Streets of London The Road To Hell - Chris Rea (1989)
And finally to the very outskirts of London, to the orbital motorway notorious for gridlock and misery. The M25 usefully bypasses the centre of town, but combines this convenience with considerable congestion. Here long-distance lorry drivers jam together with suburban commuters in a never-ending crawl of traffic, and stress levels spiral ever upwards. It's enough to drive any sane motorist to distraction. Chris Rea very sensibly expressed all his road rage in song and made a fortune out of the experience.
"Well I’m standing by a river but the water doesn’t flow It boils with every poison you can think of... This ain't no upwardly mobile freeway Oh no, this is the road to hell"
25 (highlyclickable) M25 facts: The M25 is approximately 118 miles long (and slightly longer clockwise than anti-clockwise). The M25 isn't a complete circle. The six mile section across the Thames from Thurrock to Dartford is designated the A282 (so that non-motorway traffic can cross the river). The M25 interchanges with nine other motorways - the M20, M26, M23, M3, M4, M40, M1, A1(M) and M11. Keep an eye on M25 motorway jams here. Today's photograph comes from Jag over at Route 79. He normally goes out of his way to avoid the M25, but decided to risk it for the first time in ten years on his way to a wedding reception last summer. Alas the journey from Slough to the M11 took 2½ hours (causing foot-ache, shoulder-ache, neck-ache and severe driving-nowhere-stress) and he arrived both shattered and late. I'm sure most local readers have similar stories, don't you?
The M25 has 31 junctions, from J1 (south of the Dartford Tunnel) clockwise round to J31 (north of the Dartford Tunnel). [full exit list here] Most of the motorway has six lanes (three each way), but road widening means there are now ten lanes between junctions 12 and 14 and twelve lanes between junctions 14 and 15. At junction 5 near Sevenoaks drivers have to follow the slip roads to stay on the M25, or else they end up on the M26 or A21 instead. Five key destinations are used on all the direction signs round the M25 - Dartford Tunnel, Gatwick, Heathrow, Watford and Harlow. My brother and I would like to apologise to my Mum for 'accidentally' directing her onto the M25 a few days after passing her driving test.
Pre-war planners proposed four concentric ringroads around London. Much of Ringway 2 became the North and South Circular Roads, while the M25 is based on parts of Ringway 3 and Ringway 4. [read a very full history here] 39 different public enquiries were held before the M25 was completed. Several extra junctions were added to appease local residents, which is one of the reasons why congestion on the motorway is far worse than originally planned. The motorway north of the Thames was originally going to be called the M16[here's a map], but planners later decided that the loop should be called the M25 all the way round. The M25 finally was built in several short stages between 1975 to 1986. The first section, between South Mimms and Potters Bar, was just three miles long. [here's a map] Margaret Thatcher officially opened the final stretch of the M25 (again at South Mimms) in October 1986 by cutting a ribbon across the tarmac. "I must say I can't stand those who carp and criticise when they ought to be congratulating Britain on a magnificent achievement."
Only J14 (Heathrow), J25 (A10), J28 (A12) and J29 (A127) fall inside Greater London. All the other junctions are outside. The M25 is at its closest to Central London near Potters Bar (12 miles) and at its furthest near Byfleet, Surrey (20 miles). The tiny village of NorthOckendon is the only settlement in Greater London outside the M25. Watford (population 80000) is the largest town outside Greater London to lie inside the M25. Author Iain Sinclair describes his walk all the way round the M25 in the book LondonOrbital. I so wanted to enjoy it, but I found his prose over-treacly and pretty much unreadable.
Approximately 200,000 vehicles use the section near Heathrow Airport each weekday (double the total of 20 years ago). There are only three service stations on the M25 - at Clacket Lane (J5-6), South Mimms (J23) and Thurrock (J30-31). A fourth at Iver (J15-16) was planned but has never been built. I once tried to drive off the M25 to stop at South Mimms service station. Instead I kept ending up in the wrong lane and, after three circuits of the giant roundabout, gave up and returned to the motorway. The M25's construction costs averaged £7.5m per mile, making it the most expensive motorway ever built in Britain. Far too much detail about the construction of the M25 can be found here.