Monday, 2 November 2009

The dawn of car dependency: 50 glorious years of the M1 motorway

The M1, Britain's first long distance motorway, was opened 50 years ago today. It was assumed it would be used by a maximum of 13,000 vehicles a day. Today it is used by around 140,000 cars every day.

The M1 was very much the darling of Ernest Marples, minister of transport in Harold Macmillan's Tory government in the 50s, who just happened to be a director of Marples Ridgeway, a civil engineering company specialising in road construction. Although the company didn't officially build the M1, it certainly had a finger in the pie.

In 1963 a report called the "Reshaping Plan" initiated the widespread closure of railway stations and railways, this became, and remains, the foundation of U.K. transport policy. Its authors were a clique of industrialists around Transport Minister, Ernest Marples