The A55, also known as the North Wales Expressway (Welsh: Gwibffordd Gogledd Cymru) is a major road in Britain. Its entire length from Chester to Holyhead is a dual carriageway primary route, with the exception of the Britannia Bridge over the Menai Strait and several short sections where there are gaps in between the two carriageways. All junctions are grade separated apart from a roundabout east of Penmaenmawr and another nearby in Llanfairfechan. Initially, the road ran from Chester to Bangor. In 2001, it was extended across Anglesey to the ferry port of Holyhead parallel to the A5 . The road improvements have been part funded with European money, under the Trans-European Networks programme, as the route is designated part of Euroroute E22 (Holyhead - Leeds - Amsterdam - Hamburg - Malmö - Riga - Moscow - Perm - Ekaterinburg - Ishim).
The A55 begins at junction 12, the southern end of the M53 motorway near Chester. It is known as the Chester southerly bypass. The A55 crosses the River Dee and the border into Wales, passing close to Broughton, Flintshire, and passing north of Buckley, Penyffordd and Northop. There is a major climb between Broughton and Buckley (Junctions 35a to 35) though with no crawler lane. Junction 34/33b is point at which the A494 converges and then diverges with the A55. The road briefly has a three-lane section as westbound traffic from Queensferry can leave towards Mold. In the eastbound direction another short three-lane section allows vehicles to join the A494 or exit onto the A55 to Chester. Traffic taking the A55 into England must negotiate a tight 270 degree speed-limited single lane curve to climb up and over the A55/A494. Plans to upgrade the A494 between this junction at Ewloe and Queensferry were rejected by the Welsh Government on 26 March 2008 due to their scale.
From Ewloe, the road is relatively flat until after Northop when it climbs up onto the flanks of Halkyn Mountain range, passing to the southwest of Holywell with major climbs between Northop and Halkyn (Junctions 33 and 32b) and Halkyn and Holywell Summit (Junctions 32 and 31). This section of road is notorious for poor weather conditions including fog, ice and snow in winter months. In fine weather, however there are extensive views over the River Dee estuary to the Wirral Peninsula, Liverpool and beyond. The highest part of the road is in the vicinity of Brynford at around 790 feet (240 m). The steep descent towards St Asaph is down the new Rhuallt Hill (Junctions 29 to 28), which also provides the first views of the mountains of Snowdonia in the far distance. There is a crawler lane on Rhuallt Hill for eastbound traffic. The road bypasses St Asaph to the north, and runs past Bodelwyddan and Abergele to reach the North Wales coast at Pensarn (Junction 23A). From here onwards to Bangor, the route is close to the North Wales Coast railway.
Two sections between Llanddulas (Junction 23) to Conwy (Junction 17) are signed as a 70 mph (110 km/h) speed limit because they are classed as non-motorway special roads. Unlike other sections of the A55 that have National Speed Limit (NSL) signage and are accessible to all motor vehicles, motorway-style restrictions (although the A55 is not a motorway) apply on these stretches of road (e.g. no pedestrians, learner drivers, farm vehicles etc). As the section is not part of the UK motorway network, or classed as an all-purpose road (public right of way), the National Speed Limit does not apply so 70 mph (110 km/h) signs (the maximum speed permitted on UK roads) are used instead.
A 50 mph (80 km/h) limit remains in force through the Colwyn Bay bypass (Old Colwyn to Mochdre). The restriction was imposed for several reasons. First as a safety precaution because the slip-roads on this stretch are unusually short due to the road's design. Part of it was built on a narrow swathe of land through the town that was once the North Wales coast railway; Colwyn Bay had to be rebuilt and the track bed realigned to complete the underpass. The former four-track railway was reduced to two more northerly tracks to make space for the road. Second the reduced speed limit was intended to reduce road noise for residents. However, since the completion of the Colwyn Bay bypass, the lower speed limit has been an unpopular decision with drivers.
The crossing of the estuary of the River Conwy is by means of an immersed tube tunnel, the first of its kind constructed in the United Kingdom. At 1060m, the tunnel is the longest road tunnel in Wales.
The decision to construct an immersed tube tunnel bypass followed an extensive public consultation, named the Collcon Feasibility Study. This ruled out another bridge by the castle on aesthetic grounds, since it would have damaged the view of the world heritage site Conwy Castle, and the two bridges by Robert Stephenson and Thomas Telford. Another alternative bridge crossing was proposed at Deganwy, but this too was ruled out for aesthetic reasons. An inland alternative with heavy grades which would have passed over Bwlch y Ddeufaen pass at 430 metres (1,410 ft), following the old Roman road, was also worked up but rejected for cost and utility reasons.
The tunnel was constructed by a Costain/Tarmac Construction joint venture, as pre-formed concrete sections, and then floated into position over a pre-prepared trench in the bed of the estuary. The 3 million tonnes of silt and mud extracted to create the trench in which the tunnel sections sat, were vacuumed to one side of the construction site, as to let them drift down river would have harmed the large mussel fishing beds downstream. The silt was deposited upstream of the bridge at Conwy which created a large new area of low-lying land which was subsequently given to the RSPB for a wildlife preserve. The casting basin for the tunnel sections was later converted into a new marina in the lower estuary. Because of the valuable fishery in the river and also because of the history of heavy metal mining in the catchment of the river, extensive ecological assessments were made both prior to the construction of the tunnel and subsequently. These studies finally concluded that no significant environmental damage had been caused.
After five years of construction, the tunnel was opened in October 1991 by Queen Elizabeth II, the tunnel initially had an advisory 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) speed limit, but this was dropped in 2007 as accidents were rare in the tunnels.
Leaving Conwy in a westerly direction, the construction of this section has involved major civil engineering works because it crosses two major headlands: Penmaenbach Point and Penmaenan Point. Work has involved the cutting of several hard rock tunnels beneath the sea cliffs.
The first to be built in 1932 was the Penmaenbach Tunnel which carried motor traffic to Penmaenmawr. Two smaller tunnels through Penmaenan Point, opened 1935, carried the road onto Llanfairfechan. This new route, carrying traffic in both directions, relieved the original coach road built by Telford in the early 19th century. Cut into the cliffs by hand, this narrow, winding route hugged the contours around both steep headlands. Telford's route has now been converted into a cycleway across Penmaenbach and Penmaenan Points. Originally at the western end (Llanfairfechan) of the modern Pen-y-Clip tunnel, access was only allowed in an easterly direction because travelling the other way would mean heading the wrong way up the eastbound carriageway. However, in 2011 a purpose-built bridge - over the westbound carriageway - was constructed to allow unrestricted access to cyclists and walkers.
The 1930s alignment was used until a new two-lane Penmaenbach Tunnel opened in 1989 to carry westbound traffic. Eastbound traffic would now travel through the 1932 Penmaenbach Tunnel using both its original lanes. Four years later, work to build the Pen-y-clip tunnel was completed. Like at Penmaenbach it carried westbound traffic while the original road carried vehicles in the opposite direction. Both new routes were subject to an advisory 50 mph speed limit until these were lifted in 2007 as there had been few accidents.
However traffic travelling eastbound on the 1930s cliffhugging route still faced speed restrictions at both tunnel locations. For instance the eastbound carriageway at Penmaenbach is subject to a 30 mph (50 km/h) speed limit due to sharp curves and double white lines nominally preclude lane changing. Plans to rectify the awkward alignment by building another tunnel parallel to the current westbound tunnel (as originally intended when the westbound tunnel was proposed) have been discussed for several years. The Recent work (late 2007) at Penmaenbach eastbound has seen the erection of gantries to close lanes when bidirectional working is in place.
Some sections of the rest of the route are of lower standard than that of those further east. Some traffic leaves for major holiday destinations such as Caernarfon or the Llŷn Peninsula, though much continues on to the port of Holyhead. As such part of the route is not classed as clearway and has two at grade junctions (roundabouts), Penmaenmawr (Junction 16) and Llanfairfechan (Junction 15). The Bangor bypass, in which the road previously terminated and became the A5 regains high standards and is such through the Anglesey section, bar the Britannia Bridge, which is a single carriageway deck above the North Wales Coast railway over the Menai Strait. In 2007 the Welsh Assembly Government undertook a consultation to determine which of four options would be preferred for a second crossing. This section intersects with the A487 towards Caernarfon, and the west coast of North Wales.
The final section of the A55 to be constructed was the Anglesey section. This 20 mile (32 km) section from the end of the Llanfairpwll bypass to Holyhead Harbour was constructed as Private Finance Initiative scheme where the builders, a Carillion / John Laing joint venture, earn a shadow toll based on usage and lane availability. They also have to maintain the road for the extended period of their shadow toll agreement. When travelling eastbound along this section there are fine views of Snowdonia. The approach to Holyhead required major work with a new section over the sea paralleling the Stanley Embankment that carries the original A5 and the North Wales Coast railway.
Work started in early 2017 on the upgrading of the 1960s built substandard section of dual carriageway west of Abergwyngregyn from Tai'r Meibion towards Tan-y-lon, which is relatively narrow and prone to flooding. This includes mention of improvements to the A55 including the grade separation of the two roundabouts at Penmaenmawr and Llanfairfechan planned to be completed by 2021. In November 2012, the Welsh Government published two more detailed studies looking at options to improve transport in the North East Wales and the A55 / A494 areas. Possible changes to be considered further include
The A55 partly follows the alignment of the Roman road from Chester (Deva) to Caernarfon (Segontium), particularly from Junction 31 to 30 and Junction 13 to 12. Between Chester and Holywell the alignment of this road is uncertain and between St. Asaph and Abergwyngregyn, the Roman road followed an inland route, via Canovium Roman Fort at Caerhun, avoiding the difficulties of the crossing of the Conwy estuary and the cliffs at Penmaenbach and Pen-y-Clip.
There are two large services on the A55, along with numerous other petrol stations at the side of the road. The two major services are:
(At J11) - Little Chef, Burger King, Travelodge, Esso, Costa Express
Eastbound (After J33A) - Little Chef, Little Chef Express, Travelodge, Shell, Costa Express
Westbound (After J33B) - Costa Coffee, Subway, McDonald's, OK Diner, Holiday Inn, Shell, Costa Express, Deli2Go
|A55 road junctions|
|km||Westbound exits (B Carriageway)||Junction||Eastbound exits (A Carriageway)|
|0.0||Holyhead , (Pedestrians)
Fish quay, Park and ride, Long stay
|[coord 1]||Start of road|
|Local traffic only|
|0.5||Town centre A5154||
|Town centre A5154|
|0.7||Trearddur Bay B4545, Kingsland||J1
||Trearddur Bay B4545, Kingsland|
|Trearddur Bay A5153 (B4545), Parc Cybi, Penrhos Stanley , Goods vehicles||J2||Trearddur Bay A5153 (B4545), Parc Cybi|
|Valley A5||J3||Valley, Caergeiliog A5|
|Caergeiliog A5, Boderdern||J4||Bryngwran A5, Boderdern|
|Rhosneigr, Aberffraw A4080, Bryngwran (A5)||J5||Rhosneigr, Aberffraw A4080, Gwalchmai (A5)|
|Rhostrehwfa A5, Llangefni (A5114)||J6||Pentre Berw A5, Llangefni (A5114)|
|Gaerwen, Pentre Berw A5152 (A5)||J7||Gaerwen, Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll A5152 (A5)|
|31.3||Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll A5, Star||J7A||No access|
|Benllech, Amlwch A5025||J8||Menai Bridge, Amlwch A5025|
|33.8||Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll A5(W), Menai Bridge A5(E), Beaumaris (A545)||J8A||No access (on-slip only)|
|Entering Isle of Anglesey|
|Bangor, Caenarfon A487||J9||Bangor, Caenarfon A487|
|Bangor A4087, Caenarfon (A487)||J10||Bangor A4087|
|Bangor, Betws-y-Coed A5||J11||Betws-y-Coed A5|
|Entering Gwynedd||Entering Conwy|
|No access (on-slip only)||J15A||Penmaenmawr|
End of special road
Start of special road
|Conwy (A547), Deganwy A546||J18||Deganwy A546, Llandudno Junction (A547)|
|Betws-y-Coed, Llandudno A470||J19||Llandudno, Betws-y-Coed A470|
|Rhos-on-Sea (B5115)||J20||Rhos-on-Sea B5115|
|Colwyn Bay B5104||J21||Colwyn Bay B5104|
|Old Colwyn (A547)||J22||Old Colwyn (A547)|
Start of special road
End of special road
|No access (on-slip only)||J23A||Abergele, Rhyl A548|
|Abergele, Rhuddlan A547||J24||Rhuddlan, Prestatyn A547|
|84.6||Towyn, St. George||J24A||No access|
|Entering Conwy||Entering Denbighshire|
|Bodelwyddan, Glan Clwyd||J25||Bodelwyddan, Glan Clwyd|
|St Asaph Business Park||J26||St Asaph Business Park|
|St Asaph, Rhyl A525||J27||St Asaph, Rhyl A525|
|Denbigh A525||J27A||No access|
|Rhuallt (B5429), Trefnant||J28||Rhuallt, Tremeirchion B5429|
|Rhuallt, Tremeirchion (B5429)||J29|
|Entering Denbighshire||Entering Flintshire|
|Prestatyn A5151, Caerwys B5122||J31||Holywell A5026, Caerwys A5151 (B5122)|
|Holywell A5026||J32||Rhosesmor (B5123)|
|Rhosesmor B5123||J32A||No access (on-slip only)|
|Halkyn, Rhosesmor||J32B||No access|
|Flint A5119||J33||Mold, Flint A5119|
|116.5||Connah's Quay B5126||J33A||Northop Hall|
|120.0||Mold A494||J33B||No access (on-slip only)|
|Queensferry A494, Manchester (M56)|
|Buckley A550 (A549), Corwen (A5104)||J35||Wrexham A550|
|Pen-y-ffordd A5104||J36||Broughton, Pen-y-ffordd A5104|
|128.5||Broughton (A5104)||J36A||No access (on-slip only)|
|128.6||Entering Wales and Flintshire||Border||Entering England and Cheshire|
|Wrexham, Chester A483||J38||Chester, Wrexham A483|
|No access (on-slip only)||J39||Chester A5115, Whitchurch A41|
|Chester, Nantwich A51, Whitchurch (A41)||J40||Chester, Nantwich A51|
|Start of road||M53 J12
|Chester, Helsby A56
|Chester A56||Road continues as M53 towards Ellesmere Port|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
Select Telephone & marker post locations.
Route map: Google
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