A Look at Motorway Construction
In 1921 Germany opened the world’s first effort at a motorway, the 12 mile stretch of dual carriageway in southern Berlin, the first of the Autobahns.
In 1926 Italy opened its first effort at a motorway. It carried two carriageways, one going each way, but was the precursor of the Autostrada, and in the course of the next fifteen years around 250miles of multi-lane fast road was constructed.
In Germany, the buildings continued, accelerating under the Hitler regime as an engineering showcase to the world, as a source of great employment, and as a portal for rapid military deployment.
By the end of WW2, the Germans had constructed over 1,200 miles of autobahn. In Italy the autostrada system had built over 250 miles of dual carriageways and fast roads linking and by-passing cities.
In Britain, motorway construction was a little more reserved. From the time of Germany and Italy’s commencement of this futuristic engineering, it took Britain some time longer to see the big picture, in fact it took 38 years, one World War, three (and a half) monarchs, and eight different prime ministers to finally oversee the opening of Britain’s first motorway.
This monument to engineering was the eight mile long Preston bypass, opened on the 5th of December 1958 by the then prime minister Harold Macmillan, and subsequently closed for repairs later that winter.
However, its initial construction blueprint was shared with other motorway construction projects, and it was in the following year that the M1 motorway opened its first 51 mile stretch on the same day as the M10 and M45.
The motorways were immediately popular and further planning. In the early sixties the M50, parts of the M5 and the Preston by-pass was absorbed into the M6.The tonnage and vehicular rate rose quickly and may well have a been an element in Dr Beeching’s assessments of the great rail network amputation.
From the basic network of the motorway system planned in the sixties and early seventies, progress has varied depending on various Government’s strategies. The net result has been a very gradual addition to the actual number of motorways laid, and more in improving the existing.
Wholesale widening, where feasible, or affordable, of swathes of motorways have occurred, and a new phenomenon has been introduced, the smart motorway.
This is basically an attempt to fit more vehicles on the same square meterage of road, with varying amounts of driver discomfort about it, with automated roads giving multiple instructions of which lanes are “running”, variable speed limits, congestion levels, time to next junctions, and much more, whilst receiving criticisms of not concentrating enough…..