Where is it?
M1 junction 42 and M62 junction 29, the crossing point of two of the country's busiest motorways. It's not just traffic moving about locally either — the junction handles lots of traffic going between such distant points as Newcastle, Manchester and Sheffield, in surprising numbers, plus daily commuter traffic to and from Leeds.
What's wrong with it?
It's a bottleneck, forcing all the traffic from all directions that isn't going straight on to mingle on the roundabout. Or at least it used to, and it was bad enough many years ago when that was the case. Since then there have been several attempts to fix it.
Thanks to several years of work in the late 1990s, traffic between the M1 to the north and M62 to the west is carried past the roundabout, with southbound traffic running through a particularly impressive sliproad tunneled under the original junction. The remaining three left-turns can flow non-stop without having to give way, making them effectively free-flowing, though it's been achieved by little more than painting lines on the existing roundabout.
These changes help, but they're not enough. The result is a junction where the roundabout now only actually serves three right-turn movements - relieved of five of the eight turning movements it was originally handling - and the junction is still notorious for congestion, with queues regularly spilling back onto the M1 and M62. The roundabout - and this goes without saying, doesn't it - has peak-time traffic lights in an attempt to ration the available roadspace.
Why is it wrong?
Presumably the traffic surveys carried out for West Yorkshire's motorway programme were wrong. In part, that's understandable. This part of the M1 was opened to traffic in 1966, and this junction was built as part of the contract, a roundabout and some little stubs of motorway pointing east and west awaiting the M62. That means the junction was designed, and its low-capacity layout decided, in about 1964. At that time there were ideas that there might be a motorway near Dewsbury that would provide a shortcut between the west and south, removing that traffic from this junction, and the route of the M62 itself was still subject to some scratching of heads.
When the M62 finally arrived in the 1970s, traffic levels were far higher and predicted to rise further, but it was too late to redesign the junction because it already existed, a concrete manifestation of early 60s innocence. By the early 1990s, everything just stopped on most weekday mornings when the rush hour hit.
The free-flowing links that already exist are a big help for the direction they serve, but the new biggest problem is the right turn from the M62 westbound to the M1 northbound - a major commuter flow heading for Leeds in the morning rush hour.
What would be better?
A full free-flowing junction would be nice, and isn't a total impossibility - in fact Highways England plan to do something drastic here in the 2020s, and haven't ruled out replacing the junction wholesale with something completely different, though they haven't actually decided what they want to do just yet.
If a full rebuild is off the cards, another free-flowing right turn would be the obvious next best thing. The heaviest flow to still use the roundabout is westbound to northbound, so that would seem to be the obvious candidate.
Right to reply
I regularly use the Yorkshire link [new M1 section] to and from Manchester area. Off peak it is brilliant, you hardly need to change down and rarely need to brake.
The tunnel section M1(S) to M62(W) is fine but needs speed control lights in or after the tunnel. The the 50mph section under the M1 changes to 'National Speed Limit' giving one just enough time to accelerate to 70mph to join the westbound M62 crawling along at 15mph. Doh!
I'm the proud owner of The National Trust Book of Bridges which lists this interchange in its gazetteer of UK bridges.
Built in 1966 by S. M. Lovell, the intersection features an "800-foot diameter roundabout carried on four bridges over the two motorways... supported on curved prestressed concrete piers with inclined precast props of crucifom section". So there you go, I always wanted to know that too. It also has a nice little photo, with a deserted M1, a westbound M62 still under construction and ending at this junction, with no eastbound motorway at all (presumably taken shortly after the M1 opening).
There's an important point about the design genius that is the Lofthouse Interchange - although there's a free-flowing link from M1/M621 southbound to M62 westbound, there's only a half-hearted attempt to do the opposite. Northbound M1 traffic from the M62 eastbound has to share the start of the slip-road with the Wakefield/Sheffield/London traffic bound for the roundabout. So at peak times the quickest way north is to forsake this junction by overtaking the long queue of turning traffic and proceed to J30 and use the A642 - and onto the very road that the A1/M1 link was built to by-pass!
They have made the M62 through the junction two lanes each way now with the old inside lane being used a long slip road off the motorway and nice flowing slip back onto the M62 from the roundabout. Still insanely busy though!
The criticism of the designers of this junction is unfair. It was designed around 60 years ago for half, or less, traffic than now uses it. The designers also assumed that the major turning move M62E to M1S (& v/v) would be reduced by another motorway between M1 J39 & M62 J25. The junction is too close to M1J41 so the compact design used mitigates that. The B6135 runs just to the north of the M62 and the same level as it, and a railway line ran to the east of the M1 & at the same level as it (the designers of the junction, and everyone else, never foresaw the closure of the line & the pits it served); the constraints these features put on possible sliproad alignments, both horizontally and vertically, were severe. Finally, it's not in the middle of nowhere, eg the township of Lofthouse straggles along the A61 just east of the M1 & the main railway line between West Yorkshire and London, Birmingham etc is just to the south.
Yes, I think adding new free-flow slips between the western M62 and the southbound M1 would be the obvious next step. If this was done, the west-facing slips from the roundabout, along with the eastern side of the roundabout itself, could be removed, reducing the original junction to something resembling M4-M32. Close enough to a full free-flow junction for me...
It's quite likely that this junction was never intended to take the M62 at all. In the early stages of planning, the original route of the M62 through Yorkshire ran further south and it terminated on the M1 near Barnsley; traffic bound for points further east would then have had to travel north on the M1 and use this junction to get onto the eastern section of the cross-country route, which was given the number M19 and only ran as far as the A1.
At some point the M62 was re-routed onto its present course past Leeds and Bradford, met the M1 at Lofthouse and ate up the now redundant M19. By that time, the relevant section of the M1 had already been constructed and it was too late to alter the layout of the junction.
The M62 is up for improvements in RIS2 with a free flow junction option, and the 12 options are being whittled down to four to give some serious civil engineering. This junction's time on the Bad Junction List could be limited if everything goes well.