|From:||Hessle (W) (TA009260)|
|To:||Norman Cross (TL158907)|
|Distance:||99.3 miles (159.8 km)|
|Meets:||A63, A164, A1105, A1077, B1206, B1218, M180, A180, A18, B1206, B1205, A631, A1500, A46, B1226, A158, B1308, B1182, B1308, B1003, B199, A57, B1188, B1262, A1434, B1131, A607, B1178, B1202, B1191, B1429, A17, B1518, A153, B1517, A52, B1177, B1193, A151, A1175, B1524, B1166, B1162, B1443, A47, A1139, A1179, A605, A1129, A1260, B1091, A1(M), B1043|
|Old route now:||B1206, A18|
|Route outline (key)|
The A15 is the main north-south road in Lincolnshire, running the entire length of the county. It is also the road that crosses the Humber Bridge.
Section 1: Hessle – Lincoln
The A15 starts on the outskirts of Hull near Hessle, and sets off in the wrong direction, north-eastwards, as a dual carriageway, and connects from roads west, north and east, though to come from Hull on the A63 requires quite a deviation under the high Humber Bridge and over half a mile beyond to come off the A63, to then cross over the A63, and continue to rise up over half a mile backwards back to the bridge roundabout to then go over the A63 again to the bridge. When built in the early 1980s this was the longest bridge span in the world and remained so until the late 1990s.
The Humber Bridge is its own entity. After a settlement with the government in 1997 the users continue to pay massive tolls and the bridge doesn't go bust quite as quickly. The tolls maintain higher prices in the shops and some of the cheapest houses in Britain on the southern side of the Humber.
The weather is usually worse on the bridge than anywhere else. However, the wind is remarkably steady until getting to the road going from the bridge on the south bank downwards, where it can throw vehicles around in an unsteady fashion. If anyone breaks down on the Humber Bridge (as they do), cameras spot the vehicle and the Humber Bridge Board rescues it free of charge and leaves it by the roadside at a point where other rescue services can collect it.
The Humber Bridge Board knows two speed limits, 50 mph and an advisory 30 mph in difficult conditions. Few take any notice of the lower limit, except motorcycles leaning into the wind. It is never 40 mph. Sometimes the wind is up and down the bridge and doesn't matter, sometimes it is across the bridge and then it does. Going under the towers the wind goes the other way and vehicles veer sideways. Substantial road works mean the Board covers the main signs and clip over repeater signs with ones saying 30 mph, which is then compulsory. The bridge stays open almost always, but sometimes high sided vehicles either have to go around the Humber and cross at the Ouse or wait (in Barton, presumably).
Just off the high roundabout in a southerly direction, on the road to Scunthorpe, there are two long laybys. They are always mysteriously full of cars and people pass and wonder what on earth are they all doing there. The answer is that in the morning a lot of cars arrive. People then get out of some and leave them, and a few of them set off to cross the bridge. It is simply because the tolls are so high that car sharing takes place into Hull. At one time it cost nearly £5 for a return trip but the current price is £3 return for a car.
People can also get the coach to London on this roundabout near Barton. The coach to stop has to be booked and then the person stands on the roundabout. The coach instead of going under the roundabout comes up it and collects the person waiting. However, the scheduled hourly service to Humberside Airport, Grimsby and Sheffield (the coach connects at the airport - it used to do this at a cafe but the owner wanted more money) does not come up to the roundabout to collect people from Barton. They have to use the train, which itself has a bus connection from Hull, the one that replaced the ferry into New Holland.
The A15 has come down from the Humber Bridge and rises up and yet underneath the roundabout as it goes into the chalk hills of the Lincolnshire Wolds. These wolds have swept well under the river and alluvial soil and sweep up again. There is a chalk cutting south of this roundabout and still rising. In fact the road rises quite further as it rides on top of the wolds.
It is a dual carriageway from the Humber Bridge all the way to the M180. It is grade separated throughout, with a narrow strip and what is effectively a soft hard shoulder.
The old route of the A15 (now the B1206) crosses the present route at the next junction after the one to Barton. This is also a junction for heavy lorries to double back to New Holland, avoiding Barton. There is a road to the centre of Barton too. It would have been a junction for the industrial area on the eastern side of Barton too (the road to New Holland so far) but it failed a public enquiry. The road appeared for a while on the A-Z road atlas and they then had to remove it.
The next junction south goes nowhere. It is to two culs-de-sac to some business spaces and underneath the dual carriageway is a narrow bridge connecting the two culs-de-sac with traffic lights. They obviously saved money there.
Then comes the long hill down towards junction 5 of the M180, which continues east of this point as the A180 - the noisiest road in Britain, a concrete monster with dangerous (still) laybys (which were made safer a few years ago). The A15 stops here; it is the A18 which continues opposite, forming in one direction the back door way into Grimsby (since the A180 was built) and to the west is Brigg. To continue on the A15 the driver needs to go on the Motorway (or through Brigg, if learning).
At one time all drivers on the A15 to Lincoln had to go through Brigg. It took them through villages to the Roman Road, Ermine Street. In fact Ermine Street did continue up to the Humber, but there was a gap with no more than a track up it (and I think it was gated). It was blocked off when junction 4 of the M180 was first built (which connected only to the A18) - southbound traffic having to use the A18 through Brigg to reach the A15, but some years after the opening of the M180 that gap was eventually filled with more of the straight road to rejoin the original route near Redbourne. So it is possible to come from the Humber, except that to discourage this the road in the adjacent village north of the M180, Broughton, has speed restrictions and physical road narrowings.
The A15 road south from the M180 follows the Roman Ermine Street to Lincoln. It is not counted by the AA as one of the most dangerous roads in Britain, but it ought to be. The new part has good sight lines, but it is still single carriageway and is seen as a necessary moment to overtake anything that can slow the journey in front. Speeds tend to be well above the national limit as it is straight and most have come off the motorway.
However, after the A15 passes where the old A15 appeared, now a junction with the B1206, the A15 weaves its wicked magic. A lorry will slow everyone down. The road is considerably narrower than it should be. Then, more and more as the road goes south, comes the hills so there are plenty of hidden dips and blind summits. There is another aspect to this A15 that people do not realise. It isn't actually straight. It does not have bends as such, except fifth gear ones at dips, but also there is a kind of sway to parts of the road. This means that a car can come off if it isn't steered at all.
There are also quite a few side junctions and plenty of people dodging across, including the odd tractor. Generally though the tailbacks on the road mean that there are big gaps for people to get across. Roads go off to Kirton-in-Lindsey and then one goes south of it on a fast route to Gainsborough. Incidentally there is an older parallel road — the much more pleasant B1398 — that comes from near Scunthorpe and goes through Kirton-in-Lindsey on the top of the chalk. The Romans had to be different.
The road goes through Spittal in the Street, where there is one of those cameras to check nothing is going wrong but which can be used for anything. One or two are speed cameras on the A15. The name of the hamlet does not come from locals' unhygienic habits but the site of an ancient hospital.
Caenby Corner roundabout, at the A631 (which is counted in part by the AA as one of the most dangerous roads in Britain), gets busy not just from traffic to the coast from the Midlands but a nearby antiques, etc., market on an old RAF base.
The A15 continues south in its dangerous narrow way until it sweeps past RAF Scampton (of Dambusters fame) - the only deviation from the Roman road between the motorway and Lincoln (although the old line of the road continued straight). After this a 50 mph limit is imposed, and the cathedral at Lincoln is spotted small and starts to get bigger. There are speed cameras and police often do some speed checks. The road continues going up and down, and passes the home of the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society, the Lincolnshire Showground.
Finally the road comes to the outskirts of Lincoln and the partly single road, partly dual carriageway bypass. This bypass was one done on the cheap, with lots of roundabouts. To get to the other A15 drivers have to touch the urban area of Lincoln as the bypass takes users from Skegness, Grimsby and the Humber Bridge to the A46, another Roman Road, to the A1.
The A15 to Lincoln is a disaster. It is narrow, undulating, dangerous, and full of tailbacks of traffic that does not mix. It encourages idiots and more sensible people to drive like idiots. It is the perfect example of the inability of Lincolnshire County Council (before and after the very different Humberside) and the government to invest in local and national roads. For some reason Lincolnshire and Norfolk have had an investment bypass in decent roads.
Section 2: Lincoln
The road layout in Lincoln is complex and unusual, and merits some explaining. The Lincoln Ridge is the northernmost part of the range of limestone hills which run almost continuously across England from the Humber to the Bristol Channel, and forms a 200-foot-high natural causeway above the marshlands of the lower Trent valley to the west and the Fen country to the east. The ridge is broken only at the Lincoln Gap, formed by the navigable River Witham, which was bridgeable here for a short distance in its generally marshy route. Consequently, the Lincoln Gap early on became a major traffic focus for both land and water. Later, the railways across the plains of eastern England found the ridge a major obstacle, so the Gap became a focus for this mode of transport too. In the same way, Watling Street, the Grand Union Canal, the London to Birmingham railway, and the M1 all squeeze through the same range of hills at Watford Gap.
Until the 1950s, only three roads crossed the river in Lincoln, all within a mile of each other. Each of them also had to each cross two railway lines, close to the river. This pinch point explains the unusual hourglass shape of the city.
The Roman City was built on the hill overlooking the Gap on the north, and the original A15 followed Ermine Street straight to the Roman North Gate, there turning abruptly left in front of the old Roman North Gate to skirt the old city. In 1964 an overheight fish lorry missed the turn one night and went straight into the Roman arch, demolishing it. The arch was rebuilt - I have actually watched the construction of a Second Century Roman arch! Road traffic still passes through it, but it is now floodlit to prevent repeat performances by overheight vehicles!
The original Roman Road went straight through the city, and down the hill now known as Steep Hill to the original river crossing (now part of the pedestrianised High Street, continuing to St Catherines where it split, the Fosse Way heading south west towards Newark (the present A46) and eventually Bath, whilst the Ermine Street to London went up what is now Cross O'Cliff Hill onto the ridge again. Very early on it was realised that Steep Hill, with its steps, was far too steep for wheeled traffic so the Romans built a more easily graded road from the East Gate to the river crossing, roughly on the line of Pottergate, Lindum Road and Silver Street. This is why the East Gate became the main entrance to the city. Having skirted the east side of the city, the A15 originally followed this route, but Pottergate is now also closed to through traffic, as the Cathedral, a mere 11th-century upstart, was being shaken to bits by the heavy traffic grinding up the hill in low gear.
The present southbound A15 uses the bypass to skirt the northern suburbs of Lincoln, first multiplexing with the (northbound!) A46 on the last leg of its marathon cross-country trek from Bath to Grimsby, and then continuing on the bypass to meet the A158, where it turns southwards towards the city centre, rejoining the original route halfway down the Lindum Road.
At the bottom of the hill the A15 no longer cuts across to the High Street, but uses Broadgate to reach the most easterly of the river crossings, then the junction with the A57, and next the flyover built in 1958 to replace a three-way level crossing (one road, two railways!). This half-mile or so is the only section of dual carriageway between the M180 and the suburbs of Peterborough. After the flyover, there comes a short three-lane tidal system on Canwick Road, before a TOTSO (B1188 going straight on to Sleaford), where the A15 cuts across to St Catherines and the junction of the Ermine Street and Fosse Way.
Section 3: Lincoln – Norman Cross
The A15 climbs out of the Lincoln Gap back onto the ridge. South of Lincoln there are actually five competing routes to the A1 for the south. Official signage would have you take the A46 to Newark to reach the A1. This is the longest, and the most tedious. It has a similar reputation for nasty accidents with the A15 north of Lincoln. However, it does get you to the A1 quickest, and without passing through any major towns as the A1 bypasses Newark to the east. The A607 is easily the prettiest, along the cliff edge (like the B1398 north of the city), but as the A1 bypasses Grantham to the west you have to go through the town to reach it. There is also the B1188 to Sleaford, where it joins the A15. The Romans had the right idea, and the best route to London is still Ermine Street, despite its B-classification. However, the first part is now lost under another WWII airfield, (Waddington, now the home of AWACS), to reappear near Cranwell as the B6403, so users of this route must set out along the A607 or A15 and join it at Byards Leap.
But when the numbers were being given out, someone thought the most important route south of Lincoln towards London was the one through Sleaford, so this is the one we take. At the top of the hill the A607 bears off right along the edge of the escarpment. (Within the last four miles the A15 has now met an A4x, A5x and A6xx road) The A15 crosses the Lincoln Heath on a more easterly route, passing the end of Waddington's runway, complete with traffic lights, and bypasses Sleaford (junction with A17), to cross the A52.
It next skirts the fens to Bourne (A151), Market Deeping (A1175) and Peterborough. In the northern suburbs of Peterborough it throws off a spur to meet the A47 near the suburb of Newark (not to be confused with Newark on Trent), but the main A15 continues, as a non-primary route, into the centre of Peterborough.
The A15 has undergone many changes in Peterborough in recent years, avoiding the city centre to meet the A1 at various different points, but has now resumed more or less its original course through the city centre. This is obviously no longer the route for through traffic as this is the only non-primary section of the A15 - but the road still continues south as it always has done through Fletton and Yaxley to end on the A1(M) at Norman Cross. Signage at this junction does not even mention Peterborough.
Proposed Eastern Lincoln Bypass
For many years there have been proposals for the A15 to bypass Lincoln, which has been subject to multiple enquiries and modifications in recent years:
The original route of the A15, before the Humber Bridge was constructed, started at the eastern end of the A63 in the centre of Hull and ran south along Queen Street as the approach to the Corporation Pier. It then took the ferry to New Holland, bizarrely running along the station platform to leave the pier, before continuing over the route of the present B1206 via Brigg to join the present A15 near Redbourne. The Humber Bridge was opened in 1981 and the A15 rerouted this way, which closed the ferry.
At the other end, the A15 was formerly routed down Lincoln Road through Werrington village, and Millfield into Peterborough city centre, at a junction in the middle of Westgate. It used to meet the A47 further down Westgate at a crossroads. From about 1968, however, the A15 route was split, with part continuing as before, but a new fork breaking off just before Millfield down the B1380 (Walpole Street/Westwood Street) instead. Although it also ended at a junction with Westgate (at the west end, this time), it was opposite the new Inner Relief Road, now taking shape (constructed along most of Albert Place).
In 1971-72, demolition work began in Walpole Street to widen the road to dual-carriageway. When the work was complete, the whole road was renamed (and still is) Bourges Boulevard; that included a former piece of Walpole Street, now detached from the main road. By the 1980s, once the Paston Parkway was completed, the 'outer' fork was routed along its current route instead, leaving Lincoln Road unclassified. This means only one of the two forks now reaches the city centre.
In 1989, the 2-mile Glinton bypass was built - meaning that long-distance traffic would need to TOTSO at a new roundabout, just south of Glinton village. The existing road through Glinton and Northborough became an unclassified (albeit popular), local road. Popular, as a fast way into Peterborough from the Deepings, and as a place where late running bus drivers would pick up speed!! Co-incidentally, a new stretch of road was built to link in with the existing Lincoln Road from Deeping. The roads converged just west of Northborough - the B1162 was extended further along Maxey Road to provide the link.
In 1997, a new parkway extension north of Werrington was built, to remove the dangerous blind junction at Hurn Road, where a minor road met the main road at a railway bridge. One of the last acts of Cambridgeshire County Council before it handed over to Peterborough City Council, it lead to considerable disagreements about how much each side should contribute towards costs.
Finally, in 1998, the Deepings bypass was completed; the road now took a new, NW course, crossing the River Welland at a new bridge, arriving at a new roundabout with the A16 (now A1175). The road continued sharply NE as dual-carriageway, before rejoining its traditional route towards Bourne. All of these bypasses have taken very sharp curves, to avoid existing landholdings - this can cause severe congestion at peak times.
In 2002, all sections of the A15 under the responsibility of the Highways Agency were detrunked and handed over to local government control.
New Holland Pier