Where is it?
M6 junction 15, one of two junctions serving Stoke on Trent and the sizeable conurbation known as the Potteries, and the southern terminus of the A500 spine road that provides access to it.
It was spotted by Edward Reece.
What's wrong with it?
Having the M6 bypass the whole of Stoke and its neighbours, and having a separate road, the A500, to deal with all the local traffic, is a brilliant idea. Not only is the idea good, in fact; the execution is almost flawless: the A500 itself is a fast, free-flowing near-motorway that gets traffic in and out with ease.
What's so painful about this junction is actually how very nearly right it is: a free-flowing trumpet interchange, like the one built here, ought to be perfect; traffic on the non-stop A500 could flow non-stop onto the non-stop M6.
The big problem, as you might notice, is that it isn't non-stop. You have to stop for the roundabout. You have to stop for the traffic lights where the sliproads off the M6 merge. And you definitely have to stop when a lorry overturns on the absurdly tight corners on the sliproads themselves, which happens with alarming frequency. At Hanchurch, you have to stop.
Why is it wrong?
Great idea, everyone: let's build a trumpet interchange at Hanchurch! Yes, that'll definitely work. Early finish everyone, let's get down the pub.
No — wait a minute. That won't work. Look here; there's a big hill just to the west. No room for a trumpet. Unless... unless we make it a bit smaller so it fits.
Brilliant work. Pints all round. But wait — hang on now. All the traffic from this junction is going to head down this spur road. People will have to double back to reach Clayton and Hanchurch. Unless... we put a little roundabout in just here. That'll be OK, won't it?
Excellent. My round first. No, hang about. You can't put a roundabout there, not with a trumpet interchange. Look, there's no room. Unless... unless we make it a bit smaller again!
No, that's never going to work. Now the loop will have to be signposted for 20mph and the sliproads merge together on a blind corner barely a hundred metres before the roundabout. That could be dangerous.
What, last orders? OK, leave it as it is then, I'm gasping for a drink.
What would be better?
Ideally the roundabout would be removed and A519 traffic sent elsewhere, which leaves the A500 to have its interchange with the M6 in peace, and the junction itself can then be sorted out.
But that would involve a lot of rerouting of traffic, and probably some serious roadbuilding if large volumes of cars and lorries aren't to be sent past the houses of bemused folk nearby. So we have to assume that the pesky A519 is there to stay.
Perhaps the least that could be done is the employment of some more drastic earthmoving to build a bigger pair of looped sliproads to the west of the M6, making the curves shallower and the accidents less frequent.
Right to reply
I use this junction regularly - and it is indeed bl**dy horrible, from either direction.
Drivers unfamiliar with its delights are often caught out by the tight radius of the northbound offslip and its incompatibility with motorway speeds, with consequent and entirely predictable panic braking and flexible lane discipline.
The northbound onslip - as mentioned - decants traffic straight onto a bend in a dip, which can be exciting.
The A519 roundabout can cause tailbacks for M6-bound traffic all the way back to the A34 junction.
A mess. 2/10 - see me.
The northbound M6 was closed for overnight roadworks for a week recently at this jucntion, with all traffic diverted off at this junction and up the A500. Needless to say, 3 lanes of motorway traffic being funnelled up this slip-road, through a set of traffic lights and then round the roundabout was a bit of a palava to say the least.
For the rest of the week, I started coming off the M6 at Stafford North and used the A34 to reach the A500 instead. Much easier.
I rarely use it - wimping out southbound along the A34 to Stafford (N) which has its own challenges, as I discovered recently when an Army truck used my Passat for a bit of extra wiggle room, or by driving straight through northbound to use the other A500 junction. But as commented, joining northbound traffic here provides lots of excitement to through northbound M6 traffic - they all seem to be coming round the on-slip remarkably quickly, only recovering the situation by a swerve into lane 1. Meanwhile lanes 2 and 3 are full of steadily accelerating traffic down the hill. Where do I go now? But if all else fails you get to see everyone again as you grind up the hill towards Keele. And probably the more important link here - to the A53 SW towards Shrewsbury is a myriad of link roads away.
Entering the M6 to go north is very scary because you can see nothing until you are on the acceleration lane; the trees obstruct any view on the very, very tight access curve. To counter this the acceleration lane is longer than usual, but at night I still find it stressful, and always have my auto Jaguar in 2nd so as to accelerate away light a bat from hell. There is no lighting and believe me, 45 tonne trucks coming down the hill are daunting!
I've used this junction a few times since moving to Biddulph in August 2013, and it's not at all nice. The southbound slip roads are fine, but as you've rightly pointed out, it's the northbound ones which are awful. Even in the small car which I drive, I feel they're too tight, so they must be pretty bad for HGVs! If the northbound slip roads were changed so the curvature weren't as tight, then accidents could be more easily avoided, although there's the A5182 bridge over the motorway just to the south of the junction to take into account.
With regard to the roundabout, there's always the possibility of making the junction more free-flowing by constructing a flyover, which would be ideal for traffic coming off the M6 northbound, but traffic exiting the M6 southbound may have fun trying to weave around in the short distance before the roundabout. With good lane markings and decent signage, this could work well. Coming westbound on the A500 and heading to the M6 in either direction shouldn't be too much of an issue either with a flyover, but traffic using the roundabout to access the M6 might have the same weaving issues as traffic coming off the southbound M6. However, given that traffic exiting the roundabout heading westbound will only be going to the M6, that may not be as much of an issue as first thought.
I'm sure there are other ways of making it more free-flowing while still keeping local access in, but this is the first time I've ever really thought about how to improve any motorway junction, so I'm a little inexperienced!
Sorting out this junction requires one to look at the road layout, but also to make a visit on-site too. When one visits, it is obvious that a flyover could be constructed above the A519, because the roundabout is in a deep dip so the flyover could easily pass over it from the high ground the A500 comes over from the east. The biggest problem is the very tight nature of the site. Things might be better if the A5182 is diverted to a new roundabout on the west side, with this giving easier entry and exit with the northbound M6. Traffic from the west would then not have to negotiate the A519 roundabout. In addition, the existing A5182 bridge would allow traffic for M6 North to also avoid the A519 roundabout. However any workable layout is not going to be cheap! It would be very expensive to move the A519 roundabout east to make room, due to the steep hill, and much earthmoving would be necessary.
A difficult problem!
Poor A519. It gets all the flak for getting in the way, let me explain why it has no choice:
This junction is about much more than the M6 and A500. The whole Staffordshire stretch of M6 has appalling connectivity to the west (Shropshire, south Cheshire and north Wales). From the restricted M54/M6/M6Toll mess all the way to north of Stoke, you can't get on the M6 from the west other than via the non-primary A5 at J12, or the A519 at J15. The A518, A51, A53 and A525 all pass over or under the M6 without junctions and the only way you can get on the M6 is by using the A519, in some way or another- usually involving the A5182 link road from the A53 that joins the A519 just up the hill from the roundabout, at a dreadful crossroads requiring a dangerous hill-start coming off the M6. Or going up it for miles from the south around Eccleshall. The A519 is simply vital to this junction as it stands. If one of the Stafford junctions connected to the A518 to the west, and the A53 and A51 had their own junctions, then the A519 would get in the way, but right now it does the job these other A-roads don't do.