A1 - A421

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Black Cat Roundabout

Where is it?

On the Bedfordshire section of A1, notorious as an ancient section of A1 full of roundabouts and right-turns, where the A421 trunk route from Bedford joins in.

What's wrong with it?

This whole section of A1 is at best unacceptable, and at worst downright dangerous. The Black Cat Roundabout is certainly a contender for the most dangerous junction on it. Considering this stretch of all-purpose A1 is between two sections of A1(M), the place where it meets another trunk route (and one which is a grade separated dual carriageway just a few miles further on) is not the place for a cramped roundabout. The Black Cat is a regular on traffic reports for overturned lorries and general congestion as the sheer volume of traffic finds it hard to get through.

Why is it wrong?

This section of the A1 was upgraded quite a while before the sections around it — it was dualled when the rest of the road was still single carriageway, by slapping another two lane carriageway next to the existing one. Back in the 1950s it must have been a dream, but now, stuck between two sections of fast A1(M), it's abysmal and traffic using it isn't used to travel on such a low-grade overused road. This junction simply hasn't been updated and is long overdue for an overhaul.

What would be better?

The A421 upgrade works could have included a new junction. It wouldn't be achieving the impossible to build a new roundabout with the A1 flying over the top — basic and very much a plain-vanilla option but it would be perfectly adequate here. Sadly all that happened was that the existing roundabout was made larger. Alternatively, since there's no other roads involved, how about a free-flowing trumpet, costing not much more in land, less in overbridges, and returning more in capacity?


Right to reply

Grahame 18 May 2015

I regularly use this part of the A1 at weekends, when the roundabout has always had reasonably light traffic compared to weekday rush hour. Last night, Sunday, was our first hold up - in over 20 years - at this time! Traffic lights? Appalling decision. God knows what it is like at peak times. Cheap wins - again. There's no logic to HA policy. North of Peterborough there has been a systematic policy of removing roundabouts, with dramatic effect on journey times. Further south, chaos and misery with a wider roundabout and longer queues. You couldn't make it up.

L Saunders 17 October 2015

So months of misery, congestion and frustration and the not inconsiderable sum of £6million, has resulted in huge queues and more misery.

I was actually stuck on the slip-road at Eaton Socon last week, so bad was the congestion.

Everyone involved in this farce should hang their heads in shame!

Ray Dart 16 August 2017

This is a truly dreadful junction, the "improvements" of a few years back resulted in longer and heavier queues at peak times than ever existed with the previous layout. My reason for adding this comment right now,is that the jams and queues have recently got far worse, and since nothing obvious has changed, I am at a loss as to why this has happened.

James 21 October 2017

Well, the end *may* finally be in sight. Plans are afoot to build a new dual carriageway from Caxton Gibbet to the Black Cat roundabout, and all options would include a partially grade separated junction. Work is currently planned to start in the spring of 2020.

sheri burditt 27 December 2017

Stuck in long queue of traffic. Ridiculous timing of lights. What a farce. Flyover needed.

Angry Motorist 25 January 2018

Silly old roundabout. It should be modelled on the Baldock Jcn. (the end of the A1(M))

Floyd Pitt 27 July 2018

Put a trumpet in for A1/A421 movements, cut off the unclassified Bedford road (at the the junction with Roxton road) and put slip roads to/from the bridge over the A421 on Roxton road for all the other movements. This would also mean that the suicidal looking Chawston Lane junction with the A1 just to the North, could be removed.

Roxton Road seems too close to Black Cat roundabout itself. But to cater the river crossing to the south I can extend your suggestion:

Bypass A1 to the west from south of "Church End", cross the river to the south of Roxton and build the trumpet to the SW of the town. The A421 east of that becomes A1.

Keep your Roxton road junction and smooth out Black Cat to become a full-fledged Service. Grade-separate and re-route everything north of that until the A428 junction.

Yes, I did think that maybe Roxton road was too close to Black Cat to be honest (although a totally new juction could be built futher west along the 421 I suppose). I was trying to avoid the cost of a river crossing as well, but the one there now does need straightening, so it might as well be done at the same time.

F.Pitt 23 August 2018

Can anyone tell me why the A428 that goes East (from St. Neots to Cambridge) was not numbered the A421 (as a continuation of the A421 that joins Black Cat)? I know that at one time the A428 finished at Black Cat, but East of here it was the A45 to Cambridge anyway.

That work is in the pipeline, complete with grade separation of this junction, but it's currently postponed awaiting the completion of A14 realignment.

Or maybe that plan would fall through the cracks again for another time.

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