Where is it?
M5 junction 8. The main road south from Birmingham forks, into the M5 (Gloucester, Bristol and the West Country) and the M50 (South Wales).
What's wrong with it?
It's one of these silly ones where a motorway starts at a junction that's anything but free-flowing. The M5 glides across the top on a flyover, while the M50 comes to a grinding halt at the roundabout. Because it's all motorway, the roundabout has hard shoulders and signs saying "Roundabout subject to motorway regulations". It's also a rather disconcerting place to end up when you leave Strensham services heading southbound, since they dump you onto the roundabout too.
Why is it wrong?
There's a good reason why this roundabout interchange makes it into 'Bad Junctions' and all its friends (M18/M180 and so on) don't. The reason is that once upon a time, this junction was free flowing. There was a trumpet interchange here — you can see the empty land where a loop once existed just south-east of the current roundabout. There doesn't seem to be any reason for this; when the M5 north of here was widened from two to three lanes each way, the junction was replaced and made the odd transition away from free-flow. The only imaginable reason is that it eliminates the weaving between the services and the junction by allowing services traffic to join at the junction itself and still access both motorways.
What would be better?
Reinstating the trumpet would be nice, since it's free flow, but this brings back the weaving traffic problem after the services. Since there's not a lot of traffic turning onto the M50 anyway, it's probably not worth changing.
Right to reply
There is an extraordinary vehicles refuge in the centre/East part of the island. This may be the (only) reason why a full roundabout is required at this junction to allow loads to stop when travelling in either direction.
I use this road quite a lot when driving down to see my sister who lives in Swansea. I have never had any problems here because as you say, barely any people ever use the M50. It is however very beautiful.
The worst thing about this junction is the approach from the north for traffic turning west on to M50. There are two exits in very quick succession both appearing on the same ADS. The first exit is for the service area and the second for the turning traffic, only problem is that the second exit taper is so short it is easy to miss if there is slow moving traffic in the left lane. Far better to take all the traffic off at the first slip and abandon the unnecessary complication of two exits.
The services are backwards here. The northbound services should be south of the M50, and the southbound services should be north of it. As it stands, it is impossible to access the services when doing M50 <-> M5 south. This means the only services for people travelling to/from the M50 are Michaelwood, which is an extra 30 miles away, past Gloucester, which can get busy. A 20 mile detour around junction 7 isn't a solution.
This M50/M5 junction actually works quite well; if you consider the "weaving" on the M3 around junctions 11 (uphill), J10 (up/down if exiting NB/joining SB) and j9 (where the A34 comes to a shuddering halt most afternoons other than Christmas day), then the good citizens of Worcestershire have a better (ie SAFER) experience which, let's be honest, adds about a half-minute to the travel time.
Growing up in Somerset in the mid-sixties, our motorway trip to Liverpool started on "the Ross Spur" which we joined one junction to the west, headed to what is now this junction and took the ONLY live exit - northbound towards Birmingham where the M5 ran out (the M5 west of Brum was then a distant planner's dream). Southbound from Strensham, the M5 alignment was just a quiet field.
With the original northbound Strensham services converted into a motorway depot and the "new" Strensham N/B services two miles further north, I reckon this is the best layout that we could hope for.
The key reason for this being a roundabout interchange, and for the refuge bay inside the centre of the roundabout, is the viaduct that takes the M50 over the Severn a few miles past Junction 1. As far as I am aware, wide or abnormal loads must obtain both permission to cross it and an escort vehicle. The refuge bay is there for them to await the arrival of both.
The lanes across the viaduct are rather narrow for a road of this class, there are no hard shoulders across its entire length, and the guard rails for stopping any errant vehicles from plunging onto the flood plain or the river look particularly flimsy.
Does anybody know the reason for what look like half built junctions, with the River Severn approximately midway between them?
They look like places for police patrols and maintenance vehicles to turn around, taking advantage of wide underbridges that cross the flood plain. Having one either side of the long viaduct over the Severn must be very useful.
As Chris says. - And any motorway with long distances between junctions (like here between Junc 1 and 2 which is 10 or so miles), will have them. Have a look and you'll see them. M3 btween 7 and 9 (can't turn at 8) which is about 12 miles has one at Church bank road. Also M11 between 8 and 10 (can't turn at 9) which must be about 18 miles has two. One at the B1038 and another at Little Chesterford. Also authorised vehicles can usually turn at services- and sometimes UN-authorised ones too; Sandbach was a handy one for the A533 coming south on the M6 a Friday afternoon (to save going down to Junction 16 when the motorway was solid). (Bit of a faff opening those gates here on the M50 when you're chasing someone though).
Does anyone know of any imagery of the old trumpet interchange here?
I am no expert but one solution here would be to have a slip lane off the M50 westbound just after the junction that goes into a parking spot for the oversize and special vehicles where they can wait for their escort with another slip lane back onto the motorway. It looks like the part that these vehicles can't use without an escort doesn't start until after the the interchange with the A38 so there is plenty of room for such a waiting point to be added. Then if necessary, build a simple u-turn flyover over the M50 just after the waiting bay to allow any vehicles denied permission to go further can use to do a u-turn and return to the M5. With this done, the interchange can be rebuilt into the trumpet it used to be.