M6 Junction 6

Southbound Sign at M6  Junction  6

 

Satallite view of Junction 6 the Gravelly Hill interchangeJunction 6 is no doubt the best known junction on the British motorway system and likely one of the best known junction in the world, officially known as the Gravelly Hill interchange it is much better known as spaghetti junction from its network of roads and flyovers, particularly when seen on a map, from the air or from satellite as shown here. Junction 6 was first opened on 10th November 1971, being heralded as a triumph of modern engineering. In the 1960's the site of this junction was just a simple 'Y' junction between two A roads the A38 running out of Birmingham through Sutton Coldfield to Lichfield and the A4097 which ran from the junction through Erdington to the village of Kingsbury. It could have been the motorway planners could quite easily just built here a roundabout either under or over the motorway as they had done at many other junctions with the 2 A roads meeting at the roundabout. In fact if this junction had been built later this is likely how it would have been built, however the motorway planners of the 1960's had something grander in mind.

During the 1960's railways with things like the Beeching cuts where in effect the viewed as an outmoded form of transport which had passed its sell by date. Motorways on the other hand where just being built and seen very much as the thing of the future. Most main railway stations where built in city centre's in effect motorway planners hoped to have motorways running from city centre to city centre as the railways had done previously as the route of the M6 ran closest to Birmingham City Centre at the point where the A38 and the A4097 met, this was the obvious point to build a motorway link to the heart of britain's second largest city Birmingham.
 

Why So Complicated?

Apart from the existing road the M6 would link to the new motorway into Birmingham city centre the A38(M), this could have been achieved by a simple roundabout over or more likely in this location under the M6, however the motorway planners decided that in the interests of speed and not to cause any queueing at a roundabout at what was projected to be a very busy junction that instead of a roundabout there would be direct routes between the roads, despite this a roundabout was still built at the original junction of the A38/A4097 this is the routes they built:-

  • From M6 southbound to:- A38(M) , A38/A4097 (2 routes)
  • From M6 northbound to:- A38(M), A38/A4097 (2 routes)
  • From A38(M) to:- M6(N), M6(S), A38, A4027 (4 routes)
  • From A38 to:- A38(M), (M6(N), M6(S), (3 routes)
  • From A4027 to:- A38(M) (1 route)

So in all 12 routes where built, however it was opened in two parts, the M6 southbound terminated at this junction from 10th November 1971 until 24th May May 1972 as the A38(M) was not opened until 1972 and the M6 was already opened east of the A446 near Coleshill it was likely that traffic was taken off the M6 to the still existing roundabout at the A38/A4097 junction, then following the A4097 and the A446 to rejoin the M6 east of Birmingham. The resulting junction would have been like is shown below:-

 

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A silent video is available from Pathe News, to use the free video you must choose the free previe. On 24th May 1972 the M6 opened from junction 6 through to Coleshill with the A38(M) opening at the same time the resulting junction was like as shown below:-

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The only change made since then has been a number change the A4097 becoming the A38 with the opening of the Sutton Coldfield Bypass, whilst the A38 through Sutton Coldfield became the A5127. Whilst the A38(M) has gone the way of a number of small city motoways, bieng downgrades to an A road becoming the A38

Northbound sign at junction 6