M1. Crick to Barlborough (J18 to J30)

In 1951 Sir Owen Williams and Partners were commissioned by the then Ministry of Transport to investigate a route for a motorway from St. Albans to Doncaster, a distance of approximately 140 miles.

General Description

The section of the M1 from St. Albans to Crick (Northamptonshire) is described elsewhere and was constructed during 1958 and 1959. The section from Barlborough to Wadworth (Doncaster by-pass) is included on the North East Region pages

In 1960 the Consulting engineers were asked by the Ministry to proceed with scheme preparation and detailed design for the remaining 87 miles from Crick to Doncaster. Tenders for the first contract were invited in 1962 and by December 1967 the whole 87 miles had been constructed.

The project was a direct continuation of the M1 at Crick passing through Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire and into Yorkshire. The route passes close to the western edge of Leicester and passes between Nottingham and Derby, with junctions on the A6 and the A52 Sandiacre By-pass (3 level), before passing to the west of Mansfield and to the east of Sheffield at Thurcroft. The line of the M1 Northwards from Thurcroft was the responsibility of Yorkshire County Council, but a free-flow junction there enabled the route, renamed the M18, to continue in a north-easterly direction to end at the Doncaster By-pass just to the South of Doncaster. (A more detailed description of the M18 can be found here)

Sixteen junctions were constructed on the project, including a free-flow west/south junction with the future M6, the junction at Thurcroft and the terminal junction at the Doncaster By-pass, where provision was made for the M18 to be continued at a later date. There was considerable opposition to the section of road through Charnwood Forest, in Leicestershire, on environmental grounds, but eventually it was decided that the damage to agriculture that would arise from an alternative route was a greater penalty.


The Coal Measures outcrop over much of the route through the Midlands and Yorkshire Coalfields and elsewhere are present at a comparatively shallow depth. Extensive mine workings, past and current, gave rise to a number of problems for which innovative solutions were required. These are summarised below:

  1. Open-cast mining was taking place on the route during the planning stage and special arrangements were negotiated with the National Coal Board to ensure that all backfill on the line of the route was compacted to a higher than usual standard to prevent subsidence at a later date under the new road construction.
  2. Where recent open-cast workings had involved a 'highwall' excavation on the route, these were located with the help of the Coal Board and provision included in the motorway contracts to step back the upper 20ft of the wall to minimise differential settlement.
  3. Where shallow seams existed under the road, especially worked out seams in a state of partial collapse, they were excavated and re-compacted. In all 54,000 tons of coal was recovered from these seams and delivered to the Coal Board. Deeper seams (between 20ft and 50ft) were dealt with by grouting with 9:1 PFA/Cement slurry.
  4. 84 mine shafts were located within the excavations, 6 of which were over 200ft deep. Of the 84, 8 were shallow and disappeared in the general excavation, 2 were open and were backfilled and 74 were frilled, grouted and capped, the total amounts of grout being 1,140 tons.
  5. All drainage in mining areas had to be designed to take account of ground movements, current or future, to ensure that the integrity and correct falls were maintained.
  6. Special levelling instructions and techniques were employed in areas of active subsidence, often necessitating the installation of special pegs and the use of predicted rather than actual levels to ensure that the finished road had the correct falls.
  7. 132 of the 240 Motorway structures were designed to allow for the effects of ground movement, either vertical or horizontal.


As was normal, contractors were allowed to tender for Rigid or Flexible pavements and in none of the tenders was the Rigid option favoured. Pavement design was based on Road Note 29, which had been published since the completion of the sections south of Crick. The four most southerly contracts were constructed with a lean concrete lower base with a nominal 18:1 mix, laid by a selection of machines including graders and paving machines with an without adaptations. On these contracts the carriageway was contained within reinforced concrete haunches, with white concrete tops, which defined line and level. On the remaining contracts, due to the possibility of ground movements due to mining, the pavements were of fully flexible construction and the haunches were dispensed with in favour of conventional, if time consuming, levelling techniques. All carriageways were 36ft wide with 10ft wide hardshoulders.


The major structure on the route was the River Trent crossing, a five-span concrete structure with a 126ft centre span, two 90ft support spans and two 93ft end spans. The 90ft support spans were of in-situ concrete and cantilevered out beyond their supports to connect to precast I-beams with lightweight concrete infill and a high quality in-situ top slab.

Overbridges from Crick to Stanton-by-Dale had a 3ft thick deck with precast service ducts along each edge which acted as permanent shutters for the deck concrete. The verge supports were generally inclined columns, with a wall support in the central reserve when the skew dictated it. In-situ decks over the supports were linked with 60ft long suspended slabs by reinforced concrete hinges capable of taking shear, thrust and tension. Underbridges were either wall and slab bridges or used precast portal frames on mass concrete abutments.

North of Stanton-by-Dale all bridges were designed to cope with possible ground strains of 3% and change of slope of 1/200, with simply supported spans.


The project was divided into 14 contracts, involving 9 major contractors, running from August 1962 to December 1967 with a total tender price of £60.18m. The Consultant established a Site Control office at Leicester Forest East, from which the Resident Engineering staff on the individual contracts were co-ordinated.

Additional Features

Four Maintenance Depots were constructed by the Ministry and site provided for 5 Service Areas, three of which were developed at the same time as the motorway. As a result of the Motorway earthworks, and also work alongside the road funded by other agencies, many of the existing slag heaps in the coalfields were rounded off and planted, to provide a greatly improved corridor for the motorist to pass through.

Contract details


Whetstone - Crick George Wimpey & Co. Ltd Opened: October 1964 to December 1964
  Kirby Muxloe - Whetstone R. M. Douglas Construction Ltd. Opened: January 1965
  Markfield - Kirby Muxloe A.Monk & Co. Ltd  
  Kegworth - Markfield Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons Ltd.  
  Trent structures Brims & Co Ltd.  
  Sandiacre - Kegworth George Wimpey & Co. Ltd  
  Nuthall - Sandiacre R. M. Douglas Construction Ltd.  
  Pinxton - Nuthall George Wimpey & Co. Ltd  
  Barlborough - Pinxton John Laing Construction Ltd.  
  Thurcroft - Balborough Tarmac Civil Engineering Ltd (now Carrilion Construction)  
  Thurcroft - Wadworth W. & C. French Ltd.  
Planning Period:   1960-1966  
Construction Period:   1962-1967  
Opening Date, Final Portion      November 1967