M42 and A42

The M42 is a road of two parts. Its southern section forms part of the box of motorways around Birmingham, traversing the southern and eastern sides of the city and linking the M5 and M6; it then strikes off to the north-east, towards Nottingham and the East Midlands. The A42 is a direct continuation of the motorway route that carries traffic through to the M1.

Its purpose is to connect the East and West Midlands together, and to provide a route for traffic going longer distances between the north east and south west of England. In that role it replaces the A38, which was the previous route and which dumped all through traffic into the heart of Birmingham.

The route was completed in the late 1980s, with the A42 built last and at a slightly lower standard than the rest. It's often asked why the M42 didn't go all the way to Nottingham - as planned in the 1970s - and how it is that the number A42 was free to be allocated to its extension and not used elsewhere.

The original A42 was the main road from Oxford to Birmingham, which was swallowed up in the early 1930s by the extension of the A34 from Oxford to Birmingham and then Manchester. The A42 number became vacant and floated around for a long time without a home.

In the 1970s, a short section of motorway was built as a spur south from the M6 to the east of Birmingham, mainly to serve the NEC, and it was called M42. The choice of number may have been arbitrary, as "M42" was the next unallocated number beginning with a four, but the absence of an A42 may have influenced the choice as the new motorway wouldn't correspond to the route of any existing A-road. The motorway was progressively extended until it reached its current length.

Once the motorway reached the A444 at Measham, there were just fifteen miles between the end of the motorway and its destination, the M1 at Nottingham. But the appetite for motorway-building was waning as the 1980s wore on, and so the M42 ends here. A dual carriageway takes its place for the final fifteen miles, and they called it the A42.

Some engineers who worked on the A42 scheme describe instructions from senior civil servants that the overbridges should be built deliberately wide enough only for the roadway, with no space for hard shoulders to be added. The intention was to avoid bad publicity by ensuring the new road was categorically not a motorway.

Since then, an investigation into the route, submitted to the government in summer 2003, strongly recommended an upgrade of the A42 and M42 to provide a dual three-lane motorway all the way from Birmingham to the M1. but don't hold your breath for the roadworks to start: there's been no movement in the years that have passed since then.

In the early 2000s, the section to the east of Birmingham was the test bed for a new scheme to use technology to maximise the use of existing road space. It was called Active Traffic Management back then, but these days it's a common sight and it's known as Smart Motorways. It was also one of the first places you could see Driver Location Signs, which have since been introduced on motorways across England. You can be sure that if there's anything new on the motorway network, the M42 will have it first.

Start
Bromsgrove
End
Kegworth
Passes
Redditch, Solihull, Birmingham, Tamworth
Connects to
Length
70 miles
Open Junctions Section
Nov 1976 J4-8 Solihull section
Sep 1985 J3-4 Umberslade section
Dec 1985 J8-10 Tamworth (Water Orton and Kingsbury) Section
Jun 1986 J1-3 Lickey End → Alvechurch
Aug 1986 J10-11 Tamworth (Polesworth) section
Mar 1987 J0-1 South facing sliproads
Dec 1989 J0-1 North facing sliproads

Exit list

Junction   Northbound               Southbound  
M1 J23A
87 km
The NORTH
Nottingham
M1 Link
Kegworth
East Midlands Airport
A453





M1
A453
NORTH




M1
N/A
LanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanes
3 miles, 2 lanes  
14
82 km
Castle Donington
A453
A453
LanesLanesLanesLanes
5 miles, 2 lanes 8 miles, 2 lanes
13
74 km
Ashby de la Zouch
Coalville
A511
Loughborough
A512
A511 A512

A511
Ashby de la Zouch
Burton-upon-Trent
Coalville
A511
LanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanes
2.5 miles, 2 lanes 2.5 miles, 2 lanes
12
70 km
Measham
B4116
B4116 Measham
B4116
LanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanes
3.5 miles, 2 lanes 3.5 miles, 2 lanes
11
64 km
M42 becomes A42
Burton-upon-Trent
A444
A444

B5493


A444


A42 becomes M42
Coventry
Burton-upon-Trent
A444
LanesLanesLanesLanes Signs LanesLanesLanesLanes Signs
7 miles, 2 lanes 7 miles, 2 lanes
10
52.5 km
Tamworth
Nuneaton
A5
Services Tamworth
A5 A5 Tamworth
Nuneaton
A5
Services Tamworth
LanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanes
6 miles, 2 lanes 6 miles, 2 lanes
9
43 km
Sutton Coldfield
A4097
Lichfield
A446

A446

A4097
(M6 Toll)

A4097

A446
(M6)
(M1)
Coventry (N & E)
(M6 Link, M1 Link)
A446
Brownhills
(M6 Toll Link)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs
0.1 miles, 3 lanes 0.1 miles, 3 lanes
8A
42.3 km
The NORTH WEST
Lichfield
M6 Toll Link

M6 Toll
Birmingham
(E N W & Cen)
M6 Link
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs Signs
1 mile, 5 lanes 1 mile, 3+3 lanes
8
39.7 km
(M6)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs
1 mile, 4 lanes 1 mile, 4 lanes
7B
37.5 km
M6 Toll
(M6)


London
Coventry
M6 Toll Link
(M6 Link)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs
1 mile, 3 lanes  
7/7A
36 km
The NORTH WEST
Birmingham
(E N & Cen)
M6 Link
London
Coventry
M6 Link (M1 Link)
M6 A446

M6

A446
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs
1 mile, 3 lanes + HSR 2 miles, 3 lanes + HSR
6
32.5 km
Birmingham (SE)
NEC & Airport
Coventry (S & W)
A45
A45 A45 Birmingham (SE)
NEC & Airport
Coventry (S & W)
A45
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs
4 miles, 3 lanes + HSR 4 miles, 3 lanes + HSR
5
26.9 km
Solihull
A41
A41 A4141 Solihull
A41
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs
2 miles, 3 lanes + HSR 2 miles, 3 lanes + HSR
4
23 km
Shirley
A34
A34 A3400 Shirley
A34
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs
2 miles, 3 lanes + HSR 2 miles, 3 lanes + HSR
3A
18.5 km
London
Warwick
Stratford
M40 Link
M40 London
Warwick
Stratford
M40 Link
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs
3 miles, 3 lanes 3 miles, 3 lanes
3
14 km
Birmingham (S)
Redditch
Evesham
A435
A435 A435 Birmingham (S)
Redditch
Evesham
A435
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
3 miles, 3 lanes 3 miles, 3 lanes
2
9 km
Birmingham (S)
A441
Services Hopwood Park
A441 A441 Birmingham (S)
A441
Services Hopwood Park
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
5 miles, 3 lanes 4 miles, 3 lanes
1
2.5 km
B4096

A38
B4096

A38
Bromsgrove
A38
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
  1 mile, 3 lanes
M5 J4A
1.3 km
N/A M5






SOUTH
M5





The SOUTH WEST
Worcester
M5 Link
The NORTH WEST
Birmingham
(W, N & Cen)
Stourbridge
M5 Link
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
Routes

Picture credits

With thanks to Chris Bertram, Sam Chew, Iain Dobson, Richard of Appleby Magna, Peter Binnersley, Tom, Nathaniel Porter and David Hicklin for information on this page.