Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday 8 August 2010

Not-so-magic roundabouts

Following the previous story of traffic chaos, here's one from just down the road - Junction 10 of the M40, to be precise.

For those fortunate enough never to have passed through this abomination, and all who have sped by and wondered about the seemingly endless queues, there is a full explanation here, which can easily be simplified - essentially everyone gets in everyone else's way. A lot.

"Slip road" - the term was devised to suggest a seamless transition onto the new-fangled motorway (where a smiling AA man will salute when he sees your radiator badge - happy motoring!). How different from the daily situation at Junction 10, where almost anyone going almost anywhere has to cross a seemingly unbroken stream of traffic.

And this, let’s not forget, is one of the main access routes to Silverstone, Britain’s flagship Grand Prix circuit. While the important racegoers are flown into Kidlington and taken by helicopter to the track, the rank and file coming up from the South sit in increasing tailbacks on the M40 and wonder why they bothered.

Between them and the A43 are three roundabouts which, even in normal traffic, generate queues of several hundred yards. The first, where virtually all northbound traffic must turn hard right, has a camber so extreme that HGVs topple over on a regular basis.

At the second, which also leads off to the local services, you are stuck in a mass of jammed traffic and have to rely on clairvoyance to select the correct lane to the third, where, in defiance of all logic or common sense, the streams of north- and southbound A43 traffic cross at a single point. Oh, and that point is at the bottom of a steep slope, so there is a very real possibility of lorries failing to stop when they reach it, regardless of oncoming traffic.

One can only conclude that the whole arrangement was designed by a planner who cycles to work (doubtless in sweaty lycra and a filthy temper) and has a serious grudge against motorists in general and motorsport fans in particular.

The Highways people have just announced a major expansion at Junction 9 - close but no cigar. Until they work out what to do about the monstrosity that is Junction 10, my advice is to do what the locals do and avoid it at all costs.

Here endeth today's rant - thank you for your patience!


  1. I have always looked on it as a test of skill and judgement. The trouble is that like in other competitions needing this all too often I lost. But the country around is very nice while you work out where the hell you are going. As for the services once in then the fun starts when you try go get out.

  2. Demetrius, you may have hit the nail on the head; maybe only those of us too old for computer games are foiled by these confusing traffic arrangements.

    My X-box-playing offspring routinely steer vehicles at high speed over difficult terrain while simultaneously shooting aliens/zombies/wolves. Perhaps our road system is increasingly designed for their finely-honed reflexes.

    I agree about the services, too - I didn't have room to describe the Flying Dutchman-like experience of trying to get out down the southbound slip road.


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