IT holds a proud place in British motoring history.
The M1 was Britain's first motorway route from the south towards the north and it remains the longest in the network.
A signpost marking the directions of The North and The South at the Watford Gap motorway service area celebrates the M1’s 50th anniversary.
The first section opened on November 2, 1959 – the year after Britain’s first motorway, the Preston bypass, opened as the M6.
The first 72-mile stretch of M1 took traffic between Watford and Crick, near Rugby.
The M1 was expected to deal with 13,000 vehicles a day.
Its popularity now means that it now carries more than 88,000 a day, leading to a widening of the carriageway at certain points.
But it is well behind other motorways in terms of how busy it is – with the M25, the M60 and the M62 ahead of it.
The M1 runs from the outskirts of central London to Yorkshire, but it didn’t reach the White Rose county until the mid-1960s.
Motorways were first mooted as an idea in Government circles in the 1930s, especially once Hitler’s Germany started construction of the autobahns, but the first ever motorway was built in Italy.
The Autostrada dei laghi, was opened on 21 September 1924. It linked Milan to Varese and was then extended to Como, near the Swiss border, a year later.
The M1’s first section was completed in just 19 months and had no crash barriers, no lighting and no speed limit.
The M1 finally reached Yorkshire with a series of extensions built between 1965 and 1968 and in 1972 it reached central Leeds with the creation of the Leeds South Eastern Motorway.
This stretch was redesignated as part of The M621 when the M1 was further extended in 1999 to reach the A1(M) at a point near Aberford.
Paul Watters, head of road and transport policy at the AA, says: “The significance of the M1 can’t be underestimated – it is the backbone of the UK. It revolutionised travel as Britain’s first long-distance motorway.
“Before it opened, you’d be lucky to get to the Scottish border within eight hours from London, but now you can be half-way up Scotland in that time.”
The M1 still does reach Scotland. Indeed, the first motorway to be completed between England and Scotland only opened to traffic in November last year when a short motorway link between the M6 and M74 was completed in place of the A74.