M3 motorway (Great Britain)

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M3 motorway shield

M3 motorway
Route information
Part of Tabliczka E05.svg E05
Length: 58.6 mi (94.3 km)
Existed: 1971 – present
History: Constructed 1971–95
Major junctions
From: Sunbury-on-Thames (A316)
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  Junction 2.svg UK-Motorway-M25.svg
J2 → M25 motorway Junction 12
Junction 14.svg UK-Motorway-M27.svg
J14 → M27 motorway Junction 4
To: Southampton (M27)
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Road network

The M3 is a motorway that runs from Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, to Southampton, Hampshire, a distance of approximately 59 miles (95 km). Along with the A316, the M3 provides the main artery into South West London, as well as providing access to major towns and cities along its route, which include Winchester, Basingstoke, Southampton and the Aldershot Urban Area. From Junction 9 (A34) near Winchester, to Junction 14 (M27) on the northern fringe of Southampton, the M3 forms the southerly part of the unsigned E05. It was constructed as a dual three-lane motorway for most of its length, except for the two-lane section between Junctions 8 (A303) and 9. The motorway was opened in phases, with the first section (Junction 3 to 8) opening in 1971, and was eventually completed in 1995 upon the completion of the Junction 10 to 12 section. This faced widespread opposition due to the motorway being cut through the Twyford Down, numerous road protests were held during construction, which ultimately delayed its opening. Since then, the motorway has become a major artery to the South Coast, becoming a popular tourist route. As such the M3 faces regular delays and congestion on its busiest sections during rush hours and seasonal periods. The Junctions 2 to 4A section is currently being upgraded to a Smart Motorway, which will turn the hard shoulder into a fourth lane to provide extra capacity.


M3 motorway at East Stratton
Southern end of the M3 motorway, meeting the A33 at Southampton
M3 motorway at Fleet
The M3 under construction at Twyford Down

Originally approved as the "London to Basingstoke Motorway" with delays over funding for an extension to Southampton[1] the road was built to relieve two single carriageway trunk roads that were congested.[n 1][2]

In 1967, sections of the A33 road from Popham, Hampshire, to a northeastern point of the Winchester Bypass were widened to dual carriageways; this only partially alleviated growing congestion, especially in Winchester, which led to the southern phase gaining approval.[n 2][2]

Eastern section

The eastern section, from Sunbury-on-Thames in Surrey to Popham near Basingstoke opened in sections: first the Hampshire section in 1971, and then the Surrey section in 1974.[3] The cost for this first phase was £46m.[4] The completed road acts as a continuation of the A316 Country Way, an express three-lane road from Apex Corner, Hanworth, in Greater London to Sunbury-on-Thames.

Southern section

A first public inquiry for the "M3 London to Basingstoke Motorway: Popham to Compton extension" centred on the section passing Winchester, and was held in 1971, after which the ministry was instructed to reconsider and reconsult on the proposals.[5][6] A second public inquiry was held in 1976–77.[7][8] The earlier decision to route the motorway through or alongside the water meadows between St Catherine’s Hill and the compact cathedral city was reopened, and during the year-long inquiry the headmaster of Winchester College was forcibly ejected along with others for causing a disturbance.[6]

The scope of the M3 extension was reduced to defer the difficult decision about the section around Winchester and it was built in two sections (from 'Popham to Bridget's Farm' and from 'Bridget's Farm to Bar End') in 1995.[3] When this opened, the temporary junction to the A33 parallel route was removed.

The section of the M3 from near Junction 12 (Eastleigh and Chandler's Ford) to the last, Junction 14 for the M27 replaced part of the A33 road which was upgraded to motorway standard and opened in 1991.[6]

In 2008 the busiest section of the motorway, at Chandler's Ford, carried a daily average of around 130,000 vehicles.[9]

The southern section starts as a continuation of a single-lane avenue, Bassett Avenue and The Avenue in the City of Southampton as the M27 motorway provides alternative routes from other parts of the city, particularly its waterfront and downtown peak-hour accessway, the M271 motorway and Mountbatten Way providing dual to three lane highways starting at the northwest of the city.

Abandoned/suspended proposals

Its service station was envisaged at Basingstoke upon the motorway's completion but not built – superseded by one just north of Fleet and another north of Winchester.[10]


An additional junction, numbered 4A, opened in April 1992 for Fleet.[11]

Detailed route

The M3 starts at Sunbury-on-Thames in Surrey on the edge of South West London as the continuation of the A316 which has three lanes each way from Hanworth in the London Borough of Hounslow, and two from Chiswick. The motorway 2 miles (3.2 km) after its start turns more west-southwest,[12] crosses the River Thames on the M3 Chertsey Bridge to the north of Chertsey and then has its second junction, at the M25 motorway, before continuing through the gorse, bogs and heather of the Surrey Heath. Its third junction is for Camberley, Bagshot, Bracknell, Ascot and Worplesdon. From Junction 4 it bisects the northern Blackwater Valley conurbation[n 3] then has its latest junction for Fleet and nearby early 21st century expanded/new villages[n 4], it crosses the South West Main Line, before skirting Old Basing and Basingstoke to its north[n 5]. Turning south west again, it passes Popham and, just before reaching Junction 8, where one lane becomes the A303 road, the motorway continues as a dual two lane road through open countryside and Micheldever Wood until it reaches the north of Winchester.

Taking over the "Winchester Bypass" the M3 resumes to three lanes each way at Junction 9, continues directly south and then takes a small curve around the east of the city running through a deep cutting in Twyford Down and then proceeding south west again, crossing the South West Main Line a second time alongside the River Itchen and through the Eastleigh urban-suburban area before crossing the Eastleigh to Romsey railway line and ending at the Chilworth Roundabout on the edge of Southampton.

Road features

  • The Spitfire Bridge carries the B3404 Alresford Road to Winchester over the M3 motorway and the parallel A272 (J9-J10 spur). This is known as the "Spitfire Link". It replaced a concrete parabolic arch bridge under which a Curtiss P-40 had been flown by George Rogers in October 1941. It was generally assumed locally that the aircraft had been a Spitfire hence the name.[13]
  • A private exit of the northern roundabout connected to Junction 4a provides access to the UK headquarters of Sun Microsystems.[14]
  • The section of the M3 between J2 and J4a is currently being made into a Managed Motorway, due to be completed in December 2016, to ease congestion around the M25 interchange.


In the early morning of 25 April 1999, the drum and bass DJ and record producer known as Kemistry was killed on the M3 near Winchester by the steel body of a cat's eye, which had been dislodged by a van and flew through the windscreen of the following car in which she was a passenger. The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death.[15] A question was asked in the House of Lords about the safety of cat's eyes in light of the highly unusual incident, and Highways England conducted an investigation into the "long-term integrity and performance" of various types of road stud.[16]

On 1 April 2000, a zebra crossing was illegally painted across the northbound carriageway of the M3 between Junctions 4 and 4a.[17]


Data from driver location signs are used to provide distance and carriageway identification information.[18]

M3 motorway junctions
miles km North-east bound exits (B carriageway) Junction South-west bound exits (A carriageway)
15.0 24.2 Road continues as A316 to London J1 Sunbury, Kingston A308
Non-motorway traffic
15.3 24.6 Sunbury, Kingston A308 Start of motorway
21.3 34.2 Gatwick Airport interchange (M23), Maidstone (M20), Stansted Airport interchange (M11), The North, Sheffield, Luton (M1) Airport interchange, Cardiff, South Wales, Heathrow Airport interchange (M4), Chertsey (A320), Staines (A30) – M25 J2 Gatwick Airport, Crawley Airport interchange (M23), Maidstone (M20), Stansted Airport Airport interchange (M11), The North, Sheffield, Luton Airport Airport interchange (M1), Heathrow Airport, Bristol, Hounslow, South Wales Airport interchange (M4), Chertsey (A320), Staines (A30) M25
28.1 45.2 Woking, Bracknell, Camberley, Bagshot, Lightwater A322 J3 Woking, Camberley, Bracknell, Bagshot, Lightwater A322
32.6 52.5 Guildford, Farnham, Camberley, Farnborough, Aldershot A331 J4 Guildford, Farnham, Camberley, Farnborough, Aldershot A331
34.4 55.4 Fleet (A3013), Farnborough (West) A327 J4a Fleet (A3013), Farnborough (West) A327
Fleet services Services Fleet services
41.9 67.4 Hook A287 B3349 J5 Hook A287 B3349
46.6 75.0 Basingstoke, Reading (A33), Alton A339
J6 Basingstoke, Newbury, Reading, Alton A339
51.8 83.3 Basingstoke A30 J7 Basingstoke A30
53.1 85.5 No access J8 The South West, Andover, Salisbury A303
59.9 96.4 Winchester services Services Winchester services
63.9 102.8 The Midlands, Newbury A34 trunk road
Winchester A272, Alresford A31
J9 The Midlands, Newbury A34 trunk road
Winchester A272
65.2 105.0 Winchester (City) B3330
Alton, Alresford A31
J10 No access
67.2 108.1 Winchester A3090
Twyford B3335
J11 Winchester A3090
Twyford B3335
70.0 112.6 Eastleigh (North) A335 J12 Eastleigh (North), Chandler's Ford A335
71.8 115.6 Eastleigh, Chandler's Ford A335 J13 Eastleigh A335
Start of motorway J14 Southampton Airport interchange, Portsmouth M27(E)
The West, Southampton Docks, Bournemouth M27(W)
Southampton A33
  • Distances in kilometres and carriageway identifiers are obtained from driver location signs/location marker posts. Where a junction spans several hundred metres and the data is available, both the start and finish values for the junction are shown.
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also

Notes and references

  1. *The A30 eastern stretch to the A303 road
    *The Winchester to Southampton traditional road, the A33
  2. Of the A34 trunk road from Bicester on the M40 to Southampton
  3. Main settlements: Farnborough, Aldershot, Frimley, Farnham and Sandhurst
  4. Examples include Elvetham Heath
  5. Here the M3 passes close to the Basingstoke Canal
  1. "The M.3 Motorway". Hansard. 1967.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The M.3 Motorway". Hansard. 1967.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Oral Questions in the House of Lords 21 June 1967 vol 283 cc1385-7
  3. 3.0 3.1 "M3 London to Southampton Route Management Strategy". Department for Transport.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "M3 (Sunbury-Popham)". Hansard. 1988.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "M3 London to Basingstoke Motorway: Popham to Compton public inquiry". National Archives.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "M3. London to Southampton". The Motorway Archive.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Morgan Morgan-Giles (26 July 1976). "M3 MOTORWAY INQUIRY". Hansard. Retrieved 11 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "M3 London to Basingstoke motorway: Popham to Compton; public inquiry 1976". National Archives.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Annual Average Daily Traffic Flows". Department for Transport. Retrieved 28 September 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Basingstoke". Motorway Services Online. Retrieved 31 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Highways Agency – "M3 London to Southampton Route Management Strategy" Check |url= value (help). Highways Agency.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Grid Reference Finder distance tools
  13. "Myth of pilot's bridge stunt". Southern Daily Echo. 31 October 2003.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Off Site Highway Works and Contributions – Report of the County Surveyor". Roads & Development Sub-committee. Hampshire County Council. 26 October 1998. Archived from the original on 18 February 2005. Retrieved 23 March 2008. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "DJ killed by flying motorway Cat's-eye". Southern Daily Echo. Retrieved 11 November 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Written Answers – Cats-eyes: Safety Inspections". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords. 13 December 1999. col. WA20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Police hunt motorway jokers". BBC News. 1 April 2000. Retrieved 23 March 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Area 3 Driver Location Signs (map) – Highway Authority, 2009[citation needed]

External links

Route map: Bing / Google