This is the Road, To Hell

The M25 is a quarter of a century old this week – hurrah! A road that was first proposed in the early 20th Century as a response to the rapidly growing urban conglomerate known as London finally got built some eighty years later. The then Prime Minister hailed it as an investment in Britain’s future. Many others looked at it with a dread as it blighted their community. At the time it was the longest ring road in the world and even today it is only surpassed by Berlin’s ring road by a few miles.

Today it is a symbol of London. The term anywhere within the M25 is used by businesses across the city. Geographically most of the city lies within the London Orbital, but the urban spread of the city has reached and gone beyond the M25 making the road less of a city bypass and just another commuting option. The statistics are truly mind boggling. At its widest point, by Heathrow, the motorway is twelve lanes wide (six lanes either way and still congested). In the east the Dartford Crossing is a major bottleneck. However, if you are flying into London via HS1, it also marks the point where it is time to get your bags ready as you are in London within a few minutes…

(By Nilfanion – thanks!)

It is the place I love to avoid, but I have failed so many times. As a motorcyclist, it is not too bad, as a car driver, the road is bloody awful. Yes, it is the world’s largest car park, but such is the reality of commuting today, where would we in London be without it? It represents both a great civil engineering project and a failure of transport policy in the UK.

For example, I have to pick up two people at Stansted this Christmas. Now for the three of us to come in by train to Central London it will cost £60 – one way. This is only the trip into Central London, not across the suburbs to where I live. That would mean the reality of the commute, one way, would come to around £75. Compare that to the car, even with today’s petrol prices, it will come to no more that £30 return! Yes, the train is quicker, but it is worth spending an extra hour of my life on the motorway to save the extortionate amount the train would cost…

But yes, I have travelled along every stretch of this motorway. Been to every service station en route (especially Clacket Lane, which is one of the biggest in the country). From the M25’s long slip roads at Junction 8 to the excitement of Bell Common to the mind boggling evil of the M4 interchange or even seeing the peas at Chalfont. My brain boggles to think how much time I would have saved if I had braved the South Circular (<— this last link is brilliant, please click on it!)

For better or for worse, the M25 is very much a part of London's urban fabric. Future Archaeologists may wonder in awe, the meaning of this road once it is dug up. Some may call it symbolic of a great Sun deity we in the 21st Century once worshiped. Who knows with those crazy temple raiders? The road to nowhere that is busier than any other motorway in Britain, nay, Europe. The M25, 25 years old this week. Happy Birthday…



Filed under britain, life, london, news, places, political, travel

2 responses to “This is the Road, To Hell

  1. Reminds me of the freeways in Los Angeles. I didn’t realize it was the same in London as it is in most of the U.S., cheaper to drive than to use the public transportation.

    • Unfortunately, it is cheaper to drive once outside London. Inside the city, it is cheaper (and a lot easier) to use public transport. Hence the M25 is like a barrier in s many ways to mobilisation, as well as making so many journey a lot easier. It is definitely a paradox.

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