Wonderful Things: M1 core

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the object below looks a bit boring. It is, in fact, an actual piece of the M1, cored by the Transport Research Laboratory. Everyone knows the M1 as the backbone of Britain, but who likes it? Very few I suspect. Although, where would we be without motorways? Probably not stuck in a traffic jam “somewhere on the M1” I’d say!

M1 Core

M1 core - I wonder if drilling this core sample has left a hole in the road somewhere along the motorway?

The M1 was the first full-length motorway to open between Watford and Rugby in 1959 and was later extended to London and Yorkshire. It is fair to say that the opening of the M1 revolutionised motor travel in the UK, becoming a national lifeline linking the North and the South. When built, it was expected to carry 13,000 vehicles a day, but now carries over 88,000! This causes no end of congestion, misery and above all: a negative impact on the environment.

So, what can be done to make our motorways handle this increasing volume of traffic? Many think that it is not the motorways themselves that are the problem, but the sheer amount of vehicles that use them. Others think that we do need to adapt Britain’s motorways to meet today’s demands of travelling and logistics, but how? What is the future of Britain’s motorways? 

The government has committed to a six year, £6billion investment programme to improve strategic roads. However, the AA argues that there should be no need for new major motorways across green fields. So what’s the answer? Well, some say that using the hard shoulder at busy periods will increase the desired capacity. Also, introducing ‘pay lanes’ would diminish the need to destroy countryside in order to build new roads or widen existing ones. The AA says that motorway widening would represent good value for money by reducing congestion and may be more sustainable than temporary fixes like using the hard shoulder. 

Would you give up your school grounds to make way for a motorway?

Imagine you had £6 billion to invest- what technology would you use to manage traffic?

Would increasing the usage of Britain’s railways and building new lines (such as the High Speed 2) be more environmentally friendly than building new roads?

Should people who drive without passengers be forced to carpool or take trains?

If you want to think more about our relationship with travel, transport and modernity, take a look at our Stories from the Stores blog written by the museum’s curatorial team. The Curator of Transport, David Rooney has blogged about the M1 segment too.

The M1 core is in the Making the Modern World gallery, ground floor.

-Denise Cook

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