Spanning the Midlands, from the A500 in the Potteries to the M1 at Derby, the A50 is the expressway that opens up much of England's heartlands for industry and tourism.
The A50 is a much longer road than just this - it reaches from Leicester to Warrington, with the odd gap here and there. The bit that concerns us here is the relatively new high-speed route between the East Midlands and Stoke-on-Trent, connecting the M1 and (nearly) M6.
The route had been planned since at least the early 1970s, and was initially going to be a new link in the motorway network called M64. Its strategic purpose was to provide a northern bypass of the Birmingham area, as it was already becoming clear that the M6 through the north of the city was going to be insufficient for projected traffic growth. It would also provide a much-needed fast road between Nottingham, Derby and the Potteries. Unfortunately this plan was scrapped in a spending review in 1976 following the oil crisis.
It wasn't until the early 1990s that action was taken, and it was the old story of too little, too late. Upgraded bits of dual carriageway roughly on the line of the M64 began to appear, the spectre of the former plan appearing in the new road's number, A564. When the whole was linked together and completed in 1997 it was renumbered to be part of the much longer but more important-sounding A50.
Unlike the M64, however, the new road didn't have a direct connection to the M1 (requiring the circumnavigation of one or two roundabouts depending on which way you go), didn't bypass Stoke (it actually just ploughs into the south-west of the urban area), wasn't fully grade-separated (stopping at a total of seven roundabouts, some on the newest sections) and crucially, stopped three miles short of actually reaching the M6. At its western end it stops abruptly on the already congested A500.
The result is a road that connects Stoke and Derby adequately but does nothing to encourage traffic to avoid the Birmingham area. Except for those in the know, of course.
You're not looking at the whole A50
This page is about the parts of the A50 that are designated a motorway or that have motorway characteristics. Other sections of this road will not be featured here and will not count towards the length of the road as shown below.