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A38(M) motorway
UK motorway A38(M).svg

Road of the United Kingdom

Length 2 miles (3.2 km)
Direction North - South
Start Gravelly Hill
Primary destinations Birmingham
End Birmingham
Construction dates 1972 - complete motorway
Motorways joined UK-Motorway-M6.svgJunction 6.svg
M6 J6

The A38(M), also known as the Aston Expressway, is a motorway in Birmingham, England. It is 2 miles (3.2 km) long and was opened on May 24, 1972.[1] It forms part of the much longer A38 route.

It is extremely unusual among UK motorways, as it consists of seven lanes with no central reservation, and operates a tidal flow system in an attempt to minimise congestion. Due to the nature of the road, the speed limit is reduced to 50 mph (80 km/h), though there are no permanent speed cameras.

When construction work of the motorway began in the late 1960s, many late 19th century and early 20th century slums in the Aston area had to be demolished to make way for the new route.



The Aston Expressway approaching Birmingham City Centre

A38(M) runs from the A5127 through Spaghetti Junction where the A38 joins and then shortly after traffic from the M6 motorway also joins. It then enters a tidal flow section. The road is on a viaduct as it passes through Aston; this section cuts through the grounds of Aston Hall.[2] The road passes through its first junction after 1 mile (1.6 km). It enters a cutting before reaching the second junction, where the tidal flow ends as does the motorway. The motorway is curved in Aston to avoid an Ansells brewery. The brewery was demolished before the road was finished.[2] The motorway was also crossed by a vinegar pipeline, carrying the condiment from one part of the since-demolished HP Sauce factory to the other.

Tidal flow

The Expressway was the first road in the United Kingdom to introduce tidal flow to allow better management of traffic. Lane use is controlled by means of electronic overhead signs, with one lane always closed to create a buffer between the two directions of travel – there is no central reservation. In the morning, four of the seven lanes are designated for use by traffic heading toward Birmingham city centre, and two lanes for traffic out of the city. In the evening rush hour, this pattern is reversed and four lanes are made available to outbound traffic and two lanes towards the city centre. At all other times, the road runs with three lanes in each direction.

Motorcycles are banned from the red-surfaced central lane, which contains a drainage channel, regardless of how it is being used. This follows a fatal accident which occurred when one of the drainage covers dislodged.[3]


A38(M) Motorway
Northbound exits Junction Southbound exits
Road continues to Erdington as A5127 M6 J6
(Spaghetti Junction)
(52°30′40″N 1°51′58″W / 52.511°N 1.866°W / 52.511; -1.866)
Start of Motorway
Lichfield, Tamworth A38 No Exit
The SOUTH, Coventry
The NORTH WEST, Wolverhampton M6
Aston A5127
No Exit
No exit Park Circus
(52°30′08″N 1°53′02″W / 52.5021°N 1.8839°W / 52.5021; -1.8839)
Aston B4132
Start of Motorway Dartmouth Circus
(52°29′32″N 1°53′19″W / 52.4923°N 1.8887°W / 52.4923; -1.8887)
Handsworth, Ladywood, Aston, Small Heath A4540
(Birmingham Inner Ring Road)
Handsworth, Ladywood, Aston, Small Heath A4540
(Birmingham Inner Ring Road)
Road continues as A38 to Birmingham City Centre
A Boulton & Watt blowing engine re-erected on Dartmouth Circus (at 52°29′33″N 1°53′17″W / 52.492537°N 1.888189°W / 52.492537; -1.888189). It was built in 1817 and used in Netherton at the ironworks of M W Grazebrook.

The traffic island at Dartmouth Circus houses a preserved Boulton and Watt steam engine.

See also


External links

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