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UK road A12.svg
A12 road
Direction North-East - South-West
Start London (Blackwall)
Primary destinations* Barking
End Great Yarmouth
Roads joined [ M⁠25 ⁠] M25 motorway
UK road A11.svg A11 road
UK road A13.svg A13 road
UK road A14.svg A14 road
UK road A47.svg A47 road
UK road A102.svg A102 road
UK road A120.svg A120 road
UK road A127.svg A127 road
UK road A130.PNG A130 road
UK road A134.PNG A134 road
UK road A138.PNG A138 road
UK road A143.PNG A143 road
UK road A146.PNG A146 road
UK road A149.PNG A149 road
UK road A406.PNG A406 road
UK road A414.PNG A414 road
UK road A1117.PNG A1117 road
UK road A1400.PNG A1400 road
UK road A106.svg A106 road
UK road A113.PNG A113 road
UK road A114.PNG A114 road
UK road A115.PNG A115 road
UK road A118.PNG A118 road
UK road A123.PNG A123 road
UK road A125.PNG A125 road
UK road A128.svg A128 road
UK road A133.PNG A133 road
UK road A144.PNG A144 road
UK road A145.PNG A145 road
UK road A1008.PNG A1008 road
UK road A1023.PNG A1023 road
UK road A1094.PNG A1094 road
UK road A1112.PNG A1112 road
UK road A1114.PNG A1114 road
UK road A1120.PNG A1120 road
UK road A1124.PNG A1124 road
UK road A1144.PNG A1144 road
UK road A1145.PNG A1145 road
UK road A1152.PNG A1152 road
UK road A1156.PNG A1156 road
UK road A1214.PNG A1214 road
UK road A1232.PNG A1232 road
* Primary destinations as specified by the Department for Transport.

The A12 is a major road in England. A trunk road for most of its length it runs from London to Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. The road forms part of the unsigned Euroroute E30. Unlike most A roads, the A12 (together with the A14 and the A55) has junction numbers as if it were a motorway.

The 84 km section of the A12 through Essex has sections of dual two lanes and dual three lanes with eight changes in width between the M25 to Ipswich.[1] It was named as Britain's worst road in a 2007 survey by Cornhill Insurance.[2]



Starting just north of the Blackwall Tunnel where it connects end on to the A102, it heads north through Bow, Old Ford and Hackney Wick, then northeast through Leyton, Leytonstone, Wanstead, Redbridge, Gants Hill and Romford, then into Essex, passing Brentwood, Chelmsford and Colchester. In Suffolk, it passes Ipswich, Woodbridge and Saxmundham, then follows the coast through Lowestoft before entering Norfolk, passing through Gorleston and ending at Great Yarmouth.

The same corridor is served by rail with the Great Eastern Main Line serving London, Brentwood, Chelmsford, Colchester and Ipswich, and then the East Suffolk Line serving Woodbridge, Saxmundham and Lowestoft. Great Yarmouth is served by the Wherry Lines.

The A12 and A120 are covered by the highways agency A12 and A120 Route Management Strategy.[3]


Originally the A12 was a Roman road.

A map from 1766 shows the road passing through Rumford, Burntwood, Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich, Woodbridge and Beckles, ending in Great Yarmouth.[4] The 'Ipswich to South Town and Bungay Turnpike' Turnpike Trust was established in 1785, operating between Ipswich and Great Yarmouth.[5] The trust was wound up in 1872 following the arrival of the East Suffolk Line which was fully operational between the two towns in 1859.[6] Following the demise of the Turnpike trust responsibility reverted to parish responsibility until the new county councils took over in 1889.[6]

The Beccles to Great Yarmouth section of the East Suffolk Line railway line was closed in 1959 and the whole of the railway line from Ipswich to Lowestoft was threatened with closure under the Beeching Axe, parts were reduced to single track in 1984 when through trains to London were discontinued (subsequently re-instated).[7]

During the 1960s there were plans for an M12 motorway (also know 'South Woodford - Chelmsford Motorway') which would have run from the North Circular at the base of the current M11 motorway joining the A12 south of Chelmsford or at Brentwood.[8] The North Circular was to be upgrade to motorway standard as part of Ringway 2 and be designated as the M15 motorway. The M11 was to have provided a motorway standard road into central London past Ringway 1 terminating at the Angel, Islington. The M12 motorway was never built although the junction of the M11 with the north circular was designed to accommodate it.[9]

The 5-mile (8.0 km) long Brentwood bypass was opened in November 1965.[10]

A bypass for Chelmsford was first included in the roads program in 1968. Draft orders for the southern bypass were published in 1974, however the public inquiry in 1975 suggested that the government should re-examine the appropriateness of a 'central route' and the government delayed the road. In 1979 the government announced that it would proceed with the southern dual two lane route which opened in 1986.[11]

Ipswich's 'Southern by-pass' via the Orwell Bridge being opened in 1982. This section was later designated as part of the A14.

The Martlesham bypass (previously known as the Kesgrave and Martlesham Bypass) was completed in 1987/1988[12]

A White paper, Roads for Prosperity, published in 1989, proposed to widen the Chelmsford Bypass and the section from Hatfield Peverel to Witham to dual 3 lane; it also proposed widening to section from Saxmundham to Lowestoft and from Wickham Market to Farnham to dual 2 lanes. It also included a 'new route from the M25 to Chelmsford' as a dual two lane road following the proposed route of the M12 motorway.[13]

The Department for Transport published 'Trunk roads, England, into the 1990s' in May 1990 which included ten proposed developments for the A12 between the M25 and Lowestoft including the M12 motorway between M25 and the Chelmsford bypass, Chelmsford bypass widening and improvements on the sections from Hatfield Peverel to Marks Tey, Four Sisters to Stratford St. Mary, Martlesham to Wickham Market, Wickham Market to Saxmundham, the bypass around Saxmundham, Saxmundham to south of Wrentham, South of Wrentham to Kessingland and the Lowestoft relief road.[14]

A new section of the A12, known as the 'M11 link road' or 'A12 Hackney-M11 Link Road', was built in the early 1990s in the face of the major M11 link road protest and finally opened in October 1999.[15] The section of road had originally been proposed in 1903 in a Royal Commission on London Traffic. A public inquiry had been held in September 1961 and a further three public inquiries, a Parliamentary Bill and a High Court challenge had been required before the work started.[16].

Plans for the M12 Motorway were withdrawn in March 1994 following a review of the trunk roads program.[17]

A public inquiry in the 'Saxmundham to Wickham Market bypass' was held in 1995[18] but this road has not been built.

Initiated in 2000, the London to Ipswich Multi-modal study reported its conclusions late in 2002.[19]

In 2008 improvements were made to the junction between the A12 and the M25 to increase slip-road capacity, in particular for clockwise M25 traffic turning north onto the A12, and to ease congestion on the Brook Street Roundabout (serving the M25, A12 and local Brentwood traffic as the A1023).[20]

The bascule bridge in Lowestoft, built in 1972,[21] was refurbished in spring 2008.[22]

Essex County Council carried out its own inquiry into the road in 2008 (see below for details).

Current developments


Cuckoo Farm Junction

In 2001 plans were submitted for the construction of a new junction on the A12 at Cuckoo Farm, Colchester.[23] Work on the £12.4m scheme started in December 2009 with an estimated opening date of early 2011. It is being promoted by Essex County Council and received funding from the Community Infrastructure Fund.[24]

Proposed developments

Technology package

In November 2008 the government announced a £60 million technology package including variable message signs, CCTV, Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras and automatic incident detection sensors embedded in the road surface to improve journey reliability, reduce delays and give better information to drivers.[25] Work is due to start in 2011/12.[26]

Improvements at Farnham, Stratford, Glenham and Marlesford

A bypass for these villages was proposed in 1986 as part of the governments ambitious 1989 Roads for Prosperity white paper which detailed many road schemes across the country. Suffolk county council considered a bypass for the villages of Farnham, Stratford St Andrew, Glenham and Marlesford for the 2006 Local Transport Plan.[27] The scheme will not be implemented till after 2016.[28]

Other proposals

Essex county council has put forwards plans for a bypass of Chelmsford connecting Junction 19 of the A12 to the A131.[29]

Plans to upgrade the A120 into a dual 2 lane carriageway was scrapped in 2009.[30]

The proposed Beccles passing Loop on the East Suffolk railway line which serves the A12 corridor would allow an hourly rail service to be operated between Lowestoft via Ipswich to London (instead of the 2 hourly service which is the maximum possibly due to the single-track section).[31]

The A12 inquiry

In response to this increasing congestion [32] Essex County Council announced it would hold an A12 inquiry which was tasked with deciding how to improve the A12 and prevent the congestion.[33] The inquiry was headed by Sir David Rowlands, KCB, a former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport, with Professor Stephen Glaister, Dr David Quarmby and Lord Whitty, all with significant knowledge of the transport sector.

The inquiry began taking submissions in April 2008.[34] The Inquiry, the first ever local authority sponsored inquiry into a major trunk road, heard from 24 organisations and 36 witnesses over three days including Department for Transport and Highways Agency officials, MPs, local and regional agencies and authorities, the emergency services, business and motoring groups. Comments were also received from over two hundred members of the public and through a petition organised by the Essex Chronicle newspaper. The commissions finding were published in July 2008[35] and its outline recommendations are:

  • the A12 as far as Ipswich should be brought up to modern dual 2-lane standards (where not already dual-3), with urgent priority given to the Hatfield Peverel - Marks Tey section
  • substandard lay-bys should be replaced; one or more locations off but near the A12 should be identified for secure HGV parking, and an HGV overtaking ban should be trialled
  • a wide range of short term practical measures should be introduced to improve safety and reduce driver stress, such as selective speed limits and better information for drivers, and to improve the recovery from incidents and closures
  • a New Route Management Strategy should be drawn up by the Highways Agency, in collaboration with local stakeholders, and an ‘A12 Alliance’ should be formed to consolidate and sustain the momentum for improvement


Fire closes road for 10 hours in October 2007

An accident involving acetylene cylinders which caused the closure of the road and rail link nearby for 10 hours in October 2007.[36]

Fictional Incidents: Collision

A crash on the A12 is the focus for events in ITV's Drama "Collision", screened first in November 2009

Detailed routing

Route of A12 from OpenStreetMap
A12 Road
Northbound exits Junction Southbound exits
M25, Brentwood A1023 11 (M25 J28 - Brook Street) M25, Brentwood A1023
Brentwood A1023, Mountnessing B1002 12 (Mountnessing Marylands) Brentwood A1023, Mountnessing B1002
No Exit 13 (Trueloves) Ingatestone B1002
Margaretting 14 (Furze Hill) No Exit
Chelmsford A414, Margaretting B1002 15 (Webb’s Farm) Chelmsford A414, Margaretting B1002
B1007 16 (Stock Road) B1007
A130, Chelmsford A1114 17 (Howe Green) A130, Chelmsford A1114
A414 18 (Sandon) A414
No Exit 19 (Boreham) Chelmsford A138
Hatfield Peverel 20a (Hatfield Peveral South) No Exit
No Exit 20b (Hatfield Peveral North) Hatfield Peverel
Witham B1389 21 (Lynfield Motors) No Exit
No Exit 22 (Coleman's) Witham B1389
Kelvedon B1024 23 (Kelvedon South) No Exit
No Exit 24 (Kelvedon North) Kelvedon B1024
Braintree, Stansted A120, B1408 25 (Marks Tey) Braintree, Stansted A120, B1408
A1124 26 (Eight Ash Green) A1124
Colchester A133 27 (Spring Lane) No Exit
Harwich, Clacton A120, Colchester A1232 29 (Ardleigh Crown) Harwich, Clacton A120, Colchester A1232
B1029 30 (Park Lane Birchwood) B1029
East Bergholt 31 East Bergholt
Capel St. Mary 32a (Capel St. Mary South) Capel St. Mary
C475 London Road 32b (Bentley Longwood) C475 London Road
London, Ipswich A14, A1214 33 (A14 J55 - Copdock Mill) End of concurrency with A14


The A12 continues starts just north of the Blackwall tunnel at a junction with the A102 and the A13. From here to past Ipswich (including the entire section through London) the road is a Dual Carriageway. North of the junction, the A12 heads northwards as a 2/3 lane Dual Carriageway abeit mostly at street level. This stretch of road is known as the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach. This stretch ends at the triple-layer interchange with the A11 at Bow Road where it becomes the East Cross Route. This is mainly a 3/4 lane Dual Carriageway built mainly on Flyovers and Underpasses and was built in the late 1960s, previously called the A102(M). The road turns North Eastwards at the unfinished Hackney Wick Interchange where the carriageways split and the northbound carriageway has a right hand entrance. When the London Ringways plan was being proposed, A motorway (North Cross Route) was to end here and the M11 was meant to extend from its current terminus on the A406 through this junction and to Angel. The A12 heads to Lea. The section from the Lea Interchange to Leytonstone, also known as the M11 Link road was built in the 1990s in the face the a major road protest. During this work the old section as far as Wanstead was rebuilt as a dual carriageway. Prior to that, the A12 started at the Green Man Roundabout at Leytonstone, and was single carriageway west of Wanstead tube station. It now has an underpass at that roundabout, which again is a junction with the old A11. East of Wanstead, the A12 runs roughly due east. It is known as Eastern Avenue, then Eastern Avenue West and Eastern Avenue East, built in the 1920s as a bypass for the section of the Roman road from Colchester to London running through Ilford and Romford (today's A118). The eastern end of the Eastern Avenue is Gallows Corner in the London Borough of Havering, just east of Romford. The junction also marks the start-point of the A127 Southend Arterial Road, also 1920s vintage. At the roundabout, an extemporised two-lane flyover still provides priority for A12 eastbound to A127 traffic (and vice versa). However, the A12 now veers roughly north-eastward, because it starts to follow the course of the Roman road; the Romans started building this road from Colchester, their original capital for the province. However, the 2.5-mile (4.0 km) stretch from Gallows Corner to the junction with the M25 motorway, called Colchester Road, is still perfectly straight. The M25 junction is number 28; it also marks where the A12 crosses the boundary from London to Essex.


Originally, the A12 followed the route of the Roman road closely and so was fairly straight, but there are now several town bypasses, so the road through Essex now has several meanders. The A12 formerly went through Brentwood, Mountnessing, Ingatestone, Margaretting, Chelmsford, Boreham, Hatfield Peverel, Witham, Kelvedon, Copford, Stanway and Colchester, but these are all now bypassed, and the A12 is close to motorway standard for its whole length in Essex.

It is this stretch of the A12, particularly between Chelmsford and Colchester, which has led to the poor reputation for surface quality of the A12. This is mainly for its bumpy or potholed surface, mostly due to worn concrete surfaces, especially on the Kelvedon bypass, also between Hatfield Peverel and Witham, and between Copford and Stanway. These bypasses, plus the Chelmsford bypass in its entirety, have still not been replaced with tarmaced roads.


Built in 1982, the A12 Colchester bypass provides an uninterrupted dual carriageway where the national speed limit (70 mph/110 km/h) applies.

Before 1982, the A12 took a route much closer to Colchester itself, and although still a bypass it consisted of urban single carriageways with roundabouts and pedestrian crossings. The old bypass is, of course, still in existence – the western half is now part of the A1124 and the eastern half part of the A133.

Work is about to start on a new junction to the North East of Colchester (Junction 28) to link in to the football stadium, industrial estates and new housing to be built on the site of an old hospital. The junction is due to open in early 2011.


The Suffolk stretch of the A12 starts with the Capel St Mary by-pass. Originally the route from the Northern end of this bypass ran through the villages of Washbrook and Copdock and into Ipswich. When Ipswich's Southern by-pass was built in the early 1980s, the route picked up from the northern Capel St Mary junction (now numbered 32b), to pass to the West of the original line – this allowed the relevant ground works and interchanges to be completed with minimal traffic disruption. The old dual carriageway through Washbrook and Copdock is blocked off at White's Corner and was renumbered to be the C475.[37] A footpath still exists which enables passage underneath the A14.


The A12 (multiplexed with the A14) passes over The Orwell Bridge south of Ipswich

The old route through Ipswich was renumbered as the A1214 following construction of the Ipswich Southern By-pass. The old route is more locally known by the road names, notably "London Road" to the Town Centre and Woodbridge Road out the other side. The Ipswich Southern By-pass allows the A12 to overlap the A14 to Seven Hills Interchange, 7 miles (11 km) from the Copdock junction, where the A12 reappears and heads North. As the A14 the road passes over the large Orwell Bridge with total length of 1,287 metres. This has a summit at 43 metres above the river giving a humped feel with reduced visibility for traffic. There are at-grade roundabout junctions past BT Adastral Park at Martlesham and around the Woodbridge bypass.

For most of its remaining length through Suffolk the A12 is a mostly single carriageway road and in many places its speed limit is less than the national limit, for example as it passes through towns and villages. During 2003/2004 some of these speed restrictions were further reduced from 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) to 30 miles per hour (48 km/h). There are, though, a few stretches of dual carriageway between the Woodbridge bypass and Lowestoft (at Wickham Market, Saxmundham, Wangford and Kessingland). This section of the A12 was detrunked in 2001 as part of the Highways Agency's streamlining of its Trunk Road Network. Control was therefore passed to the local authorities.

Just south of Blythburgh, the old milestone shows it is 100 miles (160 km) to London.


The A12 runs through Lowestoft for about 5 miles (8.0 km) on urban 30 miles per hour (48 km/h) limited roads, however as of June 2006 the A12 now follows the course of the new single carriageway 40 mph Southern Relief Road that joins the original A12 at Lowestoft bascule bridge. A further impediment is the harbour bridge, which has three lanes, the centre lane operating as a one-way addition to whichever direction of flow is deemed greater according to time of day.

An alternative route avoiding Lowestoft is available through Oulton Broad (the town of), but again via urban roads and a bridge (A1117).

The A12 passes over Breydon Bridge to the west of Great Yarmouth.

The presence of these bridge choke points can cause serious disruption to north-south trunk traffic, especially when local traffic is added during rush hours.

An adequate bypass for Lowestoft would need to be well to the west, even to the west of Oulton Broad (the body of water), and its route would have to consider the great areas of marshland in that area. For that reason an often discussed compromise is a third bridge, crossing Lake Lothing, linking the sections of urban spine-road that run approximately along the western edge of Lowestoft.



From a point just south west of the mouth of the River Yare, northwards to the point where it crosses the River Yare in Great Yarmouth, the A12 now follows the route originally used by the railway line from Lowestoft to its terminus north of Breydon Bridge[38] at Vauxhall Roundabout where the A47 also terminates.[39]


  1. ^ "A12 report FINAL". Essex County Council. 
  2. ^ "Motorists name A12 as worst road". BBC News. 2007-02-26. Retrieved 26 February 2007. 
  3. ^ "A12 and A120 Route Management Strategy". Highways Agency. Retrieved 8 November 2008. 
  4. ^ "A map of the Road from London to Harwich, Chelmsford to St. Edmonds Bury, Colchester to Yarmouth". 1766. Retrieved 30 November 2008. 
  5. ^ "Ipswich to Southtown and Bungay Turnpike Trust". National Archives. 
  6. ^ a b Linda Sexton. Fifty four miles to Yarmouth. Dunnock Books. 
  7. ^ "East Suffolk Line". East Suffolk Line. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  8. ^ "M11 (WANSTEAD AND WOODFORD)". Hansard. 
  9. ^ "M12". Pathetic motorways. 
  10. ^ "News and views - Brentwood by-pass opens". Autocar: page 1158. date 26 November 1965. 
  11. ^ "Chelmsford Bypass". Hansard. Retrieved 2009-12-28. 
  12. ^ "Road Building and Management". Retrieved 2009-12-28. 
  13. ^ Road for Prosperity. 
  14. ^ "Written Answers to Questions Tuesday 27 April 1993". Hansard. 
  15. ^ "A12 - M11 Link Road Official Opening 6 October". Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  16. ^ "Missing link". 
  17. ^ "Trunk Roads (Review)". Hansard. 
  18. ^ "A.12 Wickham Market to Saxmundham Bypass". Retrieved 2009-12-18. 
  19. ^ "LONDON TO IPSWICH MULTI-MODAL STUDY - (LOIS)". Department for Transport. Retrieved 2010-01-21. 
  20. ^ "M25/A12 Brook Street Interchange, Roadworks". Highways Agency. Retrieved 31 August 2007. 
  21. ^ "A12 Bascule Bridge Refurbishment - Project Background". Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  22. ^ BBC News (25 February 2008). "Anger at five-day bridge closure". Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  23. ^ "Case File O/COL/01/1622". Colchester Borough Council. Retrieved 25 November 2008. 
  24. ^ "Work to begin on new junction for the A12 near Colchester". Fleet Directory. 
  25. ^ "Hoon announces up to £60m to cut congestion on A12". Department for Transport. 25 November 2008. Retrieved 27 November 2009. 
  26. ^ "A12: salvation in sight for 'England's worst road'". Daily Gazette. 2009-01-20. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  27. ^ "A1065 Brandon and A12 Four Villages Study". Suffolk County Council. Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  28. ^ "A1065 Brandon and A12 Four Villages Study". Retrieved 12 October 2009. 
  29. ^ "Cabinet Report Chelmsford NE Bypass". Essex County Council. Retrieved 18 November 2008. 
  30. ^ "A120 Braintree to Marks Tey". Retrieved 11 July 2008. 
  31. ^ "Council Gathering Support for Beccles Loop". East Suffolk Line. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  32. ^ "A12 Inquiry media release". Essex County Council. Retrieved 2009-12-28. 
  33. ^ "A12 Inquiry". Essex County Council. Retrieved 7 November 2008. 
  34. ^ "A12 Inquiry, Essex County Council Media Release". Retrieved 3 March 2008. 
  35. ^ "A12 Inquiry Final Report". Retrieved 26 October 2008. 
  36. ^ "Call for probe into A12 chaos". East Anglian Daily Times. Retrieved 7 November 2008. 
  37. ^ "A12 Bentley Longwood interchange (J32B) Roadworks". Highways Agency. Retrieved 14 February 2007. 
  38. ^ "A12 at Breydon Bridge, Great Yarmouth, closed on Sunday for safety checks". 8 March 2005. Retrieved 13 May 2008. 
  39. ^ "Get-a-map from Ordnance Survey". Retrieved 13 May 2008. 

External links

Coordinates: 52°36′44″N 1°42′54″E / 52.61234°N 1.71499°E / 52.61234; 1.71499


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