Where is it?
M6 Toll junction T3, or otherwise halfway along the formerly excellent A38 Sutton Coldfield Bypass.
It was spotted by Chris Bertram.
What's wrong with it?
It's just a bit of an embarassment, really. A few sliproads connect the toll motorway to the A38 — both very important, high-capacity roads, so at first sight it's very reasonable that an interchange is provided where they cross.
The trouble is that there isn't much traffic that moves around here: the M6 Toll is lightly trafficked at the best of times, and very few of its precious vehicles are going part-way along to reach the A38.
That would be fine if it wasn't for the exit sliproads from the M6 Toll, which need to turn right onto the A38 and do so using signal-controlled roundabouts. There's rarely anything coming down the sliproad, but A38 traffic must stop all the same — day or night, busy or quiet — even on sections of the roundabout that could only conceivably be used for a u-turn. Both these infuriating distractions are placed on what used to be a free-flowing dual carriageway.
Why is it wrong?
A few years ago, while there was still a lot of road construction happening in the area, the A38 was on holiday in the Algarve (escaping the dust and noise and disturbance for a few weeks, you understand) when it bumped into the M6 Toll in a bar. They struck up a conversation and had a very nice night at a little tapas bar overlooking the beach.
"Hey," said the A38, a little the worse for wear thanks to a jug and a half of sangria, "we should meet up when we get back home. Pop over to Langley Mill some time and we'll catch up."
When you say these things on holiday, of course, you don't actually mean them. You're just being polite. So imagine the horror of the A38 when the M6 Toll turned up one evening with a cheap bottle of white wine from the newsagent and a pair of signal-controlled roundabouts, and invited itself in. Poor A38.
What would be better?
You could, theoretically, put in a couple of flyovers and make this into a very elegant free-flowing affair, which wouldn't look out of place for a junction between two roads of this type. But the reality is that traffic levels don't justify it, and Midland Expressway Limited, who operate the toll road, don't have any spare cash lying around to do it. Perhaps we could switch off those annoying traffic lights and save them some money on the electricity.
Right to reply
These 2 roundabouts are extremely annoying. As you say, the A38 lights are permanently on red and only change once a vehicle approaching on the A38 has come almost to a stop, even though there is hardly ever any traffic leaving at this junction. On the several occasions I've used the M6 Toll (in a company vehicle with a M6 Toll Tag, I wouldn't pay for it myself) I've found than almost all vehicles wishing to leave the M6 Toll to join the A38, or join it from the A38 use junction T4, as this is the logical place to both join and leave the toll road from the A38.
The simple solution would be to close junction T3 as it serves little to no purpose other than to annoy drivers on the A38. Otherwise change the lights so that they stay green unless a vehicle is leaving the M6 Toll.
I asked the Highways Agency why the signals here are set to rest on red and they said - and I wish I was making this up - that they set it up like this because the small radii of the roundabouts has given them a poor accident record. This must surely make it a bigger mistake than Cherwell Valley!
I use the A38 for trips from Nottingham to Birmingham and these roundabouts are a nuisance. However, having read this article, I have to raise my level from 'irritated' to 'annoyed' as I now know that the reason for the delay here is so pathetic! How much extra fuel is used by all the A38 traffic that has to slow down twice for no good reason?
There's obviously something sinister at work around here: the M6 Toll parallels the A38 between T3 and T4 so the roundabouts may have been designed to annoy people into using the M6 Toll. That obviously hasn't worked out as well as they expected.