Happy Birthday: M25 reaches 30

Mike Humble:

It may be one of Europe’s busiest motorways… and certainly the UKs most loathed but this weekend marks the 30 anniversary of the opening of the M25…


29th of October 1986 – Mrs Thatcher officially opens the last Hertfordshire section of the M25. Happy Birthday M25.


Living in West Sussex as I do I cannot visit relatives in the north or midlands without enduring the dreaded M25. Opened on the 30th October 1986 by the then Prime Minister the Rt Hon Margaret Thatcher, this motorway has most certainly divided opinion just as much as the aforementioned lady who cut the ribbon all those 30 years ago.

But go further back to the 1960s and an even bolder idea had been thought up. Plans were developed to provide a series of roads and motorways to combat congestion within London. This scheme was known as The London Ringway. The idea would be to circle London with more than one major trunk road thus avoiding the centre of London for through passing through or around. But following pressure from Councils, residents and budgets, the original four ring idea was scrapped.

A Royal Com­mis­sion first sug­gested a ring road for Lon­don in 1905 but only parts of the planned road were cre­ated at that time. By the 1970s, the huge growth of motor traf­fic had led to firm Gov­ern­ment plans for what became the M25. The last 13 miles from Mick­le­field to South Mimms opened ahead of sched­ule in Octo­ber 1986.

Some M25 facts:


The M25 has 33 junctions.  There are 234 bridges over or under the motorway itself with 20 more built on other motorways and trunk roads.

For the road surface alone contractors used more than 2 million tonnes of concrete and 3.5 million tonnes of ‘black top’. Some 500,000 yards of crash barrier guard its central reservations.

Its extensive landscaping has involved the planting of well over 2.1 million trees and shrubs.

Before the first sod of earth could be dug, the route had to go through public consultation and a series of Public Inquiries. As a result and in total the route was subject to no fewer than 39 Public Inquiries lasting a total of almost two years sitting time.

The public inquiries led to more than twenty changes or modifications on the route, the doubling of the length of the tunnel at Epping Forest and the extensive use for cuttings to hide the road as it passed through an Area of Outstanding Beauty near Swanley and Sevenoaks.

Total cost of the motorway in 1986 was nearly £1,000 million. The European Community contributed £5.8 million in transport infrastructure grants.

The M25 is not a complete circle of motorway despite what many people think. The Essex – Kent link section near the Thames is in fact an “A” road. England’s only complete uninterrupted motorway circle is the M60 around Manchester.








Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.