From Roader's Digest: The SABRE Wiki
|Length:||61.7 miles (99.3 km)|
|Meets:||A470, B4416, B4403, B4391, A4212, B4401, B4402, A5, A5104, B5429, B5105, A525, B5429, B5430, A5119, B5444, A541, A549, A5119, A55, B5125, A550, B5129, A548, A540, A5117, M56|
|Former Number(s):||A550, A5117|
|Old route now:||A5119|
|Route outline (key)|
Section 1: Dolgellau – Corwen
The route begins at a T-junction on the A470 Dolgellau bypass. (The A470 is in a lengthy multiplex with the A487 here). We immediately strike out in a north-easterly direction, following the Afon Wnion, alongside the course of a dismantled railway. The road is rural in character, single-carriageway and, although we are in a mountainous region, the fact that we are following an old railway and a river bed means that the gradients are gentle. A couple of miles out of town we pass the B4416 on the right to Brithdir, then linking to the A470 southbound. In the days before the Dolgellau bypass, this was a notorious rat run used in order to try and beat the queues through the town.
As we continue north-east, the valley sides become steeper, though we still maintain our course by the railway. The adjacent land is heavily wooded in places. We skirt to the north of Llanuwchllyn (accessed by the B4403) and the landscape broadens out to a much flatter environment as we reach the confluence of a number of rivers on the southern shore of Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake). On the southern shore of the lake is the Bala Lake Railway, but we follow the northern shore, hemmed in between steep hills and the water itself. Sometimes we are on the lake shore itself, other times there are wooded areas or picnic areas between the road and the water. At the north end of the lake we reach the town of Bala itself where, in the middle, the cross-roads gives access to the B4391 to the south and A4212 to the north-west.
On passing through the town, we leave the National Park, and continue north-east towards the A5. Though still in hilly terrain with the occasional very steeply-sided section, the majority of this section is not as constrained as the road between Dolgellau and Bala. At Druid, we enter the Alwen Valley, and turn right at a T junction onto the A5, with which we multiplex for around a mile and a half.
Section 2: Corwen – Mollington
Shortly before reaching Corwen, we turn left onto the A494 again, taking the left-hand fork half a mile later towards Gwyddelwern (the other road is the A5104 which on a map seems to follow the same route but in less distance). Once again we are following a disused railway through a valley, though this time there is less evidence of the river, until we turn to the north-east alongside the River Clwyd. Just after Pwll-glâs, a minor road leads to Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd on the A525, which runs parallel to us on the other side of the valley into Ruthin.
We skirt round the fringes of Ruthin, first to the west, then the north, past the A525 heading off to the left, eventually negotiating a one-way system which allows us to emerge on the east side of town, heading east-north-east again towards Llanbedr-Dyffryn-Clwyd. We skirt round Moel Eithinen - not particularly high but steep enough to be worth avoiding. There is a direct route between Llanbedr-Dyffryn-Clwyd and Tafarn-y-Gelyn through the middle of the hills, but we approach Tafarn from the south, following the River Alyn. We pass Loggerheads (great name), reaching a roundabout at the outer fringe of Mold, where we turn right to take the bypass. The A5119 runs through the middle of town, taking the former route of the A494. The next significant point is another roundabout, this time with the legendary B5444, which is a perfectly legitimate number for the road to have as it is a B-road situated within the 5-zone. Unfortunately, the number recurs in Swansea which is well and truly in the 4 zone, around 80 miles from a number beginning with anything other than 4. This is therefore either (a) the longest B-road (made up of the two signed sections and a very long multiplex) or (b) a cock-up!
Turning back to more mundane matters, the A494 heads north, to another roundabout, this time with the A541 and A549, before continuing north to a roundabout with a spur of the A5119. Here, we turn right, back on the old alignment of the A494 reaching a free-flow junction with the A55. If you want to continue on the A55 eastwards then you need to concentrate as, almost immediately after merging, the A55 itself turns off at a trumpet junction, and the main line of the dual carriageway is the A494. Immediately afterwards, there is another grade-separated junction, this time a roundabout. Have they never heard of the minimum distance between junctions required by the design standards to allow safe weaving? Nevertheless, I digress - there are a couple of minor at-grade accesses at Connah's Quay, then another grade-separated roundabout at Queensferry with the A550.
This is where, until late 2008, the A494 terminated, with the A550 taking over the number of the route. However, with the A5117/A550 improvement scheme completed, this section of road has now been renumbered as A494 - otherwise going from the A55 to the M56 would have resulted in the road changing number five times! We cross the River Dee, and the road gains a third lane and hard shoulders. There were major plans for the A494 to be expanded to dual four-and-three lane carriageway all the way back to Ewloe, but these were shelved by the Welsh Assembly Government in mid-2008 following local protests. Anyway, the three-lane section carries on, with two junctions with the A548, and then the newly grade-separated Shotwick Junction, where the A550 leaves us, and we return to two lanes.
The A494 continues along the route of the old A5117, and we then encounter a new grade-separated junction with the A540 and A5117, again upgraded as part of the recent works. The A494 now bypasses to the north what was a very busy roundabout and runs beneath the A540 in a newly formed cutting. The westbound on- and off-slips at this junction were previously the westbound alignment of the old A5117. Our final junction, at a point immediately to the west of where we meet the M56 end-on in Mollington parish, is an eastbound-only off-slip to Dunkirk Roundabout and the A5117; there are no corresponding slip roads in the opposite direction. The motorway seems to begin in an arbitrary position before the onslip from the roundabout reaches us. This is because the M56 used to begin here at an at-grade roundabout on the A5117; when the road was grade-separated the motorway was not extended.
The A494 has seen the usual scattering of improvement works over the years, with many sections widened and straightened to bring the route up to an acceptable standard for a single carriageway trunk road. One scheme however was notorious, and that scheme was the Drws-y-Nant improvement between Dolgellau and Bala visible as the white oxbow route to the north here
On Boxing Day 1979, it was found that the southern/southbound side of A494 in the vicinity of Drws-y-Nant was suffering structural failures. It was then decided to install temporary traffic signals to allow single lane working using the unaffected northern/northbound lane. This installation was intended to be a temporary solution, as the section was narrow and twisty with large vehicles struggling to pass each other when the section was using both lanes, let alone when narrowed by traffic signals and queueing traffic.
Finally, after nearly 20 years of waiting, a new alignment was built on the opposite riverbank in 1999, following the trackbed of the former Ruabon to Barmouth railway line (which also provided the alignment for A487/A470 Dolgellau bypass). When the new road opened, the former alignment was simply gated at both ends and left to return to nature. As the image opposite (and those in the gallery) show, the road surface itself is in remarkably good condition considering its lack of maintenance since 1999.