Meet the father and son duo protecting the iconic Spaghetti Junction as it turns 50

The intertwining structure is an integral part of England’s motorway network and on May 24 it will be 50 years since the road was first opened to traffic.

More than 200,000 vehicles currently use the junction each day, meaning the structure requires constant maintenance and inspection by specialist National Highway crews to help keep motorists safe.

Michael works for National Highways in the Midlands as part of his structures team while his son Lewis works for service provider, Kier Highways.

Michael said:

Spaghetti Junction is a living, breathing structure and it is vital that it is protected and maintained.

If you think a car is left outside and run down for years and then has a technical inspection, you will find that it will fail.

We need to ensure that we keep the structure safe and fit for use, which means that it is subject to constant maintenance and structural inspections, most of which are invisible to passing motorists on the road at the -above.

For example, during the recent earthquake in Walsall, we carried out extensive checks of the supporting structural components to ensure there was no structural damage.

When driving the M6 ​​it’s easy to forget that the road is elevated and the very nature of its design means it requires specialist maintenance. Safety is always our top priority.

Bottom view of Spaghetti Junction showing truck crossing

A lorry passes through Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham high above the ground.

Spaghetti Junction’s sprawling design means there are over 250 spans, ties and expansion joints, over 600 columns and over 3,000 bridge bearings.

It is said to be one of the busiest interchanges in Europe with two miles of slip roads extending out from the structure whilst accommodating less than a mile from the M6 ​​itself.

Known officially as the Gravelly Hill Interchange, the junction forms an integral part of the ‘Midland Links’ which connect the M6, M1 and M5 motorways to the A38(M) Aston motorway so that traffic can travel to Birmingham.

Aerial view of Spaghetti Junction

Spaghetti junction viewed from above

Michael added:

The enduring appeal of Spaghetti Junction is the complexity of it all.

You stand below and you think the talented engineer (Sir Evan Owen Williams) had the foresight to design it and then the contractors built it and of course having to maintain it, it’s a real feat of engineering .

It is so important for the city of Birmingham but also for the people who use the M6 ​​to travel north and south. It is an important part of our infrastructure network in this country and we would be lost without it.

Father-of-two Michael, 55, from Solihull, started working for Maunsell Ltd, which provided engineering services to West Midlands County Council in 1985.

Michael says it was “his first real job” and it’s fair to say the rest is history.

Then just 18 years old, Michael was part of a structural team and was responsible for carrying out inspections and maintenance work after the road was opened.

Michael said:

I remember being sent to Spaghetti Junction, standing below, looking up and seeing this vast mass of concrete above me, it was just amazing to see the scale of the structure.

This first experience certainly marked me and I knew from that moment that I wanted to continue working in the engineering sector. It really shaped my life.

Not to be outdone by his father – Lewis Del-Giudice, 29 from Cannock, has also entered the world of structural engineering and, following in his father’s footsteps, he is also working on the iconic road.

He said:

I really enjoy my job, especially the varied nature of the work. This road is unlike anything else I have worked on, and it is such an important part of the English motorway network.

My dad was always my role model and growing up he talked about the road and its personal and professional importance. He certainly has a special place in our family.

Michael pictured at Spaghetti Junction during his very first maintenance routine.

Michael pictured at Spaghetti Junction during his very first maintenance routine.

Lewis works as part of a team of specialists that monitors the performance of the various cathodic protection systems in place under the highway.

Cathodic protection is a process used to provide corrosion protection to reinforced concrete structures such as Spaghetti Junction.

It is a long-established method, originally developed in Victorian times to manage corrosion in maritime vessels.

In its simplest form, a power supply – called impressed current cathodic protection (ICCP) – is used to pass low voltage direct current electricity through anodes either surface mounted or encased in concrete and then onto the armature.

This means better corrosion control and helps extend the life of the structure.

Systems are inspected and monitored regularly to ensure they are functioning properly.

Lewis added:

The cathodic protection works are interesting and people don’t realize how much effort we put into keeping the road in perfect condition. People don’t see this crucial aspect of our work when driving over it to get to work or to see friends, but it’s part of road safety. We always do our best to ensure that we limit disruption caused by repair work.

There are over 150 cathodic protection systems installed at Spaghetti Junction, some of which are 80 feet above ground level. So, you definitely have to be dizzy, and I would say that going to work is an adventure because every day brings a new challenge.

When you work that high, you get a unique perspective on the important work you do and it makes you realize how important your role is.

I’m proud to do my part to keep the road safe for the next 50 years and beyond.

General Information

Members of the public should contact the National Highways Customer Contact Center on 0300 123 5000.

Media inquiries

Journalists should contact the National Highways Press Office on 0844 693 1448 and use the menu to speak to the most appropriate press officer.

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