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Motorway (1959)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Construction of the 55-mile London to Birmingham motorway commenced on 24 March 1958. A ticker-tape ceremony marks the start of the project.

The scope of the project is outlined, with statistics concerning length and the time frame. The route is shown on a map, and the project is divided into sections. The path of the road is surveyed, with details of various obstacles highlighted, as well as means of accessing the route. The centre line of the motorway is set out along the route, and the construction programme is prepared. Preparatory work involves clearing trees, making access roads and bridges, fencing off the route and moving utility lines. Helicopters assist in providing an overview of the project. Flooding in the summer of 1958 creates fresh challenges to an already hugely complex operation.

Communications across the project are described, along with the tanker service providing fuel along the route. Bridges and culverts deal with the obstacles of utility lines, other transport and farm access. Batching plants produce concrete with different methods of delivery to the site. Various construction methods are used to build bridges. Labs test soil and concrete. Winter brings new setbacks, with changes made to the schedule to compensate. By Spring 1959, the project has begun to scale down. The carriageways are constructed in layers, and the route is landscaped to blend it into the countryside.

The sponsors, planners, administrators, managers, surveyors, secretaries and workers are thanked for their part in Britain's first long-distance motorway, "one of the great civil engineering schemes of our time."