The M25 is thirty-five today. On 29th October 1986, Margaret Thatcher picked up a cone in each hand and symbolically marched them off to the side of the road. The Department of Transport, who produced a lavish 58-page illustrated brochure to commemorate the opening, had left nothing to chance, right down to a practice run of the removal of a single cone by an employee of a similar build to the Prime Minister.
The inauguration of the M25 was the last major road-opening to generate real public excitement. The queues at both ends of the final section materialised because drivers were itching to be the first to complete a circuit, with crowds waving from the bridges.
It wasn’t long before the M25’s 117-mile orbit was used as an illegal racetrack. Meeting at a service station early on a weekend morning to race round in Porsches and Ferraris trying to complete the circuit in under an hour and therefore at average speeds of over 117mph, including the time taken to stop and pay the toll charge at the Dartford Tunnel. The story of these Cannonball Runs was uncovered by a young reporter for The Times one Boris Johnson.
Dubbed ‘The World’s Longest Car Park’, Capital Radio endeavouring to inform their listeners of any trouble ahead, instigated the Flying Eye, a twin-engine light aircraft kitted out for the purpose. Their reporter in the sky for 20 years was broadcaster Russ Kane, who clocked up 10,000 flying hours and 1.5 million air miles without ever having his seat upgraded. He achieved more circuits of the M25 than any other man alive, but without any of the delays.
Apparently, the people of Norfolk became quite excited when the M25 opened, with many booking up for orbital coach tours with Ambassador Travel of Great Yarmouth. The tours were sold out for months.
In 1998 William Allen, at the ripe old age of 84, set out to drive the few miles to his daughter’s home near Ruislip. Having inadvertently driven onto the M25 at the nearby J16, he spent the next two days going round in circles.
According to satnav company TomTom, 29th July 2011 saw the longest traffic jam ever recorded on the M25, with a clockwise tailback of up to 49 miles between J19 (Watford) and J5 (Sevenoaks).
When in 2005 a £148-million road-widening project was completed between J12 and J15 and a new spur road to Heathrow Terminal 5, it was disclosed that those stuck on the interminable traffic jam are parked on the remains of Wembley’s iconic twin towers that footie fans wanted to remain intact. It’s all over, it is now!
There are 234 bridges under or over the M25 including an aqueduct, two tunnels and over 10,000 street lights.
M25 J8: Reigate Hill Interchange has the longest motorway slip road in the country climbing up Reigate Hill for 1.5 miles to a roundabout.
Approaching J15 on the M25 it has two six-lane carriageways, the widest stretch of motorway in the country, and yet it still gets jam-packed.
North Ockendon is the only settlement within the Greater London boundary to poke outside the orbit of the M25 motorway.
Chris Rea penned Road to Hell at J15 on the M25 in 1989 sitting in a traffic standstill, the scribbled the lyrics later went to charity.
On 20 July 2014 Shepperton Swan Sanctuary rescued 4 pairs of Canada geese and their offspring from the carriageway at J11 of the M25.
Only five London Underground stations lie outside the M25 motorway.
The font used on the road signs is called, unsurprisingly, Motorway. While all distances on signs are given in miles, the driver location signs set at 500-meter intervals for emergency services are, for reason unknown, calculated in kilometres from a point near junction 31. Thus: M25 B 63.4
If you thought the M25 was an original designation:
HMS M25 was a British warship launched by the Royal Navy in 1915 and scuttled in 1919;
The M25 engine powered a Mercedes-Benz racing car in the 1930s;
The M-25 is a star cluster in the constellation Sagittarius;
M25 isn’t even a very original designation for a road, because the Michigan Highway in the USA has been known as the M25 since 1933;
The Novorossiysk Federal Highway across the top of the Black Sea in Russia is also the M25;
The M25 is also a state-of-the-art sniper rifle used by US Army Special Forces and Navy Seals.