|Location Map ( geo)|
|From:||West Thurrock (TQ589798)|
|Distance:||8.2 miles (13.2 km)|
|Meets:||A13, B186, A1090, A1012, A1013, A1089, B149|
|Former Number(s):||A1012, A128|
|Old route now:||B186, A1306, A1090, A1089|
|Route outline (key)|
The A126 is an urban A-road in south Essex. This road's route has changed quite dramatically in the last twenty years. In the 1922 MoT list, it is given as Wennington - Purfleet - Grays - Tilbury Station, by which is meant the Riverside station which closed in 1992. The road now runs from the West Thurrock northern bypass to Tilbury along a bizarre zigzag route.
The present western end of the A126 (dating from the early 1990s) is a rather strange junction with the A13 dual carriageway north of the Lakeside shopping centre in West Thurrock. This junction has only west facing sliproads, leading up to/down from the A126 bridge. Then there's a fairly nice but brief section of D2, incorporating a junction with the accesses to Lakeside, and indirectly, the A1306 (the A13's one-time route through the area) which passes over without a junction. A footbridge linking Lakeside with Chafford Hundred railway station lies just to the south, and to the south of that the dual section ends at a roundabout with the dual B186 forming the southern and western perimeter of the shopping centre (and there's a further access to Lakeside from this junction). According to my 1991 Phillips atlas, the present B186 west used to be the western end of A126, ending on the A1306, I assume since the M25 arrived in the area in 1982.
South of the roundabout, the A126 is single carriageway, heading towards Thurrock proper. Another roundabout is soon reached where the A1090 lies ahead and the A126 TOTSOs left onto London Road. This is one of the few sections where the A126 runs on its historical route; the road is even lined with houses. Presently there is an unsigned left turn onto Devonshire Road. According to some maps (and signage heading the other way), this is actually the A126, although the road ahead (which other maps claim to be the A126 instead) is the obvious route into Grays.
The A126 runs north then east along Devonshire Road to meet the A1012 at a roundabout where it turns right and heads into Grays from the north. The relief road is met at a roundabout (which is where traffic would end up if it didn't bother detouring to the north), after which London Road (the same London Road) is met once again and the A126 runs eastwards. A one-way loop is met, which also births the A1013 and the A126 bends right before turning left onto Clarence Road. Westbound traffic uses the other two sides of the loop, which are numbered B189.
The road bends right then left at adjacent mini-roundabouts before winding through the suburbs to meet the A1089 bound for Tilbury docks. There is a sizeable loop to the north to cross the road at the GSJ before the A126 runs east through the fields then south to enter Tilbury. A T-junction is met on the eastern side of town; the A126 TOTSOs right onto Dock Road to end for no apparent reason two blocks further west on an unclassified road (although some maps show the road continuing along Dock Road as far as the A1089 again). Just before this a cycle path (named Hairpin Bridge) runs off to the west; this is now of little account but historical interest as will be made clear below.
The original western end of the A126 was on the A13 (now B1335) at Wennington. It ran south along the current A1306 then along an unclassfied road through Purfleet into West Thurrock meeting its current route at the roundabout TOTSO there. The road continued due east through Grays as far as what is now the A1089; that road to the south is built on the line of the A126 (albeit heavily upgraded). It then ran into Tilbury along Dock Road to meet the A128 end-on at the turn from Dock Road onto Hairpin Bridge. The A126 continued south along Ferry road to Tilbury Riverside station, from where a vehicle ferry crossed the River Thames to Gravesend; this ferry is still in use but for foot passengers only.
Purfleet was soon bypassed and the old road became the A1090. However, with the construction of the M25 in the 1980s the A126 was diverted to meet the new motorway at Purfleet Interchange (although it never actually reached the junction, ending on the then-A13 just before; the A1090 was extended to take on the old route. Then in the early 2000s this was renumbered the B186 and the A126 was rerouted to its current northern terminus.
The zigzag in Grays is difficult to date as not all maps acknowledge it. It is therefore assumed to be recent, dating to the 2010s.
At the eastern end, the Tilbury bypass dates back to the 1960s with the A126 later rerouted along the ex-A128 to enter Tilbury from the north rather than the west as before. This routing used Hairpin Bridge to cross the railway line and end on the A1089; by the 2010s the bridge had been closed to vehicular traffic to improve safety. As such the A126 was just left hanging on the far side, explaining its current terminus on an unclassified road.