This is the only American-style loop motorway we have, diving into a city centre and connecting to the same through route at each end. It wasn't always this way. When it was first built, it was the South West Urban Motorway, connecting the M62 at Gildersome to Leeds city centre, where terminated at what is now junction 3. The M1 entered Leeds as the South East Urban Motorway and terminated at the same junction. There, both routes collided, dumping all their traffic — five lanes of it — onto what was basically a big roundabout. The M1 did so by narrowing from three lanes to one (the way forward blocked by a row of permanent cones) and then travelling around a very tight one-lane loop.
The original plan had been for the motorways to merge (forming the North East Urban Motorway), which would cross the river, pass east of the city centre and join the Inner Ring Road at Quarry Hill. This never happened.
In 1999, the M1 was diverted onto a new course away to the east of Leeds to terminate on the A1(M). Some new connections were built at junction 3 in the middle of Leeds, connecting up the South East and South West Urban Motorways, and some renumbering work was done. The M621 now enters from the M62 as it always has done, swerves sharply to avoid the city centre, and heads out again to the south on what was once the M1.
For reasons best known to themselves, the engineers responsible for the M1 extension project gave priority at the M1/M621 junction to this little spur. Exit the M62 at Gildersome and carry straight on, and you'll end up on London's North Circular.
|Finish||Belle Isle (M1)|
Views of the M621 from on and off the road. If you have a photo to contribute, contact me.
Approaching Leeds from the south-west on the M621, the motorway heads downhill and a panorama of the city centre opens out before us.
Photo by Steven Jukes
At junction 3, two lanes continue through the junction, but most of the traffic turns off here for the city centre. Already the southbound M1 destinations are ahead of us.
Photo by Steven Jukes
When the various parts of the M621 were built, listed in chronological order.
|Dec||1972||J3-7||South East Urban Motorway||Opened as M1|
|Nov||1973||J0-1||Gildersome → Beeston|
|1975||J1-3||South West Urban Motorway|
All the junctions and destinations along the route.
NB: For the purposes of this exit list, the M621 is assumed to run east-west. In reality its termini face west and south respectively.