The A1 is the longest numbered road in the UK. It spans over 410 miles in length and stretches from London to Edinburgh. It was designed by the Ministry of Transport in 1921 and over decades the route has been modified with parts given motorway status (A1M). The A1 passes through 17 counties including, Greater London, Nottinghamshire, North, West and South Yorkshire, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.
The Great North Road makes up a part of the A1’s causeway with the rest of the historic road running adjacent to the A1 through villages and countryside via B roads. For centuries it was the only major route to get from London to York.
The most southern part of the A1 starts in Aldersgate in London and heads north passing through the capital to Borehamwood. The A1 is the most recent route to head north out of London, passing through York and beyond.
There are lots of towns and cities that are easily accessible via the A1, such as Peterborough, Doncaster, Leeds, York and Darlington. The A1 then edges north towards the coast to Newcastle upon Tyne and Berwick-upon-Tweed before finishing in the Scottish capital.
From London the A1 merges onto the A1(M) when it becomes in connection with the A14 near Alconbury. It becomes a motorway until the road reaches Peterborough where it stays a major dual carriageway until Wadworth in Doncaster. The A1(M) continues north until the A1 passes the Angel of the North overlooking the Northumbrian countryside. The road will be restricted to two lanes until it reaches its end in Edinburgh. As this road spans a great distance it’s important to check for any A1 traffic updates before you travel.
Worst Junctions on the A1
Throughout the route of the A1 and A1(M) there are several junctions to be mindful of when planning your journey. Make sure you leave plenty of time for delays. Before setting off, make sure you check for the latest A1 travel and A1(M) traffic news and updates. The following junctions are common hotspots:
Black Cat Roundabout
This is where the A1 meets the A421, a popular truck route, in Bedfordshire. Stuck between two sections of the A1(M), expect traffic to build up on this busy junction.
Birtley Interchange A1(M)
Traffic heading to Newcastle and beyond forks here and meets the A1231 moving on to Sunderland and Washington. It’s a busy interchange as it’s a widely populated area. You can also expect delays just before this junction at the Washington services to Lobley Hill in Gateshead, which is about a six-mile stretch. This section gets particularly congested with speeds averaging just 30 mph during peak hours.
Junction 23 - South Mimms, Hertfordshire
Junction 23 is where the M25 connects with the A1(M) just outside London. There’s a heavy flow of traffic here due to traffic lights at every entry point.
The Wideopen roundabout is near Great Park in Newcastle. This can be problematic due to the road markings not being consistent - making navigation around the roundabout unclear.
Accident Hotspots on the A1
The Black Cat Roundabout in Bedfordshire is a well known accident blackspot. This is due to the road being a popular truck route flowing from Bedford via the A421 and joining the A1 at this small interchange.
The A1 old road in the East of England, near Peterborough, is heavily subjected to gap junctions. Be aware of the potential eventuality of cars crossing your pathway or slowing down to veer into the short junctions.
The 20-mile stretch between Northallerton and Darlington in North Yorkshire is a key route in northern England. It’s considered an accident blackspot due to the heavy flow of traffic by cars and HGV vehicles moving north.
The area near the Duns Road junction by Berwick-upon-Tweed up until Spott Road Roundabout, Dunbar has been problematic due to narrow lanes and gap junctions. These roads should improve with the new resurfacing of this A1 section - but check the latest A1 traffic news before you depart.
Upcoming A1 Major Roadworks
As the A1 is a major traffic route spanning one end of the country to the other, plans for improvements are constantly being reviewed. Make sure you check your journey before departing using the RAC Route Planner to note any A1 traffic news to help ensure you miss any roadworks or delays.
Upcoming major roadworks on the A1 include:
A1 north of Ellingham - This project will be starting in 2018 and will improve junction improvements and crossing facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.
Morpeth to Ellingham Duelling - This major scheme will provide additional road capacity enabling better access into and out of Northumberland. Aim to start in 2019/2020.
Birtley to Coal House - This is a major scheme set to start in 2020 to improve the A1 road and replace the Allerdene railway bridge. The aim is to reduce congestion and unreliable journey times.
Scotswood to North Brunton - There are proposed plans to address the frequent congestion on the A1 Newcastle Gateshead Western Bypass. There are no planned start dates as of yet.