towing rope

Gravelly Hill Interchange

Gravelly Hill Interchange, better known as Spaghetti Junction, is junction 6 of the M6 motorway where it meets the A38(M) Aston Expressway in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Its colloquial name was coined in the 1970s by a sub-editor of the Birmingham Evening Mail, Alan Eaglesfield, after he realised that an aerial picture of the complex system of intertwined loops and ramps reminded him of a plate of spaghetti. It provides access to and from the A38 (Tyburn Road), A38 (M) (Aston Expressway), the A5127 (Lichfield Road/Gravelly Hill), and several unclassified local roads.

The junction covers 30 acres (12 hectares), serves 18 routes and includes 4 km (2.5 miles) of slip roads, but only 1 km (0.6 miles) of the M6 itself. Across 5 different levels, it has 559 concrete columns, reaching up to 24.4 metres (80 ft) height. The engineers had to elevate thirteen and a half miles of motorway to accommodate two railway lines, three canals, and two rivers.

Construction started in 1968 and the junction opened in November 1972 by the then environment secretary Peter Walker. In an unusual meeting of old and new transport technology, the pillars supporting the flyovers over the Grand Union Canal had to be carefully placed to enable a horse-drawn canal barge to pass under the interchange without fouling the towing rope. The junction has undergone major repair work several times since, due to the very heavy traffic through the junction, and some alleged cost-saving measures during its construction. In November 2007, a sliproad running from the Tyburn Road onto the Aston Expressway was closed to undergo urgent repair works. Upon inspection, it was found that Spaghetti Junction itself was in need of repair work due to salt and grit weakening the joints in the structure.

Co-located junctions

Underneath the motorway junction are the meeting points of local roads; the rivers Tame, Rea and the Hockley Brook; electricity lines; gas pipelines; the Cross-City and Walsall railway lines, and Salford Junction where the Grand Union Canal, Birmingham and Fazeley Canal and Tame Valley Canal meet.

The importance of the site for so many services led to the belief that it was a strategic target for a Soviet nuclear weapon during the Cold War, although this has yet to be verified.

Cultural influence

The junction featured in the Cliff Richard film Take Me High.

The Student Union of the nearby Birmingham City University in Perry Barr had a monthly newspaper with the name of Junction 6. This BCU magazine is now called SJ - still after Spaghetti Junction.

In the National Lottery gameshow Winning Lines in the final round, Wonderwall, the prize for answering only one question correctly was usually a holiday to Spaghetti Junction.

Elastica mentioned it in their "Car Song".

The Birmingham-born comedian Jasper Carrot once claimed in his stage act that Spaghetti Junction also included two dead-ends.

Winners on the 1980s revival of ITV talent show New Faces hosted by Marti Caine from the Birmingham Hippodrome were decided by the audience with a gigantic lightboard known as Spaghetti Junction lighting up to a varying degree as the audience pushed buttons.

The Mensa West Midlands newsletter is named 'Spaghetti', after the famous junction.

See also


External links

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