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.
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
I'm preempting the under-construction roundabout on the A453 for the new A6 Kegworth bypass. So you'll have the Donington Services/Airport roundabout, the A6 Kegworth roundabout and then finally the Junction 24 roundabout. Which is crazy if you're heading westbound on the A50. Highways Agency (or whoever is responsible) should consider re-signing the A50 Stoke exit as Junction 24.
Ah, I see. (I haven't been that way for a good while). Another roundabout into the equation is insanity indeed. On the subject of using 24 for Stoke (instead of 23a), when I used to do it years ago (in a restricted to 56mph 7.5 tonner), I used to note a car using 23a as I went past on my way to 24. It was often many miles up the A50 that the car would eventually come past me.
And to think it all once looked like this.
Would it be possible to just convert the whole madness into a massive yet bog-standard Collector-Distributor setup ? Given the setup around J23A and availability of land east of M1 to facilitate a link between current J24A and J24, have anyone actually considered it ?
The A453 which currently runs parallel to the west of the M1 acts a little bit like this, but clearly not up to a sufficient enough level. It's difficult to know what the solution is, given you've got 3 major trunk roads (A42, A50, A453 from Nottingham) all plugging into the same 2 mile stretch of the M1. Add to that an international airport, the busy A6 from Loughborough, and the new 'East Midlands Gateway' Business park......you've got too much to handle. I thought that they might consider linking the A50 across the M1 to the Nottingham-bound A453 to make it a continuous trunk road, with a newly created junction 24 further north of the existing one (which could have been scrapped). But I have no clue as to what volume of traffic goes between the A50 and A453 northbound, possibly not enough to justify my idea.
Whatever happens, the inability/unwillingness to create a direct, free-flowing link from the M1 northbound to the A50 westbound is unacceptable.
The state of these junctions is frankly tragic given the simple elegance and efficiency of the original plans.
Had they been built as planned, the M42 (today's A42) would have terminated some way to the north of junction 24 at a simple fork junction with north-facing sliproads, and the M64 (today's A50) would have terminated some way to the south of junction 24 at another fork junction with south-facing sliproads.
On the M1, diverging traffic bound for each of the diagonal motorways would have exited before joining traffic from the other one merged, and all three junctions would have been sufficiently far apart that collector/distributor slips would not have been necessary. Nice and neat, right?
But now, thanks to cheapskate politicians and last-minute bodging, the exits and entries for the A42 and A50 are the wrong way round, all the junctions are way too close together, and this tangled, broken, hideously expensive mess is the result. It's a textbook example of spending £100,000 to save £100, and a living symbol of everything that's wrong with British transport planning.
I used this junction for the first time in a while last night going from M1 southbound to A50 then A50 to to A453.
I did find it confusing that when I finally reached the J24 roundabout, the first exit was for the A453 and not the M1 northbound as was previously the case, but it's certainly a welcome improvement that more movements are now free flow than before.
As others have commented, the biggest missing piece is a free flow link from M1 northbound to A50 westbound (though I've no idea how difficult this would be to add).
Is there scope to add a filter lane from A50 to A453? Given the route confirmation signs on the A453 give distances to Newark and Grantham (accessed of course via the A52 and A46), would this help to create a more coherent East-West route between the M6 and A1?
You can almost see how the a453 could run into the a50, except that east west traffic probably tends to use junction 25. The east-west links really are appalling. There really is no high quality link north of the a14 till you hit the m18. You cant really count the a46 on this because it's more of an m1 alternative than an east west link IMHO.
Time for my annual love in of the A50, thinly disguised as a comment about this junction...
No, seriously - as a patron of the A50 only on the way back from the north west I am most pleased that to get on to the southbound M1 now I simply have to keep driving and slide on to the motorway. This novelty gave me a similar jolt of simplistic joy to that when I first scaled the new Catthorpe, although that occasion involved doing the same as I’d always done just on a newer bit of road. At Kegworth it was a revelation.
Now a left turn lane at the roundabout off the M6 and big avoid those horrible little roundabouts please, and I’ll have the A50’s little tarmac babies.