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The A2 is a major road in southern Englandmarker, connecting Londonmarker with the English Channelmarker port of Dovermarker in Kentmarker. This route has always been of importance as a connection between the British capital of London and sea trade routes to Continental Europe. It was formerly known as the Dover Road.

Unlike the other single digit A-roads in Great Britain, the A2 does not form a zone boundary (in this case between Zone 1 and Zone 2). The Zone 1/2 boundary is in fact the River Thames.

History of the route

The London to Canterbury road in 1840, with a sign onwards to Dover.
In the 1920s this became the A2 road; the modern A2 bypasses parts of this route.
The original A2 roughly followed the route of a Celtic ancient trackway which the Romans later paved and identified as Iter III on the Antonine Itinerary. The Anglo-Saxons named it Wæcelinga Stræt which developed into the modern Watling Streetmarker. It was one of the most important Roman roads in Britain, since it linked London with Canterburymarker , and from there to three Channel ports: Richboroughmarker (Rutupiae); Dover (Dubris) and Lympnemarker (Lemanis). The road had river crossings at Rochestermarker over the River Medway; Dartfordmarker (River Darentmarker) and Crayfordmarker (River Craymarker). It continued in use long after the Romans departed in the 5th century.

By the 17th century the road, like most roads in Britain, had fallen into disrepair, although the bridge at Rochestermarker remained in good condition, since it was maintained by the Bridge Wardens. Turnpike Acts began to be passed by Parliamentmarker, as a result of which such roads were opened piecemeal: the section of what is now the A2 between Gravesendmarker and Rochester was turnpiked in 1712; that between Chathammarker and Canterbury in 1730. The road from there to Dover was not turnpiked until early in the 19th century, by which time it had become known as the Great Dover Road.

In the 1920s, when British roads were allocated numbers, the A2 became the principal road in the south-eastern section of Britain. Its original alignment roughly followed a mix of the ancient Celtic route and the turnpike road to Dover. The Roman alignment, however, is not easy to identify and much of the original A2 does not exactly follow what is known of the Roman route (the straightness of many long stretches is misleading). However, a section of the modern A2 from Rochester to the Roman settlement of Vagniacae, modern Springheadmarker, is believed to roughly follow the Roman route.

The route today

Borough to Shooter's Hill

The A2 starts at Boroughmarker in SE London, at a junction with the A3. The remains of a small Roman temple was excavated at Tabard Square in 2003. The A2 at this point is named Great Dover Street, and is the only part of the A2 within the congestion charging zone. At the end of the road, it meets the London Inner Ring Road and becomes a primary route. The A2 heads along Old Kent Roadmarker towards New Crossmarker, where the A20 breaks away. The A2 continues east through Deptfordmarker and Blackheathmarker until it arrives at the Shooter's Hillmarker Interchange with the A102 near Greenwichmarker. A section of the Roman road has been identified running through Greenwich Parkmarker on an alignment with Vanbrugh Park.

Shooter's Hill to Three Crutches

A2 at Leyton Cross
At Shooter's Hill, Watling Street and the A2 part company, as Watling Street continues along the A207. At this point the A2 joins a dual carriageway, the Rochester Way (the carriageways to the north of this junction being the A102) with a 50 mph (80 km/h) limit. The western part, the Rochester Way Relief Road, was opened in 1988.

The A2 meets traffic lights at Kidbrookemarker; this is the last set of lights out of Greater Londonmarker (the lights only affect right-turns). Shortly after here, the A2 meets the South Circular Road and becomes a motorway in all but name, with 3 lanes and a hard shoulder in each direction. The 3-lane stretch of the A2 between Falconwoodmarker and Cobham was built in stages from around 1963 until 1973. The left hand lane is used for local traffic. At Falconwood, the road becomes the East Rochester Way - this point was once the westbound terminus of the dual carriageway. There are exits for Bexleyheathmarker, Black Prince (at Bexleymarker), Dartford Heath and other London suburbs. Motorists should be aware of the numerous speed camera along this stretch. Once the A2 enters Kentmarker, the speed limit increases to the national speed limit (70 mph, 113 km/h) and the road heads east towards Dartfordmarker, bypassing the town to the south and cutting through Dartford Heath. The next junction links the road to the M25 London Orbital Motorwaymarker at Dartford; the next, (Bean Interchange), is for the B255 and A296 for Bluewatermarker, where Watling Street rejoins the A2. The M25 to Bean section has now been widened to four lanes in each direction (completed late 2007).

The A2 then bypasses Gravesendmarker, before merging into the M2 at Three Crutches Interchange, near Stroodmarker.

This latter section, from the Pepper Hill Interchange (near Northfleetmarker and the Ebbsfleet International railway stationmarker), to the Cobhammarker junction is currently (2007 - 2009) undergoing extensive works to move the entire carriageway south to run alongside the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, so as to remove the road away from local housing - and to continue with a forth lane in each direction. This has however isolated a petrol station and hotel from the traffic as the previous carriageway way is being removed.

Three Crutches to Brenley Corner

The A2 reverts to a non-primary single carriageway road at this point. The M2 now parts company to bypass the Medway Towns, while the A2 heads into them. It enters Stroodmarker before crossing the River Medway into Rochestermarker. The A2 bypasses the old High Street, heading instead along Corporation Street alongside the railway lines. It crosses the old High Street, climbs Star Hill and heads east into Chathammarker where it meets the A230 and A231 by way of a one way ring road. The A2 heads to the south of Gillinghammarker, where the A289 Medway Northern Bypass joins it. The A278 departs from the A2 to head south to meet the M2, whereas the A2 goes through Rainhammarker and Newingtonmarker before entering green country for the first time since Three Crutches.

The road meets the A249, now dualled, to the west of Sittingbournemarker, before going through the town itself (bypassing the now-pedestrianised High Street, as it does in Rochester and Chatham). Leaving Sittingbourne, the A2 continues east in almost a straight line, for it is still along the alignment of Watling Street at this point. At Ospringe it passes the Maison Dieumarker, now a museum of Roman artifacts but originally a wayside hospital commissioned by Henry III in 1234. The A2 continues to Faversham, but doesn't (and never has done) go through the town, preferring to almost bypass it to the south. A mile later, it arrives at Brenley Corner, junction 7 of the M2.

Brenley Corner To Dover Docks

At Brenley Corner, the A2 once again becomes a primary dual carriageway. Straight after the interchange, Dunkirkmarker and Boughton are bypassed as the A2 continues towards Canterbury and Dover. Formerly it went through Canterbury city centre, this has now been bypassed and the original route is now called the A2050. It breaks off from the A2 at Harbledownmarker - just after Gate Services - taking all Canterbury traffic with it. At Wincheap, the A28 meets the A2, although only westbound traffic can exit the A2 at this point. The A2050 rejoins the A2 at Bridgemarker.

Traffic for the Channel Tunnelmarker and Folkestonemarker leaves at the junction with the A260, and shortly after this junction the A2 loses its dual carriageway status, regains it, and loses it again within a few miles. Now single carriageway, the A2 forms the Dover bypass. It meets the A256 for Sandwichmarker and Ramsgatemarker at a briefly-dualled section, before reverting to single carriageway for the final time. The A2 breaks through the cliffs above Dover Docks before turning 180 degrees and "touching down" on land again at the entrance to the Eastern Docks, where both it and the A20 terminate.

Improvements between Cobham and Pepperhill

Extensive improvements have recently being made to the A2 between Cobham and Pepperhill expanding it to 4 lanes in each direction with grade separated junctions.

The A2 has been realigned south bringing it closer to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

See also


  1. The Illustrated Road Book of England and Wales (1961). The Automoble Association: 32

External links

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