M1 Southern Extension

Hang on a minute!

Yes, I know what you're going to say...

Got psychic powers now, have we?

Not really - it's just that on this occasion I know what you're going to say.

OK then - let's see just how good you are.

You're going to complain about the inclusion of the M1. Especially when it says on the FAQ that the M1 is not an example of a pathetic motorway.

Time to justify yourself, then!

I will, if you'll bear with me.

The M1 as it is today is, quite rightly, not an example of a pathetic motorway. However, the missing southern extension into London certainly is.

OK, I'll let you have it. But isn't the southern extension pretty well known?

Indeed it is.

As you leave the motorway at Staples Corner (or junction 1 to give it its Sunday name), it's blindingly obvious even to the unobservant that something strange is going on. You get shunted over to the left, and down a rather obvious slip road whilst the main route continues on for a short distance, completely unused.

I know all this already.

Good for you. Then you probably also know that the motorway was due to be extended south, to end on the North Cross Route, part of Ringway 1 - the planned motorway inner Ring Road for London. It would have followed the railway line south, meaning that although it would have bulldozed everything in its path at least it wouldn't have severed any communities.

Thought so.

OK, now here's the bit that's interesting.

The plan to extend the M1 as far as the North Cross Route is actually the cut-down version of the original idea. Our friends the post-war planners had big, big ideas for the M1.

Out with it! What was the big idea?

The M1 would have travelled far, far into London. The standard mention of the southern terminus is at Marble Arch, although it's unclear as to whether that means the roundabout at Marble Arch itself or a terminus in that general area. Some sources give Montagu Square (to the northeast of Marble Arch) on the 'A' Ring, the upgrade of London's Inner Ring Road, as the terminus.

There would also have been a junction at Cricklewood Lane (A407), a little to the north of the later North Cross Route.

Really? Are you sure?

Yes, absolutely. It was a very serious plan to bring the motorway that far in, and it lasted a surprisingly long time before being cancelled - it's mentioned in documentation dated December 1959, for example.

Of course, the cost of such a motorway would have been astronomical, and that far into London there are no convienient gaps in development to follow, nor are there any railway lines to follow. It would simply have had to blast its way into London, with the southernmost section being about half on viaduct and half in cutting. It was estimated that 600 people would lose their homes, and it would have cost £30 million at 1956 prices - half of which would take the motorway the 12 miles from Aldenham (the present location of junction 5 near Watford) to Cricklewood Lane, and the other half for the short 4 mile section south of Cricklewood Lane.

Crazy. Quite crazy.

Not in the minds of 1940s and 50s planners. It should also be borne in mind that London was still in the process of repairing itself from the damage caused in World War II, and so more land was available to use. It is interesting to take a journey of aerial photography down the A5 through Maida Vale and Kilburn and take note of the amount of post 1960 developement that has gone on in the area of the road - and how many houses have oddly large back gardens...

Can I comment on this motorway?

Of course! Contact me and I'll put them here!

Have any other visitors commented?

Not yet, they haven't.


Southern Extension




5 miles

8 km





Map Links:

Might Have Been Map

On other websites:

CBRD Ringways