National Archives 2007-03-20

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National Archives, 20 March 2007

This will be notetaking in the traditional way, since one of the objectives of this visit is to carry out a reconnaissance of files relating to the planning of the M1 London-Yorkshire Motorway. One key goal is to trace, in rather more detail than has been done previously, its evolution from a London-Birmingham Motorway to a London-Yorkshire Motorway with a spur in the general direction of Birmingham. Hoped-for milestones include the discovery of the contract plans (drawings), any location studies and reports prepared by Owen Williams prior to formulation of line & slip road orders, any design studies, any documentation pertaining to the last-minute (prior to order publication) change in width from dual two-lane to dual three-lane, the paperwork covering OW’s consultant brief and decision to study a London-Yorkshire Motorway, and the change in routing/traffic service concept which resulted in the “spur” to Leeds becoming the Aston-Sheffield-Leeds Motorway, a prolongation of the main body of M1. Other side goals are to have a look at the land acquisition case at MT 152/1.

MT 95/650

Despite file caption, seems focused largely on Aston-Sheffield-Leeds. Major question addressed in the handwritten minutes at front of file is whether PCU values at the junctions justify lighting. (Most minutes dated 1965, implying time of volume standard for provision of road lighting.) Some engineers think lighting is justified at lower PCU values because of infamous West Yorkshire “murk”—low visibility not seen as fog. Discussion re. Lighting of Lofthouse occurred in March 1965. Apparently roundabout chosen instead of free-flow design because it was estimated to be £1 million cheaper. 800’ diameter. Much concern for need to light, because Lofthouse is m’way to m’way, and police experience on M1 versus A1 is that people drive more “reasonably” in fog on A1 (all-purpose) than on M1 (motorway). (Decision in favor of Lofthouse was made over objections of agent authority, which recommended free-flow.) Ginns (1965-03-02) votes for lighting at Lofthouse, as mitigation of lowered standard. Policy was also, apparently, to light terminal roundabouts, even temporary termini. A letter to Bill Spencer dated 1963-02-20 sets out the comparative costings: three-level roundabout: £1.47 million; “four-level roundabout of the Almondsbury pattern” (!): £2.81 million; “rotary type” (?): £3.29 million (this is probably a turban).

Plans in the back include a map showing footprint of Lofthouse, with additional land required for the interchange shaded in pink. Apparently this could not be purchased to build the M1, until the M62 scheme had been made. However, there are no plans showing the various options for Lofthouse.

This file has odd tagging (including tape-only corners on some repaired documents) and is rather hard to work with.

MT 95/296

This file deals with the carriageway specification for the M1 etc. London-Birmingham Motorway. Papers begin February 1957 (ish), and end in early 1958. The key dates are advertisement for tenders sometime in late 1957 and tender opening in early January 1958. This file is really a companion to the DSIR files dealing with Glanville’s controversy with Baker and Owen Williams, and tells the Ministry’s side and sheds some light on the Cement and Concrete Association’s role in the matter. Some themes emerge:

• RRL had reservations about the specification for the flexible pavement option (one or the other of the base and subbase was too thick, while the other was too thin, reflecting undue pessimism about subgrade CBR after compaction)

• Cement and Concrete Association (in letter 1957-11-18) queries the haunch adjacent to the slab edge (which would support a marginal strip similar to that seen on German Autobahnen, and would have required additional excavation); this letter was sent to Williams, but Baker was copied in, which made Williams angry (feeling the Association was trying to set up a tripartite correspondence), and determined to deal only with his client (the Ministry); in the correspondence Collins identified some possible economies which might cut the cost £5000-£10,000 per mile

• Maurice Laing had at least one meal and some correspondence with the Minister, then Harold Watkinson. There was some discussion of the specification, with Laing hinting that the options for flexible and rigid construction seemed not to have been designed to the same standard, with rigid construction being disadvantaged; Laing did not like this because his company had worked hard to establish a “niche” for concrete carriageway construction done to very strict surface profile standards

• When tenders opened, apparently the cheapest options turned out to be flexible carriageway construction

• Ministry’s view of the big meeting of the secretaries, at which Glanville and Baker were present—this was held sometime in 1958. Apparently the Ministry had leverage over Glanville and Melville, because Melville needed the Ministry’s help developing five-year estimates for DSIR (including RRL) for the five years beginning in 1959, and both Glanville and Melville wanted the Ministry to agree to allow DSIR to publish RRL research results covering experiments on the public road system where the Ministry had done something contrary to the RRL’s research-derived recommendations. Ministry started with principle that RRL was a provider of confidential advice, and Melville was able to secure agreement only to publish in general terms, without reference to specific Ministry schemes where RRL’s advice not followed (Hyde Park Corner cited as an example)

MT 95/651

This file contains plans only, and is a companion to MT 95/650. Again, despite title it covers only the Aston-Sheffield-Leeds motorway. There is a general plan for Lofthouse showing the layout of proposed lighting columns, but not any plans for any of the proposed alternatives to Lofthouse.

MT 106/188

This file contains the consulting engineer’s reports for Stage I and Stage II of the LCC’s West Cross Route, between the Thames and Westway. (I am not sure whether some or all of this route was built; major crossings at Shepherd’s Bush and Cromwell Road, and the Earl’s Court exhibition building and British Rail lines in the corridor were significant alignment constraints.) Very attractively drawn plans and profiles, to relatively large scale, plus perspectives of the road with proposed alternatives for an OC and UC at Shepherd’s Bush. Plus there are drawings setting out suggested erection procedures for various types of bridge deck, the common theme being their being rolled out onto their supports on erection girders in order to allow traffic to be maintained on the railway tracks underneath. Girder types & cross-sections include concrete precast (similar to what was used on Westway flyover near Paddington), steel box, . . .