A41(M) Watford - Tring Motorway

Comments Archive (updated September 07):

Maurice Frank adds an interesting bit of trivia:

"The AA books of the period kept misprinting its number. The 1972 book, when it was just a "projected" dotted blue line, says A4(M). Then the 1974 book says M41(M) ! Something to do with the unrealised M41 plan. Then from the 1976 book the AA dropped showing projected motorways. Something had changed in the confidence of projects being realised, and the A41(M) is a fossil of that moment."

Simon Hollett gives us some information and poses a question:

"The map here has the A41(M) continuing as yellow unclassified road. I have a map dating from about 1990 (pre-Berkhamsted bypass but after downgrading) that has this just as a one-way (north/west bound) flyover with the other side not open. Also this odd bit of road (the yellow bit) may explain why the flyover lacks hard shoulders (as seen in your last photo). It seems that the bridge was built as an all purpose road - most odd!

I can only guess that the cartographer has spotted that the junction is finished, but is only one way. having it as yellow must have been an afterthought after they realised it was only one way - a blue line there would show dual carriagewayness. Note how the flyover isn't shown as dual unclassified (which would have a line in the middle) but as motorway that is yellow and not blue. Hmm I'm not old enough to remember this junction before the Berkhamstead bypass was added, maybe someone else can help work out the arrangement of it, as all I have is a couple of old maps."

Lez Watson:

The not-quite A41(M) now extends to the eastern fringe of Aylesbury with the opening of the Aston Clinton bypass recently (2004). I suspect it will eventually link up with the Aylesbury southern ring/relief road that's been pencilled in for at least two decades and it planned to skirt all the built up area via a junction (GSJ?) with the Oxford Road.

Next stop for the 'A41(M)' after that at the M40 near Bicester, or Oxford, or Siverstone racing circuit??

I imagine the Tring Road hill out of Aston Clinton going east has been considered 'bypassable' for at least 40 years. I don't know why it wasn't bypassed at the same time as Tring.

(BTW My maternal grandfather was killed on the hill in 1933, by a woman driver (!). He was walking along the left side of the road from his house at Buckland Wharf when struck by a car - a rare thing in those days, of course. He left a young widow and three kids under 5 to see through the Depression.)

I seem to recall that the Aylesbury southern relief road has been in the town Plan since at least 1980 and probably for a decade before that. It became embroiled in the arguments about the outer London ring road which were believed by many locals to be planned to pass between Aylesbury and Aston on its way to Oxford (?). These days the relief road is considered a stand alone scheme, but I've not heard anything in the past few years about when, or if, it will go ahead.

'the last bit curves round so sharply to avoid going across the county boundary' Goarn! You're kidding me.

I can go for it being a county project, which would explain why the Bucks half wasn't done at the time, but I think the curve at West Leith is sharp to have the road project towards the course it now takes (which makes me think the two parts had been drawn on some MoT map years before!). Anyway, the county border is about ½km east of the old A41 roundabout.

From an anonymous contributor:

Re the yellow motorway: Until the road was extended south, the eastern slips on the GSJ at the east end of the motorway were closed. A temporary slip allowed northbound traffic to leave the A41 and cross the GSJ on the flyover but the southbound carriageway over the flyover was closed. I can't remember where the start of motorway signs were but I suspect the flyover was not classed as a special road and since it was not the A41 it had to be unclassified. Congrats to a diligent cartographer.

Paul Ridley has some trivia about the A41(M):

Just a note about the A41(M) - it features predominantly in the superb (then) series The Professionals in the episode Heroes as the location of a motorway hold up.

It was filmed on the most southerly point showing scenes of construction. As this was filmed in 1978 clearly this section was not in use and exit from the south end of the A41(M) was from the existing roundabout and the "yellow" bit as mapped was not in use at that time.

Robert Wooley informs us of the (rather dull) reason for the downgrade:

I used to work for Hertfordshire CC in the Environment Dept.

The A41(M) was despecialised in the late 1980s when it became clear that it woudn't join up with other motorways and authority was given for the Berkhamstead By-pass. Also, the signs were in need of replacement so the County Council considered that replacement with green all-purpose road signs would make more sense.

Hence the road was despecialised.

Alex Richardson:

To some people when they looked at a 1970s and a early 80s maps they would think that was a printing error showing the A41(M) rather than a real 4 lane motorway. I mean it was in the middle of nowhere bypass the small town of Tring with less than 11,000 people living there in the 1980s. This road could well go down in history as the most isolated and useless motorway ever to have been built in the UK.

I wonder what the people of Tring itself thought about it having its very own motorway at that time?

Nick Regan:

I'm glad I didn't imagine this road! I am a little surprised by the comments that the road was downgraded in the 1980s as I drove the motorway section once and I didn't pass my test until 1991, I seem to remember it being around 1992/93, You crawled your way from Hemel up through Berkhamsted and then headed off along a slip road across the southern roundabout and then emerged onto the motorway (I distinctly remember the blue signs!). If you drive the old A41 (A4251) there is a fence heading off towards the road at an angle and a gate left on the main road, though it appears the slip road has now been grassed over.

Peter Pearce:

If you look at the episode of The Professionals 'Heroes' you can quite clearly see the direction sign saying motorway A41(M). I freeze framed it and zoomed in. Its definitely there!

Ian Denyer has some memories:

I live in Tring and can well remember the whole saga relating to this little motorway.
It was built in advance of the rest of the proposed motorway to Watford simply because the narrow High Street in Tring had become such an awful bottleneck on the old A41. The motorway was so short that the "End of Motorway" advance warning signs for both ends were almost facing one another.

When built the bridge at "Tring East" interchange, although built for traffic in both directions, was then only used for northbound traffic, with a temporary slip road direct from the northbound A41 near Pendley Beeches. There were slip roads built from the roundabout on both sides in the Watford direction but the southbound on slip was never used until the new A41 was brought into use.

The northbound off slip was also not used until the authorities had to overcome a major problem with gypsys camping on the unused road, which was solved by opening up the slip for off traffic. This only happened a matter of weeks before the whole thing was closed again to build the new A41. It meant that you could drive from the old temporary A41 slip at Pendley Beeches, onto the motorway and off again at the roundabout, a distance of probably around 400 metres - surely the shortest motorway joutney in he country!"

David Brown has some extra items about the "yellow bridge" mystery:

To add to the great yellow bridge debate! I have found this OS map, from 1974 (the same year as the other map) showing the A41(M) under construction.

It clearly shows the bridge and slip roads being built - as a motorway. If it had no motorway restrictions when it opened, then were there any revoking orders as is needed? If not, then is the bridge still legally the A41(M)?! Also, if it wasn't a motorway, then does anyone remember where the 'End of motorway' signs were?

Richard Lampitt:

On my way to Southend last week, I took pains to avoid the M4 and as much of the M25 as I could, something I found out later saved me something in the region of an hour on my journey! (lost again however when an HT lead on my car broke)

However, rambling aside, I took the A41 to reach the M25, and I started panicking when I encountered part of this road looking suspiciously motorway-like. As it turns out, all they have done is change the colour on the signs - everything else is still there - including a full hard shoulder! A very surreal experience it must be said.

Ivan Tan:

My God! I remember the A41(M) in the bad old days. We were actually taken on it during a school geography field trip in 1985. I always remember that it started in the middle of nowhere, and finished in much the same surroundings. The entire coachload was expecting this motorway to be a bit longer!


Watford - Tring




2 miles

3.5 km





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