Landmark on the road to nowhere

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Landmark on the road to nowhere

Spaghetti Junction, the country's first US-style interchange, which was once considered too complicated for British drivers, celebrates its 25th birthday today.

Opened in 1972, more than 1 billion motorists have navigated the maze of motorways and slip roads. Despite its image as a road continually under repair, its first major overhaul was needed in 1984 and then again in 1995 - when more than two miles of road had to be urgently resurfaced.

Peter Walker, then Secretary of State for the Environment, cut the tape 25 years ago to open the "Gravelly Hill Interchange" and described it as "the most exciting project in the history of the road system". It is unlikely that motorists in the Midlands agree. They have been subjected to long delays and heavy congestion in the last six years, as seven out of the nine slip roads have had to be shut down for weeks at a time.

The interchange, which was built for less than pounds 11m in 1972 - although a gallon of petrol cost only 34.5p - covers 18 different roads supported by 559 concrete columns, 2.5 miles of slip roads and covers 30 acres.