29 Oct: The M25 – Britain’s Biggest Carpark

Margaret Thatcher finally opened London’s first ring road – construction on which had begun in the 1970s – on 29th October, 1986, declaring: “I can’t stand those who carp and criticise when they ought to be congratulating Britain on a magnificent achievement and beating the drum for Britain all over the world”.

A 58-page commemorative booklet was issued for enthusiasts, and coach trips were organised so that car-less punters could complete a circuit of the new motorway. But public enthusiasm for the project was short-lived when it lead to increased congestion and seemingly endless proposals for expansion.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly dig into the long history of plans for the capital’s ring roads; explain why the M25 managed to bring Epping’s combine harvesters to Parliament Square; and consider how Britain’s most hated motorway remains an existential threat to London’s ‘green belt’ countryside……

Enjoy this episode? There’s SIX MINUTES MORE of M25 chat over on our Patreon – in which the team discuss Chris Rea’s inspiration for ‘The Road To Hell’, the logistics of a motorway-based honeymoon, and reveal which settlement of Greater London is technically located *outside* the M25: https://patreon.com/Retrospectors (top two tiers only).

Further Reading

• ‘M25 Opening – Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’ (Thames News, 1986): 

• ‘M25 comes full circle’ (The Guardian, 2011): https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/oct/28/m25-london-orbital-margaret-thatcher-25?newsfeed=true

• ‘The M25: We’re on the road to nowhere’ (The Independent, 2011): https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/motoring/features/the-m25-we-re-on-the-road-to-nowhere-420365.html

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