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The A5 is a major road in the United Kingdommarker. It is also the first Roman built road in England hence the name Roman Road. It runs for about 260 miles (including sections concurrent with other designations) from Londonmarker, Englandmarker to Holyheadmarker, Walesmarker, following in part a section of the Roman Iter II route which later took the Anglo-Saxon name Watling Streetmarker.


The history of the A5 begins with Thomas Telford in the early nineteenth century. Following the Act of Union 1800, which unified Great Britainmarker and Irelandmarker, the government saw the need for improving communication links between Londonmarker and Dublinmarker. A Parliamentary committee led to an Act of Parliament of 1815 that authorised buying out existing turnpike road interests and, where necessary, constructing a new road, to complete the route between the two capitals. This made it the first major civilian state-funded road building project in Britain since Roman times.

Through Englandmarker, the road largely took over existing turnpike roads, which mainly followed the route of the Anglo-Saxon Wæcelinga Stræt (Watling Streetmarker), much of which had been historically the Roman road Iter II.

From Shrewsburymarker and through Walesmarker, Telford's work was more extensive. In places he followed existing roads, but he also built new links, including the Menai Suspension Bridgemarker to connect the mainland with Angleseymarker and the Stanley Embankment to Holy Islandmarker.

Telford's road was complete with the opening of the Menai Suspension Bridgemarker in 1826.

Notable Features

The road was designed to allow stagecoaches and the Mail coach to carry post between London and Holyhead, and thence to Irelandmarker. Therefore throughout its length the gradient never exceeds 5%.

The route through Wales retains many of the original features of Telford's road and has, since 1995, been recognised as an historic route worthy of preservation. These features include the following:

  • many surviving and distinctive toll houses
  • 'depots' along the route, being roadside alcoves to store grit and materials
  • distinctive milestones at each mile - many originals having survived and been restored, others now replaced by replicas
  • distinctive gates in a 'sunburst' design, a few of which have survived
  • a weighbridge at Lon Isaf, between Bangormarker and Bethesdamarker

Tŷ Nant Cutting

In 1997, a section of bends on Telford's road between Tŷ Nant and Dinmael, in Wales, was by-passed by a modern cutting. However in 2006, investigations revealed that the rock face in the cutting had become unstable, and the A5 was closed from the end of May 2006 . Traffic was diverted onto the old A5 route, on a stretch known as the Glyn Bends, whilst the rock face was made safe. This involved the removal of 230,000 tonnes of rock and alluvial deposits. In July 2007, the A5 through the reconstructed cutting was reopened.

Route|Marble Arch, London
– start of the A5
Image:A5-llwybrhanesyddol.JPG|Sign of Thomas Telford's Historic RouteImage:Admirality arch Holyhead.jpg|Admiralty Arch, Holyhead – end of the A5Starting at Marble Archmarker in Londonmarker, the A5 runs north-west up the Edgware Roadmarker through Kilburnmarker and Cricklewoodmarker. The A5 number disappears near Edgwaremarker, but the Roman Road continues as the A5183 through Elstreemarker, Radlettmarker, St Albansmarker and Redbournmarker, to junction 9 of the M1, where it becomes the A5 again. From there on, it passes through Dunstablemarker, where it crosses and briefly multiplexes with the A505marker. The stretch through Dunstable is mostly single carriageway with a 30 mph speed limit and at-grade pedestrian crossings, and as a result serious traffic jams are frequent on this stretch. North of Dunstable the A5 passes through the village of Hockliffemarker, before becoming a dual carriageway and bypassing Little Brickhillmarker. After a large roundabout with the A4146, the road becomes a fully grade-separated dual carriageway and passes through Milton Keynesmarker. This stretch, known locally as the 'A5D', was opened in 1980 and enabled the older route to be incorporated into the Milton Keynes grid road system. The bypass has four junctions within Milton Keynes, all grade-separated, interchanging with the A4146, A421, A509 and A422.

After passing Old Stratfordmarker, the dual carriageway ends at a large roundabout with the A508. The single carriageway then continues to pass through Potterspurymarker, where a 50 mph speed limit is in force, and then Towcestermarker. Through Towcester the road is narrow and restricted to 30 mph. The volume of traffic on the A5 causes serious congestion for the town and vibrations from passing vehicles have fueled support for a bypass. After crossing the A43 at a small roundabout, the road accompanies the Grand Union Canalmarker and the M1 motorway through the Watford Gapmarker. As it passes close to Rugbymarker the road is diverted slightly around the DIRFTmarker complex which was built in 1997. After this it passes the remains of the Rugby Radio Station and bridges the M45 motorway.

The next phase to the Welshmarker border takes it through Kilsbymarker, before going under the M6 motorway and passing close to Lutterworthmarker. Along this stretch the road frequently alternates between being a single and a dual carriageway. After meeting the M69 motorway at a roundabout with the motorway passing above, the A5 runs through Hinckleymarker , the northern fringes of Nuneatonmarker and then Atherstonemarker. In Atherstone a dual carriageway bypass takes the route briefly away from its old alignment. After this the road formerly passed straight through Tamworthmarker, but a dual carriageway bypass has now been provided in a similar vein to the one in Milton Keynes (see above). From this point the road is a high speed, grade separated dual carriageway up until its junction with the A38 and M6 toll. After this junction it passes through Cannockmarker and Telfordmarker, where it meets the M54 motorway. It then runs to Shrewsburymarker and Oswestrymarker before entering Walesmarker just west of Chirkmarker. From the Wales-England border, it continues through Llangollenmarker, Corwenmarker, Capel Curigmarker, and Bangormarker before arriving at Holyheadmarker via the Menai Suspension Bridgemarker between mainland Wales and Angleseymarker.

Map of Route

Alternative routes

Parts of the A5 have been replaced by sections of the M1 north of Londonmarker, the M54 through Telfordmarker, the M6, and the M6 Toll. The A55 route in North Wales is now the usual way to get from Chirkmarker to Holyheadmarker, avoiding the mountainous A5 route through Snowdoniamarker and instead going via the much gentler Cheshire gapmarker and along the coast.

Road Safety

In June 2008, a 9.9 Mile (16 km) stretch of the A5 between Daventry and Rugby was named as the most dangerous road in the East Midlands. This single carriageway stretch had 15 fatal and serious injury collisions between 2004 and 2006, and was rated as Red—the second highest risk band—in the EuroRAP report publish by the Road Safety Foundation.

See also


  • Quartermaine et al. (2003) Thomas Telford's Holyhead Road: The A5 in North Wales, Council for British Archaeology ISBN 1-902771-34-6

External links

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