Where is it?
Infesting several miles of the M1 south-west of Nottingham. You will have to scroll up and down the motorway using the map above; this Bad Junctions listing includes junctions 23A, 24 and 24A which form one nightmarish complex.
Parts of this junction have been significantly rebuilt since this page was written. The layout described here ceased operation in 2018.
It was nominated by Clive Jones.
What's wrong with it?
Unlike most Bad Junctions, this one is not content to squat in one location and quietly fester. No, it roams up and down more than three miles of the M1, meaning that you can't just get tangled up in it and then move on — instead it just goes on and on, presenting one horror after another.
The southern end isn't too bad, with free-flowing connections between the A42, A453 and M1 — on its own, in fact, junction 23A isn't bad at all. The trouble is that it's linked to two other junctions, and all three are needed to make the full set of connections between all the roads here. Junction 24 is a huge signalised roundabout bunged up with traffic, which has (or, at the time of writing, is very shortly to have) three dual carriageways plugged in and some emergency remedial work in the shape of a cut-through on the west side.
Junction 24a is the crowning glory, though: a bizarre concoction of free-flowing sliproads that somehow still tangle up half the A50 in a difficult-to-explain roundabout.
Linking all three junctions, alongside the M1, is a dual carriageway. It's part A50, part A453, and all a bit rubbish, with flat T-junctions for local traffic, farm accesses and lay-bys full of lorries.
Why is it wrong?
Like all the best worst junctions, it happened slowly and without a plan. A seed was planted back in 1965 when the M1 opened as far as junction 24. It was, back then, a roundabout for the A6 with space for a future connection to the proposed M17 Kegworth Bypass. As new roads arrived and existing roads were improved, modifications and new connections accreted in layers, like limescale in a kettle. Now it doesn't boil properly any more, and whenever you make a drink using the M1 around Nottingham, you get bits floating in your tea.
The worst part is that so much of it was well-intentioned. Junction 23A is a perfectly good design, but it doesn't work on its own and it relies on the junction 24 roundabout to function. Junction 24A is the newest component, opened around 2000, and is only really a terrible design because it's the first stage of a proposed improvement scheme that would have sorted out the whole complex. With the rest of the proposed sliproads and free-flow links, 24A — and the rest of the stuff here — would have been impressive and fit for purpose. But without that cancelled scheme it makes very little sense.
What would be better?
There are some official plans to fix this, but — oh, this goes without saying, doesn't it? — they are now quite different to the plans that existed when 24A was designed. There will be fewer free-flowing connections and 24A will continue to make almost no sense.
So what would be better than that? Three things would do most of the job: the first is to make some changes so that the dual carriageway up the west side is free-flowing, with a flyover across the roundabout at junction 23A, a flyover to bypass the roundabout at 24 and one more to get rid of the roundabout at 24A. That would reduce problems at junction 24 and enable traffic between the M1 and A50 to free-flow in both directions.
The second is to connect the new A453 dual carriageway towards Nottingham to the M1 by south-facing free-flow sliproads, so that traffic to and from that route can reach the A42 and M1 without passing through any roundabouts.
The last thing that might be necessary is to tip a sachet of anti-limescale powder into the junction and boil it three times to get rid of all that crusty build-up.
Right to reply
It's impossible to explain why these things get built. The fact that no movements are possible without passing through a roundabout sums up everything wrong with British junction design.
Ha! I'm having to write some directions for a wedding near Castle Donnington at the moment. After several drafts I've given up trying to explain this junction and am starting with 'Head to Junction 1 of the A50...'
Looking at the shape of the roundabout we need to assume that the designer was an Austin Allegro fanatic.
If the suggested rail freight terminal near East Mids Airport is approved then there could be some new free-flow links added between the A50 and M1 and a Kegworth bypass built.
Never experienced this junction, but am I right in seeing that if you stop at the J23A services while on the M1 northbound, you must use the A453 up to the next junction to rejoin the motorway? Or coming southbound you need to exit a junction too early to get to the services?
Surely the services should be at J24 then?
I see it as challenge rather than a bad junction.
J24 is now really bad going from Nottingham on A453 to the A50. People drift from rightmost lane on A453 to the next left which they shouldn't as others are most probably in it. Then it's not clear which lane to be in at next lights and the next set after that only 100m away. The distance to those is filled with traffic that has exited the M1 and it hasn't cleared when your set has turned green. There are three lanes to go to the A50 but the rightmost has to merge but you will be stuck behind lorries heading to M1 or A453 so not travelling at a good speed to do this. And this is at non-peak times.
It is indeed a challenge.
It doesn't help that there is a service area slapped right in the middle of this mess, meaning drivers on the M1 who just want to take a quick break end up taking a hefty detour, and unnecessarily adding to the load on two roundabouts. I had the (mis)fortune to use these services recently, and was astonished just how far off the motorway you have to drive in order to reach them.
And when you finally find this oasis of horror the loos in the petrol station are the worst I've seen!
Used this junction for the first time today: M1 southbound to A50 westbound. This meant avoiding the southern two junctions, but 24a is not great by itself. The off-slip has a ridiculous long, tight 270-degree corner that comes up on you without any warning (there are 40mph signs but no warning of the bend until you are on it, and going 30) and then as you straighten up immediately you hit that pointless roundabout. Which has very narrow lanes on the approach, one of which is for the A50 to the south/east (why? surely you use other M1 junctions for that??). This bunches up all the A50 westbound traffic on the small roundabout, and it's another tight turn to exit it.
Perhaps it was designed to match the junction you end up at when you use the A50 to get to the M6: the dreaded Hanchurch. Such a useful road, why put two abominable junctions at each end??
Some interesting plans have been posted for improving this junction series here. It's not a complete overhaul, but it does make a lot of sensible improvements. Hopefully it goes through, as it makes the north end of the structure much more sensible, and would fit sensibly around most changes to the centre or south.
The most notable change is that junction 24a is becoming a trumpet (no more roundabout!). The north side connects to the M1 directly. The south side connects to the A50, which now runs with one carriageway each side of the M1, basically acting like a pair of collector/distributor (C/D) lanes. There's a braid on the east of the M1 in order to give a freeflow A50 eastbound to M1 southbound movement, whilst still allowing access from the M1 to J24.
The really interesting thing is what happens to the old southbound carriageway of the A50 between J24 and J24a. It's being converted into a local access road, for the hotel that's in the middle of the junction complex and for Lockington.
Anyway, the upshot of this all is that the A50 is now acting as a C/D road for the M1. And its old southbound carriageway, plus a newly built road to the east, are now acting as a C/D road for the A50. Is this the first place in the UK where the C/D roads now have their own C/D roads?
Unsurprisingly, the whole mess is going to plug in to J24 (which interestingly, will be given a pedestrian crossing across its northbound entry slip onto the M1). By my count, that roundabout now has 7 exits and 7 entrances (8 of each if you count the old cut-through on the inside, which is going to be used for storing abnormal loads). So verdict: J24a much improved, J24 probably not.
These junctions, while awful, also provides some twisted form of entertainment. For some moves there are more than one way to achieve the same thing, which could be variety or more likely, needless duplication. I am a local to this mess, and use it disappointingly frequently. Almost every move requires far more work than it really should do, and even speaking as a local, if I come at this mess from a different direction to the usual it can leave me scratching my head for a little while trying to work out how to do what should be a relatively simple move!
Since the widening of the A453 was completed, I've not noticed a significant change in how many vehicles use this junction compared to before work started
I never used to use it to go A453-M1(N), but since the upgrade I have. The sheer number of drivers in the wrong lane for their destination is astounding and shows the complexity of J24.
By contrast, J25 a few miles up is a near=perfect example of how a motorway junction should be - a three-level stack, even though it has 2 local access roads, with clear lane markings.
Well, the plans I posted earlier seem to be being taken very seriously. There's a new logistics park being built near the junction. It might seem as though that would just make things worse, but the existing plans for the junction have been adapted to take it into account, and there's now a detailed series of construction phases, traffic management, etc. on the logistics park's website: http://www.eastmidlandsgateway.co.uk/community/travel.php
It's basically the older plan, but modified to provide access to the logistics park (and amazingly, in a fairly nondisruptive way; the logistics park links onto the A453 via a new roundabout, and thus someone must have realised that they couldn't just plug it into J24 like everything else is). Just like the older plan, it gives a comprehensive and sensible upgrade to J24a (the same one, as far as I could tell). It also builds a southern bypass of Kegworth, which is interesting (and might incidentally reduce the amount of traffic that needs to use J24); I have the feeling that someone took this opportunity to get a lot of road improvements done at once (and am curious who's paying for them; is this a case of Highways England panicking and realising they need to fix the junction before the logistics park breaks it altogether, or the logistics park offering to pay to make it possible for people to actually get in and out?).
The most notable, thing, though is that each stage of the plan to build the junction comes with a date, and there are dates mentioned in February and even January 2017. This upgrade's starting soon, if it hasn't already. It also looks like the aim is to be essentially finished by the end of 2019, so we might not have long to wait until at least J24a becomes an excellent junction.
Yes the work has started! The A453 to the Airport has the roundabout being built at the top of Ashby Rd out of Kegworth. The East Midlands Gateway is well under way and the Kegworth bypass has been started (initial fencing off). I use this junction at least twice a day (commuting to Derby from Kegworth and as lorry driver). It is a complicated junction especially from the A50 to Junc 24, the latest change really does confuse people, more so those that can't decide to follow the signs, or their not updated Sat Nav.
Returning to London from the South Lakes on the 27th, and mindful of bad weather and traffic through Birmingham, I opted to use the A50 route (outstanding road. 9/10 would divert again) which brought me out here.
The mind boggled! Satnav (and signs!) were vastly confusing, especially at the cut through at 24. I don’t usually get flustered at road layouts - I learned to drive in north London where lane discipline is nil and chopping between lanes using optional indicators is positively encouraged - but at one point I felt very aware of being in the middle of two sets of traffic wanting to do different things.
I didn’t realise the scale of this horror until I used it, but as a pointer Mrs Stourdave rather scathingly observed that “you said this junction would put us straight on the motorway” some 10 minutes after we arrived at 24a, as I was still fighting through traffic to get to the bottom of this mess.
A genuinely difficult bit of road to drive - surely one of the characteristics of complex junctions like this should be ease of use for the first time visitor. I could see (presumably local) people doing things explicitly opposite to the instructions on signs to get where they wanted quicker (and laughing manically as they twizzled their Dick Dastardly moustaches - maybe). I followed the instructions, as a newbie is wont to do, and nearly disappeared into the ether. A truly awful place.
You're absolutely right. The A50 is an excellent trunk road which completely let down by this mess. If you're trying to go from the A50 to the M1 Southbound, the best thing to do is completely ignore the signs which take you onto the cut through. Instead, follow signs for Loughborough A6 to get you onto the J24 roundabout. Once on the roundabout it's simple enough to go one beyond the A6 exit and get onto the M1. Still a pain, but definitely easier.
Yes! This time Google was kind enough to advise just that and - despite some other clearly confused folk pootling round the roundabout - I got on to the M1 much more easily.
I rather want to whisper my by now undying love of the A50 as it’s a fast, straight road devoid of the lines of M6 traffic I am inevitably accustomed to as someone who largely travels at the worst possible moment. At one glorious moment on Easter Monday there was not a car in sight ahead or behind.
And it promises to get even better as work is well underway to take A50 eastbound traffic directly onto the M1 southbound, bypassing Junction 24 altogether. Once the Uttoxeter roundabouts are removed (plans are afoot), it'll be one of the best A roads in the business. It'll still be let down by the inability to get onto the A50 Westbound carriageway directly from M1 northbound* and the Stoke end is a touch messy, but like you I'd absolutely choose the A50 over the M6 any day of the week.
*Another Junction 24 tip, for anyone travelling M1 Northbound to A50 Westbound - ignore the signs. The signs on the M1 will advise you to come off at Junction 23A for Stoke A50. Instead, stay on the M1 for another mile and come off at Junction 24, signposted as Nottingham A453. Doing this means you'll only have to go through one easy roundabout, instead of three (and currently a lot of roadworks to boot).
I also used to do the very same thing years ago. But why would you have to go through three roundabouts coming off at 23a?