M25 – The Road to Hell

The M25 is London’s orbital motorway, circling Greater London with 117 miles of seemingly endless traffic.


The road ‘starts’ to the east of London on the south bank of the River Thames, and there are some 31 junctions before the road returns to the north bank of the river. The actual river crossing comprises the Queen Elizabeth II bridge (southbound or clockwise) and the Dartford Tunnel (northbound or anti-clockwise). The crossing is not a motorway, thus allowing a larger range of motor traffic to cross the river. The crossing toll for a car is £1.50 each way.

Most of the M25 is three lanes in each direction, in common with other British motorways, but in places (such as approaching Heathrow Airport to the west of London) it can be six lanes in each direction.

The motorway is served by three service areas:

· South Mimms – to the north of London adjacent to the junction with the A1 trunk road to the North

· Thurrock – to the east of London at Junction 30

· Clackett Lane – to the south east, between Junctions 5 and 6.

The M25 was completed in 1986 and ceremonially opened by Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister.

Traffic levels on the M25 are such that it is often referred to as Britain’s largest car park, and was the inspiration for Chris Rea’s hit single ‘The Road to Hell’ – “this ain’t no technological freeway, this is the road to hell”.

Despite this, it has been a tremendous success, indeed it’s very much a victim of its own success, generating traffic that would not have happened without the M25. For example – a journey from my home in Essex to Heathrow Airport can take as little as ninety minutes using the M25 (a journey of some 78 miles) – the same journey avoiding the M25 could take over two hours, despite being twenty miles shorter. And the thought of trying it through central London is just too daunting to contemplate.