The M25 motorway encircles London and is one of the largest ring roads in the world. It is about 117 miles long - but travelling around it clockwise covers a greater distance than travelling around it anticlockwise!
The original plan in the 1930s was to create five individual roads around London to divert traffic around the city. A new plan 1945 proposed instead that four separate roads be merged: the North and South Orbitals, the M16 North and the M25 in Kent. In 1975 John Gilbert, Minister for Transport, altered plans again and combined these four roads, creating one large road called the London Orbital Motorway or M25.
The motorway took over ten years to build. Construction started in March 1957 at the northbound Dartford Tunnel. The road was built section by section, each portion having to be proposed by law and then justified on its own merit, often because the land had to be purchased by the Highways Agency. Because the motorway passed through Epping Forrest, part of the protected Greenbelt around London, a special Act was needed to authorise the development.
Margaret Thatcher officially opened the motorway in October 1986 in a ceremony between Junctions 22 and 23.
Although the M25 encircles London it is not actually one continuous road. The section of road that crosses the River Thames between Thurrock and Dartford, for example, is actually the A282, a toll road. The Dartford crossing, also known as The Canterbury Way, consists of a bridge and two tunnels.
By 2006, most of the motorway had six lanes, three in each direction, though there are two, five and six lanes in each direction in places. There are Highway Agency plans to widen almost all remaining stretches of the motorway to eight lanes.
In 2003 a survey was completed to assess the volume of traffic using the road. On a single day up to 196,000 cars travelled between junctions 13 and 14. This is the busiest stretch of the motorway primarily because it provides access to Heathrow airport.
Jokes are made about the amount of traffic on the road, and the M25 is often called the largest car park in the world. It is thought that the longest traffic jam was on 17 August 1988 when there was 22 miles of stationary traffic between junctions 9 and 8.
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