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A(1)M Part of the A1 Strategic North - South Link

The archive includes the motorway from Junction 1 with the M25 in South Mimms to Junction 10 north of Baldock, length 23 miles and the length of 14 miles between Alconbury and Peterborough from Junction 14 to Junction 17.

Why has the A1 Great North Road not been improved to motorway status over its full length of some 400 miles, when it is a major north-south artery between London and Edinburgh? This appears perplexing, particularly as a scheme for a national motorway system submitted by the Institution of Highway Engineers to the Ministry of Transport in 1936 included a motorway between the north side of the London Orbital Motorway to the north of Hull as well as a motorway from the northwest side of the London Orbital Motorway to Leeds and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The answer could be said to be 'expediency'. The Minister of War Transport, the Rt. Hon. Alfred Barnes, announced in the House of Commons in 1946 the Government's proposals for a network of principal national roads incorporating 800 miles of motor roads and improvements of existing roads incorporating by-passes of urban areas, but generally with improvement in their present alignment. The A1 was shown in the latter category. This had the advantage that relief from traffic congestion by the construction of by-passes and improvements could be started without recourse to new legislation required for restriction of categories of vehicles and access on motorways. However, the policy of by-passes and on-line improvements had the disadvantage that smaller communities which were not considered to merit a by-pass still had to endure the heavy traffic on this important artery.

In May 1956, Rt Hon. Harold Watkinson, Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, pronounced that the Government intended to transform the A1 into a major north-south road link designed to cope with modern traffic conditions. The preparation of schemes for the provision of dual carriageways to replace the existing narrow and winding single carriageway lengths of the A1 was allocated to County Councils as Agents to the Ministry.

In Huntingdonshire, for example, the programme consisted of the provision of a dual carriageway for 28 miles of the A1 Great North Road from Eaton Socon, west of St Neots, to the River Nene at Wansford, north-west of Peterborough. The earliest length to be completed was the 5½ miles from Alconbury Hill, north-west of Huntingdon to the B660 road, near Conington. It was opened to traffic in 1957 and incorporated a unique constructional experiment by the County Council in conjunction with the Roads Research Laboratory of the Department Scientific and Industrial Research. This extended over 2½ miles of the northbound carriageway and has provided most useful basic data on the performance under traffic of a wide range of thicknesses and strengths of the layers of rigid and flexible road pavements.

Stilton Bypass, south of Peterborough, opened to traffic by Rt Hon Harold Watkinson on the 21st July 1958, was the first bypass to be completed on the A1 subsequent to the Minister's pronouncement. This section of the ancient Roman Road, Ermine Street, and later post-road between London, York and Scotland, has the added distinction of being part of the route on which the first Turnpike Road Act of 1663 applied, with Stilton one of the first three locations authorised for the collection of tolls in the Act.

The earliest length of the A1 to be opened as a motorway, following the procedure laid down in the Special Roads Act 1949, was Stevenage Bypass in May 1962. Its length is 7 miles, with Hertfordshire County Council as Agent Authority, Main Contractor Martin Cowley with a tender price of £1.8 million. This was followed by Baldock Bypass in July 1967, also 7 miles long, with Herts C C as Agent Authority, Main Contractor A Monk with a tender price of £3.5 million.

In 1959, the Government decided that improvement of the A1 between South Mimms and Welwyn should be examined as a whole and in 1962 the Minister of Transport announced that this would form a continuous motorway. The A1 (M) Lemsford - Welwyn length of 3 miles was opened in May 1973 under the aegis of the Eastern Road Construction Unit (Herts Sub-Unit), Main Contractor A F Budge, tender price £2,2 million. The length of 3 miles between South Mimms and Roestock, south of Hatfield, was opened in May 1979, also under the aegis of ERCU (Herts SU), Main Contractor Higgs and Hill, tender price £3.6 million.

This left the length of 3 miles of the A1 between Roestock and Stanborough incorporating the Hatfield Tunnel, ¾ mile long, which was opened by the Duke of Kent in December 1986. This complex scheme is described elsewhere.
Alconbury Peterborough

A1(M) Alconbury to PeterboroughThe other length of the A1 in the Eastern Region which has been improved as a motorway is on the Alconbury to Peterborough stretch, opened in October 1998 by Lord Whitty. This follows the corridor of the Stilton Bypass which catered for all-purpose traffic, but moves the alignment eastwards away from the village.

This improvement to motorway standard was needed primarily for safety reasons. It was the busiest length of the A1 which had not been raised for motorway standard. In 1961 it carried over 50,000 vehicles a day, of which about 1 in 5 were lorries; there was extensive congestion at peak times with regular queues of traffic up to five miles long; traffic was expected to double over the next 30 years; existing side road and property accesses were a source of danger to local and through traffic.

The total length of motorway is about 14 miles, with four lanes northbound and southbound, each with hard shoulder between Alconbury Hill and Norman Cross. Safety for through and local traffic is improved by the provision of a separate local road system.

Tenders for the project were invited in May 1995 under the new procedures on a "Design Build Finance and Operate" basis over a 10-year period. Tenders were returned by February 1996 and the successful tenderer, (Road Management Services, a joint venture of AMEC, Alfred McAlpine, Brown & Root and the Spanish firm Dragados) was appointed in April 1996, with work starting in May 1996.

Under the terms of this "DBFO" contract, payment is made in stages over the 30-year period based upon automatic continuous counting of the number of vehicles (shadow tolls). There is no stopping of vehicles and no payment of tolls to the drivers of vehicles it will be no different from a conventional motorway. The contract embodies performance incentives to provide a high level of service, ensure liaison with interested parties and protection of the environment. This private financing has enabled the upgrading of the A1 to take place earlier than would be possible under previous public financing arrangements.

Contract details:

Section Length Engineer Contractor Cost
South Mimms to Roestock (J1 to J2) 3m Herts Sub-unit Higgs & Hill £3.6m
Roestock to Stanborough (J2 to J4) 3m Herts CC Tarmac (now Carrilion Construction) £36.9m
Stanborough to Welwyn (J4 to J6) 3m Herts Sub-unit A F Budge £2.2m
Stevenage By-pass (J6 to J8) 7m Herts CC Martin Cowley £1.8m
Baldock By-pass (J8 to J10) 7m Herts CC A Monk £3.5
Alconbury to Peterborough (J13 to J17) 14m DBFO contract: AMEC, A McAlpine,Brown & Root & Dragos ?