is a major A-class trunk road
formally known as the Exeter - Leeds Trunk Road, it actually runs
from Bodmin in Cornwall to Mansfield in Nottinghamshire.
It is 292 miles (470 km) long. It
was formerly known as the Leeds - Exeter Trunk Road
this description also included the A61
Worcester and Birmingham the current A38 follows the line of a
road;Taylor (1979), page 96. and between Lichfield and Derby, it includes
part of the line of the Roman road,
Icknield Street.Taylor (1979), page
190. Prior to the opening of the M5 motorway in the 1960s and 1970s, the A38
formed the main "holiday route" from the Midlands to Somerset, Devon and
Bodmin to Birmingham
starts on the eastern side of Bodmin at a
junction with the A30 before traversing the
edge of the town to meet the A30 again. It travels through the
picturesque Glynn Valley to Dobwalls and Liskeard, which are bypassed by a dual carriageway.
The Dobwalls section contains the most sophisticated bat bridge
yet constructed in the UK.
continues through the Cornish countryside, bypassing the centre of
continuing through the Saltash Tunnel. Immediately after the tunnel the River Tamar is crossed using the Tamar Bridge where the route resumes dual carriageway
status. The section from Plymouth to Exeter is called
the 'Devon Expressway', it forms the southern border of Dartmoor National Park, and serves as a southward extension of the
It is long and was
completed in the early 1970s.
to the south of Exeter represents a
third meeting point of the A38 with the A30, from which point the
A38 multiplexes with the M5 before
re-emerging from junction 27 near Waterloo Cross, north of
Exeter. From junction 27 the A38 heads north via
Wellington, Taunton, Bridgwater and Bristol.
Bat Bridge on the A38 Dobwalls Bypass,
From Waterloo Cross to Birmingham, the road
is paralleled by the M5, where the A38 has reverted to taking local
traffic only. South of Bristol, the road was diverted to
cater for an extension of the runway at Bristol
Bristol, it continues north via Gloucester, Tewkesbury, Worcester and Bromsgrove to Birmingham. Between Worcester and Birmingham the A38
followed the line of an identified Saxon
Salt road, one of six leading out of
Droitwich. At Bromsgrove, it meets the M42 and the B4096 at junction 1 at Lickey End.
Catshill and meets
the M5 at junction 4 near Lydiate Ash.
A38 Bristol Road running through
This was the northern end of the M5 for
many years in the 1960s, with traffic transferring onto the A38,
which was diverted at this point to link with the M5. From here to Edgbaston, the road is mostly dual carriageway.
former single carriageway section through Northfield has recently been replaced by a bypass; however the
section between Selly
Oak and Bournbrook still has a single carriageway.
centre of Birmingham, a section of the road becomes the Aston
Expressway A38 motorway, running
from the north-eastern side of the Inner Ring
Road through Aston to the
junction with the M6 motorway at
Hill Interchange, better known as Spaghetti
Birmingham to Mansfield
Birmingham the road bypasses Sutton Coldfield and Lichfield, before taking up the route of the Roman road, Ryknild
Street, (also spelt Icknield or Rykneld), as
far as Derby.
Wychnor, the road crosses the River
Trent and enters the district of East Staffordshire.
At Barton Turn, near the B5016 junction,
the road runs right alongside the Cross Country Route
for around . This
railway line follows the line of the A38 from Derby to Plymouth.
From Alrewas to Burton, the path called The Way for the Millennium
follows the northbound carriageway.
Mills, the road passes through the district of South
Derbyshire, passing the grade separated junction with the
A5132 for Willington. There is the Derby with Burton services at the
Burnaston A50 interchange.
enters the City of Derby borough a half-mile north of the Littleover interchange. For nearly four miles, the A38 forms part
of Derby's outer ring road, including three roundabouts: Kingsway
(or Grand Canyon) for the A5111; Markeaton for the A52; and Little Eaton (or Abbey Hill) for the A61 and
The section of road between Kingsway roundabout to
just north of Markeaton is urban in nature and thus subject to a
Originally terminating in Derby at the
junction of Babington Lane with St Peter's Street
(formerly the A6), The road
enters the district of Amber Valley where it passes Drum Hill just
north of Little Eaton and is crossed at this point by the Midshires Way and Centenary Way. There is a junction
for the B6179 to Ripley and Belper.
Alfreton, there is a grade
(GSJ) with the A61, A615 and B6179.
section from Alfreton to the M1, the Alfreton-South
opened as the A615 in the late 1960s. This section has a
GSJ with the B600 for Somercotes and the Cotes Park
industrial estate, and where it crosses the Nottingham spur of the
Midland Main Line it enters the
district of Bolsover.
1970s upgrade to the route of the A61 north of Derby (which became
the B6179), the A38 bypasses Ripley passing through former opencast mining land, before
joining end-on with the former A615 Alfreton bypass at Watchorn Intersection.
crosses the M1
at junction 28.
Nottinghamshire, the road bypasses Sutton-in-Ashfield, dropping to a single carriageway configuration of
1980s construction, including multiple traffic light controlled
junctions – such as the Mansfield, Ashfield Regeneration Route
("MARR"). The final section of the A38 from Sutton,
past King's Mill
Hospital into Mansfield is purely urban in nature and is single
carriageway, joining the A6009 in Mansfield Town Centre at the end
of the route from Cornwall to the North Midlands.
When first designated in 1922, the A38 ran from the centre of
Plymouth to Derby. It was later extended west from Plymouth on
the former route of the A389 over the Torpoint Ferry to a junction with the A30 at Bodmin.
Tamar Bridge was opened in 1961, the A38 was rerouted on the former
line of the A374, through Tideford, over
the new bridge and through Crownhill, joining the old route at Plympton.
route of the A38, via Torpoint and the centre of Plymouth, was
redesignated the A374.
The A38 was extended north from Derby to the M1 motorway and
Mansfield in 1977, partly on the former line of the A615.
Liskeard bypass, stretching for 10 km from the west of
Liskeard to Trerulefoot, opened in June 1976.A public inquiry was
held for the Dobwalls bypass in February 2005, which was expected to cost
The bottleneck was removed when the bypass,
linking the existing Liskeard bypass to the current single
carriageway section through the Glynn
opened in the Winter of 2008. A campaign to open this
road was started by villagers in Dobwalls in 1930, but planning for
building the road was not granted until 2006, the work starting on
15 November that year.
separate improvement within the Glynn Valley, the Highways Agency stabilised an 840m section
of the road near Bodmin Parkway railway
The work, which commenced in October 2007,
was carried out to sure-up the verge which had been built on an
dry stone walling and the root systems of large trees. It was
completed in May 2008 seeing the installation of kerbing, road
drainage gulleys, safety barriers as well as increasing the verge
width to allow for a new surface water drainage system.
in Devon runs between Tamar Bridge outside Plymouth and junction 31 of the M5, where
the motorway ends; this section is known as the Devon
It then runs concurrently with the M5 until
junction 27, where it splits and enters Somerset independent but
parallel to the M5.
During the mid 1960s, small sections of the route between Plymouth
and Exeter were upgraded to dual carriageway, such as those at Dean
Prior and Heathfield. This was followed by the construction of
Plympton bypass in 1970-71, with the majority of realignment, such
as the Ivybridge and Buckfastleigh bypasses, being completed during
1973-74. The route, now known as the Devon Expressway, was largely
complete by 1975, with the final section between Kennford and the
M5 opening in 1977, coinciding with the completion of the M5 during
the same year. Whilst many of the sections were newly constructed
realignments, some sections such as the Ashburton and Kennford
bypasses were upgraded from the original 1930s single carriageway
bypasses. The Parkway, the section of dual carriageway through the
suburbs of Plymouth between the Tamar Bridge and Marsh Mills, was
constructed in 1983-84, along a route which had been reserved for
this road since 1943. This was followed by the construction of a
flyover over Marsh Mills roundabout in 1992, providing a non stop
route between the Plympton bypass and the Parkway.
viaducts carrying the A38 over the River Plym, which after the construction of the Marsh Mills
flyover became the Exeter bound sliproads, were built in 1969-1970
as part of the Plympton bypass.
They were replaced in the
1990s due to suffering from Alkali Silica Reaction
, and the
project, completed in February 1996 at a cost of £12.25million,
involved the world's largest sideways bridge slide at the time for
the , 5,500 tonne bridge. This required the road to be closed for
only 48 hours, which won it an AA
National Motoring Award in
1996 for innovation and minimisation of traffic congestion.
Presently, the route between Plymouth and
the end of M5 is all dual carriageway, and branded the Devon
Expressway, being the primary route that links Plymouth to the
rest of the country.
Beyond the end of M5, the road runs concurrently with and as the M5
until junction 27. The original route between Exeter and junction
27 of the M5 (Waterloo Cross) was downgraded to become the B3181
when the M5 was opened in 1977
Junction 27 to East
Brent, the A38 runs broadly parallel to the M5: the
junctions 22-27 are mostly spurs connecting to the road and all no
further than 1.5 miles from it. The A38 running
around Wellington,_Somerset, through the county seat of Taunton, North
Highbridge. Beyond Highbridge and
junction 22, the road departs the motorway and resumes primary
status, going through Winscombe and Lower Langford.
This route is the suggested route for
accessing the South of Bristol and Bristol International Airport
from the South
centre of Bridgwater was a notorious bottle neck on the "holiday route"
as traffic from both the A38 and the A39
had to negotiate through the town centre in order to cross the
of a new reinforced concrete road bridge, the Blake Bridge, which
opened in March 1958 as part of a southern bypass took much of the
traffic away from the centre of Bridgwater. The opening of the M5
in 1974 further reduced the traffic pressure. This is complemented
by a link road (Western Way) linking the A38 and the A39 north and
west of the town respectively.
Much of the A38 through Somerset was built as single carriageway,
with some three-lane passing points. However, the construction of
the M5 through Somerset, in the early 1970s, led to the building of
links between the A38 and the M5 in the form of new roundabouts on
the A38 linking into adjacent junctions on the M5. Short sections
of the A38 were rebuilt in dual carriageway either side of these
new roundabouts, such as junctions, 22, 23, 24 and 25.
Greater Bristol Area
serves Bristol International Airport
to the south west of the city, and enters the city itself at
Highridge, along Bedminster Down and into Bedminster. It runs through the Bristol city centre before leaving northwards
Croft and along Gloucester Road. It runs past Bristol Filton Airport to meet the M5 again at junction 15.
Thereafter it runs through Almondsbury and by-passes Thornbury to
The route south of the city, despite serving the airport, is single
carriageway and suffers from heavy volume of traffic at peak times,
and congestion along Bedminster Down. Drivers from the south are
advised by road signs not to follow the A38 into the city, but to
use the A3029 Winterstoke road to enter from the west, as this
route has a greater capacity. As part of the "Greater Bristol
Strategic Transport Study", a link road is under consideration to
the south of Bristol. This is in part due to the congestion at
Winterstoke Road and Barrow Gurney (both very busy, especially the
latter where the road can only accommodate travelling at one
direction at a given time); and the incomplete Bristol Ring Road
to the north of the city is also very busy: it runs as a single
carriageway up to the junction with the A4174
ring road at Filton, and where
it runs as Gloucester Road is a busy shopping parade.
the ring road, it runs as a dual carriageway pass Bristol
Filton Airport, which
contains bases for Royal Mail, Airbus, Rolls Royce and
Beyond the junction with M5 it runs as a broad
single carriageway, again parallel to the M5 in route towards
The A38 was rerouted along the Gloucester Bypass when it was built,
and the old route through the city became the A430. In 2007 the
Gloucester South Western Bypass opened to traffic, costing £43
million. Though it is numbered A430 and not technically part of the
A38, traffic wishing to continue on the A38 on the other side of
the city is signed to use the bypass, rather than the existing A38.
£770,000 Rubery Bypass
opened in December 1965.
Northfield bypass, taking traffic away from the congested town
centre opened on 11 April 2007. A bypass of the
narrow section from Selly
Oak to Bournbrook is under construction.
The Lichfield Eastern Bypass opened in 1972The £4.1 million Sutton
Coldfield Bypass opened in 1974, and the £2.6M Lichfield Eastern
Bypass in 1972. The section from Lichfield to Alrewas was dualled in 1958. The £500,000 section
from Alrewas to Wychnor Farm near Wychnor Hall, and the £150,000 section from Wychnor Farm to
Barton Turn both opened in 1962.
further section of the route was improved to dual carriageway
standard, including the £350,000 section from Barton Turn (near Barton-under-Needwood) to Branston in February 1964, bypassing Burton upon
Trent in June 1967 (costing £2.6M, which stretched from
Branston to Clay Mills and
actually shortened the route – now the A5121 - by one mile), and in
recent years many of the at-grade
junctions have been upgraded or stopped-up. Later in June 1968,
the section from the Staffordshire boundary at Clay Mills to the
proposed Mickleover link was dualled – completing the
dual-carriageway from Lichfield to Findern.
1969, the 'Allestree Link Road', from the A6 at Allestree to the former A61 was opened, crossing the River Derwent and Midland Main Line.
improvements in the late 1960s and 1970s saw construction of the
£5.2M Mickleover bypass to the south-west of Derby opened on
19 February 1975. Although the government had approved the
section through Allestree as early as 1974, before the Mickleover bypass had
been completed, this section had a lot of objections from nearby
residents, delaying its construction (from the A52 to the A6). It was opposed
directly by Derby Borough Council and the former Derby Higher
The £17M road was eventually opened on
7 September 1983
known as Queensway
. An extension of the A38 northwards, crossing
the M1 at Junction 28, and ending in
Mansfield was built. The £3M Little Eaton-Holbrook Improvement opened on 3 October 1977.
10 mile (16 km) Ripley-Swanwick Bypass was opened by Eric
Varley (MP for Chesterfield) on 21 October 1977, although the
section from Alfreton to the Hartshay Hill roundabout with
the A610 had been opened unofficially
since 5 September 1977.
To the east of Junction 28 of the M1, the road used to be the A615
until October 1977. The alignment of this road is relatively modern
as the dangerous junction with Berristow Lane was improved to
grade-separated in the late 1990s, incorporating access to a busy
- Taylor, Christopher (1979). Roads & Tracks of
Britain. J. M. Dent & Sons. ISBN 0-460-04329-3.