M1: The Road That Made Britain

Channel 5

The M1 is about to turn sixty… this film celebrates how Britain’s first major motorway transformed the lives of millions of people and became the backbone of a nation.


This is the story of how the building of the M1 motorway changed modern Britain, through the eyes of those involved in constructing it, those who use it every day and those who patrol it.

Nowadays, 300,000 cars use the M1 daily, a number that would have been unimaginable to the pioneers who built the road in 1959.

Les Barker recalls his years as one of the M1s first traffic-cops; a tough job given that back then, drivers could go as fast as they liked!

In 1964 that led to the highest ever legal speed recorded on a British road – 185mph in a sports car practising for the Le Mans 24 hour race.

We also discover that Watford Gap used to be a glamorous hang-out for rock stars and we recall the day in 1997 when thousands of people stood on the M1 to pay their respects to the late Princess Diana.

The M1 was one of the 20th century’s greatest engineering achievements – and completed in a timescale that seems inconceivable today.


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