Where is it?
M1 junction 19. An indescribably important junction where the main route north from London, the M1, splits to the M1 and M6 for routes to the north east and north west, and on to Scotland. The A14 also ends here, a vital east-west link which exchanges lots of traffic with the M1 and M6 — it's almost a direct eastward extension of the M6.
The junction has been rebuilt since it entered Bad Junctions, which has fixed the problems described here. The text below was written about the previous layout which ceased operation in 2016.
What's wrong with it?
Well, just look at it, it's a joke! The M1 and M6 have had a simple fork here since the 1970's; when the A14 arrived in the 1990's, the junction wasn't so much adapted as worked around. The local Catthorpe — Swinford road that passed quietly under the junction was appropriated and now takes all the A14's traffic under the M1. The two tiny little roundabouts are no way to end a motorway-standard road, and the short drive up an unclassified road to reach the M6 is shameful.
Why is it wrong?
The A14 is a road built recently and on the cheap. It is mostly cobbled together from other roads, with just a few new built bits and a couple of junctions modified. The money was probably not available to do anything more with this junction, especially considering the cost and chaos of diverting the course of the M6 or M1. However, the cost is increased now that an even bigger junction must be remodelled — yes, this one will be rebuilt some time soon.
What would be better?
Anything but this. Except perhaps a signalised roundabout with priority bus lane. The plans proposed generally involve making it an all-access junction, with some links free-flowing and a roundabout underneath to do everything else, which is a pretty sound plan. The only worry is if the Catthorpe — Swinford road is removed from the junction. If that happens, where does non-motorway traffic — which has a legal right to use the A14 — go from here?
Right to reply
I've used it a lot recently coming south off the M1 onto the A14 eastbound. It's great that they've made Lane 1 of the M1 into a sliproad - but it's just as well...
I timed the traffic lights on the roundabout and noticed that traffic coming off the M6 gets 55 seconds to go through, while traffic off the M1 get seven!
No wonder they needed that sliproad! The sooner they rebuild this, the better!
A few years ago travelling east on M6 wanting to join A14 to get to Norwich I missed the left slip, and had to carry on down, join the M1, take the next junction, off and back on M1, then up and back onto M6, then off at the first M6 junction, round and back onto M6 again. It would be much better with a large roundabout for the end of M6 under the M1 with access to A14, and to minor roads.
More recently going from Worcester to Stanstead, I tried the same route, and the left lane of M6 was virtually standstill for about 2 miles coming up to the turn off for the roundabouts, but once on A14 traffic was fine!
This junction is indeed a nightmare built on the cheap. I used to use it every week or so and I feel that when they carried out the alterations they shifted the problem from one side to another. With the old layout traffic coming off the M6 south going toward the A14 east had to firstly pause at the westernmost roundabout (for A14 west to M1 north traffic passing round) then filter into the single eastbound lane underneath the M1 to get to the A14. This resulted in queues back up on to the M6. Westbound traffic off the A14 however had a freeflow onto the east roundabout and through the bridge under the M1 to either the M6 or M1 north. Now the westbound traffic off the A14 and is stopped by traffic lights and the queues can go back for a mile on occasions.
I'm so glad it's not just me! On my first run as a navigator coming down the M6 and heading to Cambridge, this junction had us going round in circles for about fifteen minutes trying to figure out what to do about it. Then we discovered the A14 was shut. Yay, incomprehensible diversion signs!
On the up side, I suspect I may be the first navigator to successfully include Northampton town centre on this particular route.
I crashed yesterday at the junction to Catthorpe. I was coming from the A14, and someone pulled out from the road coming from Catthorpe to go towards the M1 or A14. Even though it is solely the other guy's fault, I think a roundabout at that junction would have reduced my speed and helped me avoid the write off and insurance trouble I now have to deal with.
Short Memories! Cast your minds back to those heady days before Catthorpe junction; the only way to get to Rugby/M6 from M1S would be to go the long way down M69/A5 or M1 J20 and rattle along A426 to reach A5/M6. Catthorpe may not be perfect but it achieves (after a fashion) an easier link. And don't knock A14; this country is obsessed with getting N-S with scant regard to those wanting to go E-W...
I don't have any ideas for altering this junction, I only know something needs to be done and quickly. I came down the M6 today and got off onto the A14. The queue on the A14 slip road stretched back almost onto the M6. In the few minutes I waited several cars joined the slip road far too late and in front of me when I thought I'd got on at the back of the queue. They had to force their way in. Fortunately the lorry in front of me had left a reasonable gap between himself and the vehicle in front but when three cars one behind the other tried to get in, the back offside corners of these cars were left sticking out onto the inside lane of the M6 with lorries missing them by inches. With cars in the outside lane of the M6 the lorries have nowhere to go. One large lorry attempted an emergency stop before his momentum took him just past the tail end of the cars. What on earth do they think they're doing! Most of them wouldn't say boo to a goose but put them in a car and they think they're on a mission worth risking the lives of they're families, they're selves and everyone else! Unbelievable.
Total killer junction; endless carnage and delays because the government built it on the cheap. The Highways Agency are only just showing plans locally and then there will be years of enquiries. Many more fatals before then I fear.
Is it just a co-incidence that the Catthorpe interchange is first on your list of bad junctions? In this Olympic year  it gets my gold medal award scoring well on inelegance and inadequacy. It's the epitome of what is wrong with our 'get away with the minimum' attitude to transport infrastructure. Sadly the London Olymics will have passed before this junction is improved to the standard it should have been made to in 1994. Despite never having used it, the winner in the sheer clumsyness catagory has to be Switch Island and I take your word for it that is overloaded so it gets my silver. As the Olympic triumph was by 'Team GB' I cannot leave out Scotland and having been held up for 40 mins there the Sheriffhall roundabout on the A720 should get the bronze, if only it had a flyover to hang it from.
I wrote off my first car, a Vauxhall Astra, at this junction in 2003 - I was shunted by a container lorry as I was trying to change lanes from the M1 filter to the A14 lane. Had anything been ahead of me, I could well have been badly hurt, but as it was, I was bounced off another lorry in the adjacent lane and ended up in the hard shoulder just short of hitting a chevron sign. I'd only been driving for a few months, and the whole experience put me off for a long while after.
Coming back along the M6 last night and wanting to take the A14 (an excellent road by the way). In the short 1/2hr while I was waiting in the slow lane of the M6, I saw no less than 15 near misses as people tried to get in the queue late. I suspect that there is a lot of luck here that more poeple don't cause accidents.
Often thought of renaming this junction 'Hades', I cannot believe the short-sighted view of government and engineers alike for thinking what they built would actually accommodate expected traffic movement. A split level three way junction was minimum - and please return the M1 south to three lanes approaching the junction, it only confuses Belgian lorry drivers and Allegro day trippers!
I really hate this junction. I've always said an accident is just waiting to happen here and today there's been a 12 car pile up on the southbound M6 at Junction 1. I do this road quite a bit and the number of times cars and lorries that swerve into the A14 filter lane at the last minute is unbelievable. They changed the junction last year and made it 100 times worse, as if it wasn't bad enough!
On a good day (well, probably night) you could in effect travel from the extremities of Ecosse at speeds of up to 70mph, all the way to the southernmost furthest flung seaports along the Channel (or Wales.) However, where else within the galaxy could one locate the bulk of all ex/import traffic heading to or from the nations busiest container teminals, stationary, at one of the busiest crossroads in Europe?
Solution - seeing as most drivers crawl through the 30 or so yards between the M6 and A14, or are exiting either side of the M1, I suggest we take a leaf out of the Blackpool Corporation's book. If you have ever experienced the illuminations from your vehicle, you'll have noticed at either end of the promenade, a team of collectors, with giant plastic hands. The object being to retrieve any contributions made toward the upkeep of the lights. If every lorry driver bunged in a zloty or two, we might get a flyover by 2050, or some nice neons to while the time away.
When it was first built, it was clear that this junction was going to be a disaster. It is an exercise in failing to plan correctly and to provide less than the minimum.
Revisited this junction today for the first time in a while. Still the same old story with traffic backed up onto the M6, weaving in at the last minute (how are people expected to see those "Get in Lane" signs on the hard shoulder with 50-odd lorries in the way?) and seeing the sign which says A14 is right, so get in the right hand lane only to see it merge into the left hand one a few yards further on. And coming A14-M6, the give way markings which oblige you to yield to tractors trundling out of Catthorpe are so faded that they're virtually invisible.
One thought - someone has mentioned the M69 makes the M6-M1N a rare movement; may I add that the M40 now does the same for the M6-M1S, at least as far as London-bound traffic is concerned. So maybe A14 traffic should get the two lanes and the merging movement, and M1 the roundabout?
The proposed scheme to do anything about this junction has now been postponed until 2015 at the earliest. It wouldn't surprise me if what eventually gets built will be a bodge job that saves a few pounds and will be jammed up with traffic at a standstill within a few years...
Well, I think we all know by now that the improvement scheme is under construction and this time it has not been underscoped, so will likely make a major improvement to this notorious bottleneck and accident blackspot.
They are rebuilding this junction at long last. One problem is the road works merge into barrier replacement and there is about 16 miles of 50mph restriction.
I can remember when the A14 was mooted. Somebody suggested (no joke) that perhaps it could be a single carriageway to save money. This was the origin of a truly frightful junction. I hope the M6/A14 east and west bound are finally sorted.
Has anyone studied the scheme plan? Where will prohibited traffic exit the A14 before the M6 slip road merges? Has there been an oversight by our loveable Highways England!? Where will the non-motorway traffic escape to I ask!