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Cabbie’s Curios: The Unfinished Motorway…

First opened in 1959, the M1 is one of Britain’s major motorways. Almost 200 miles long, it links London to the city of Leeds in West Yorkshire.

The London terminal of the M1 is at ‘Staples Corner’ (named after ‘Staples Mattress Factory‘, which stood at the major junction from 1926 until 1986).

The start of the M1 is also beside ‘Brent Cross Shopping Centre’; the UK’s first major indoor shopping mall, which opened in 1976.

If leaving the M1 at Junction 1, you’ll notice that the motorway splits apart, forcing exiting traffic into a slip road. Drivers concentrating on the road ahead will easily miss the fact that the slip road runs alongside a short-stretch of derelict, weed-strewn concrete.

This abandoned length of tarmac is a ‘ghost road’; a section which was built but never used; construction quickly being stopped. The short piece of road actually marks the direction of the route which the M1 was originally intended to take…

In the 1960s and 1970s, the authorities envisioned all manner of motorways and ring-roads, ploughing right through our cities with scant regard for the surrounding environment, architecture or residents.

The primary goal of these enlightened planners was to carry the broad stretch of hulking, M1 motorway all the way into Central London; ploughing through neighbourhoods, and soaring above rooftops via monstrous flyovers.

The original M1 route would have roared through Cricklewood, thundered past Kilburn and Maida Vale and torn down through St John’s Wood. If the planners had their way,the M1 motorway would have terminated just north of Marble Arch;  in the vicinity of the tranquil Montague Square (which, no doubt, would have been ripped apart and buried beneath copious amounts of stark concrete).

Thankfully, the authorities saw sense, and the scheme was never fully realised. The M1 now terminates in the suburbs, approximately 6 miles from Marble Arch.

Having said that, the M1 is my main route into London and, on my grumpier days, I sometimes wish that there was a quick, concrete strip to speed myself and my taxi into the direct centre of town! Oh well, no matter what its length, I’m sure it would have been choked with traffic!

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