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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Birmingham

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Aerial shot of Spaghetti Junction.
© Courtesy of Birmingham Central Library.
Dad, are we nearly there yet?

Despite being officially recorded as Gravelly Hill Interchange, Junction 6 on the M6 is more commonly known as Spaghetti Junction. It is where the M6 connects to the A38M motorway and A38 trunk road, as well as providing connections to the local roads that lead in and out of Birmingham.

In 1958, the Ministry of Transport commissioned the engineering firm, Sir Owen Williams & Partners, to investigate possible routes to connect the three motorways. The next 15 years were spent in the planning, design and construction of Spaghetti Junction. It cost £10.8 million to build in 1972, which is equivalent to £86.2 million in today's prices.

Spaghetti Junction celebrated its 30th anniversary on 24th May 2002. It had been officially opened by the then Secretary of State for the Environment, the Rt. Hon Peter Walker MP. It was not the first junction built on that specific location. The Tame Valley Canal Bypass was constructed in 1844 to help ease the strain on the city's canal network for traders travelling to and from Birmingham.

Spaghetti Junction aerial shot.
© Courtesy of Birmingham Central Library.
Spaghetti Junction was unique as it was the largest in Europe and Britain's first free flowing interchange: it did not involve roundabouts or traffic lights. Its principle feature is its truly unusual appearance. The engineers designed each span in different materials according to the width of the span, thus giving it an ugly, disjointed look.

In 1972 the average flow of vehicles using the Spaghetti Junction was 40,000 per day. Thirty years later the figure has risen to 140,000. It is believed that an estimated total of 1.25 billion vehicles have passed through the Spaghetti Junction. Approximately 5 million tons of freight passes through the junction every week.

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