed, over and under, by all manner of things — roads, railways, footbridges, water and gas mains, electricity lines and so on. But the A38(M) has a claim to fame that is probably unique in this country, if not the world. Where the road is in a deep cutting, the motorway used to bisect a factory compound owned by HP, the condiment company of brown table sauce fame. The result of this was that, connecting the two sides of the production line and passing over seven lanes of the Aston Expressway, was a vinegar pipeline. Sadly production has now moved overseas, and the pipeline is no more.
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Views of the A38(M) from on and off the road. If you have a photo to contribute, contact me.
Leaving Birmingham, the A38(M) begins life in this underpass as a good old fashioned urban motorway, in a dingy concrete trench with some steep slopes along the way.
Photo by Steven Jukes
But further out is where things start to look special. Here the traffic from the midway junction is merging in, and above us is one of the many signal gantries.
Photo by Steven Jukes
When the various parts of the A38(M) were built, listed in chronological order.
All the junctions and destinations along the route.
NB: The number of lanes available to traffic can vary from two to four. The notes above explain how this system works.
With thanks to Matt Pryce, Ben Norwood, David Morgan and Chris McKenna for information in this section.