Where is it?
Here, kind of south east of London
What's it doing here then?
Well, let's get something out of the way first:
It's a very useful part of the national motorway network. It's a link between the M25 and M20, and allows traffic between the country at large and such things as the Channel Tunnel and the ports of Folkestone and Dover, as well as large areas of Kent.
Believe it or not, it's even got its own fan club.
So, if it's so good, what's it doing here?
A worthy question, my friend, a worthy question...
To which the answer is?
Well, it's twofold really. First, the M26 certainly acts as an "overgrown sliproad", much like M49.
Secondly, and most damning, it's the number. It's the way the very M26 number itself is a bodge, much like the decision that caused its creation.
That's rather... dramatic, isn't it?
Sorry, don't know what came over me for a minute.
Anyway, once again I find myself talking about Ringways - the original M25 Ringway 4 plan started from Hunton Bridge, NW of Watford at present J19a, went round London (with the odd routing difference) all the way around along what is now M26 to meet M20.
When that plan changed from a series of orbital motorways to a single M25, the section between Ringway 4 at the present J5, and Ringway 3 at the present J3 was created as a "bodge" to link the two different rings into One Ringway to Rule Them All...
Oi! Come back to us!
Yeah, sorry about that.
Anyway, the bit of M25 that was left over between the "bodge" and the M20 was cunningly changed from M25 to M26. They must have agonised for weeks over that change.
It also explains why all the M25 traffic needs to turn off (or join) the main route that leads directly onto M26.
The final reason for inclusion is this: the M26 has a junction, all of its own. Nothing exciting so far. However, it has the junction number of "2a". Not "1", or something equally sensible. No, sir, "2a". Apparently it's to fit in with the M20's numbering. How rubbish is that?
That's pretty rubbish.
Certainly is. Just to even things up a little, the westbound side of the M26 is part of the answer to a quiz question. It forms part of the longest stretch on a British motorway without a junction - 18 miles (30km). If you miss your exit at J2a, then the next opportunity you have to do anything about it is at M25 junction 6. Fortunately, it's only 14 miles (21km) to Clacket Lane Services, so it's not so bad f you need a stop...
Can you show me some photos?
Can I comment on this motorway?
Of course! Contact me and I'll put them here!
Have any other visitors commented?
A303 Paul points out:
From Junction 2a to the M20 used to be the er.. M20 until Junctions 3 to 1 of the M20 were built
The M26 is probably the only motorway to be narrowed. From 2a to the M20 was originally D3M, is now D2M
Not sure if the rest opened as M25, but it may well have done as the J5 to J3 of M25 didnt open for a decade or so afterwards...even then they just bodged the northern end of the A21 Sevenoaks by-pass to do it (Hence the lack of hard shoulder in places after heading north of J5. The whole of J5 was built long before J5-3 of the M25 were planned.
Given the above mess, unless the statory orders were drafted very well then that part of the sevenoaks bypass south of Junction 5 (which was the A21) and became the M25 as far as the A25 where it reverts to A21 might well be in reality the A21(M). Secret motorway investigation recommended here!
Gareth, a member of the M26 Fan Club speaks:
This one's definitely not pathetic! It's very useful, a lot of traffic to and from the Channel Ports and Channel Tunnel use it. A lot of the time more traffic turns off the M20 onto the M26 than stays on the M20.
It may be a bit boring, and could certainly do with a junction at Sevenoaks, but I think this is probably one of the least pathetic motorways on the site. I believe it to be an important part of the motorway network.
Person X writes [Oct 08]:
Following on from A303 Paul, I recall that the number was always M26. It took them a while to extend the M25 from Godstone to Sevenoaks, and by the time the following extension came, it was known that the Ringway bodge was coming - hence the M26 only being 2 lanes each way
I am not sure that they narrowed the section from the M20 to the Junction (2A). I think they actually widened the bit which stayed M20 when they extended up to Junction 1 at Swanley.
Mark Whittingham adds [Nov 08]:
Living locally I clearly remember the M20 when it terminated at the A20 near Wrotham. From Aylesford, it was constructed as 3-lanes, but about a mile from the A20 it dropped a lane. At the time I couldn't understand why, but when the M20 was built from Swanley, all became clear! The lane-drop is pretty much where the M26 slip road begins.