A34/Solihull - Salford
|Route outline (key)|
This section of the A34 isn't as fast as its first section, being largely single carriageway and running through all the places it serves. Even if it's not used for its whole length, the road still has a lot of regional significance.
Section 3.1: M42 - M6 J7
The A34 resumes existence at M42 J4, signed for Shirley and Birmingham, and is primary dual-carriageway as far as Hall Green, passing retail parks and new housing estates before trundling through the main shopping street of Shirley (still dual) with its innumerable traffic-lights. As you enter Hall Green you cross the boundary between Solihull and Birmingham. The wide central reservation once had trams running there (I think). You go over the light-controlled "Robin Hood" roundabout (named for the pub there, and also for Robin Hood Lane), and shortly after the dualling ends and the urban character becomes more pronounced as you pass through Hall Green and Sparkhill. Pedestrians here have no road sense, so watch out. It merges with the A41 in Sparkhill at what used to be the "Mermaid" PH (not obvious, there is no junction sign), and the A34 is the dominant number in a multiplex as far as the A4540 Middleway.
You will next find the A34 leaving Birmingham northbound from Lancaster Circus, signed for Walsall. From here to the M6 is nearly all dual, though with light-controlled junctions, but from Newtown to Perry Barr includes flyovers, underpasses and closely-merging sliproads in a late '60s/early '70s improvement. The end of this section is where the A453 leaves for Sutton Coldfield - the A34 passes over a single-carriageway, rather flimsy-looking flyover. The road duals again and continues north. There's a set of traffic lights with the also-dual A4041 after which the M6 is reached.
Original Author(s): Herr Bratsche
Section 3.2: M6 J7 - Salford
At M6 J7 (which has the western sliproads inside the roundabout - it works as long as you don't keep right), the A34 has a flyover, meaning you can travel straight into Walsall without getting confused at the junction. The dual carriageway has an easily broken 30 limit, but as there's plenty of speed cameras in this section attention needs to be paid. The road turn single carriageway just as the built up area appears, and finally comes into contact with the A4148 Walsall Ring Road at a very strange almost mini-roundabout pair, that gets very busy at peak times. In common with all other roads, it then falls into a numbering black hole in Walsall, but re-emerges on the far side of the town centre. The former route through the town centre is now largely pedestrianised.
North of the town centre it is in very poor repair, and is fairly narrow and busy, especially the Bloxwich High Street section. Beyond the A4124 junction, the road widens and improves, exiting into a stretch of pleasant countryside before reaching the small town of Great Wyrley, where again the road narrows and gets busier. We then reach the outskirts of Cannock as we reach the mess that is the A5/A34/A460 junction at Churchbridge. Now, it's even more of a mess as the M6 Toll construction completely re- aligns everything in the area. Into Cannock town centre we go, and meet the result of pedestrianisation at the junction of the A4601, as we TOTSO right at a set of traffic lights, and follow the Ringway (a sort of half-ring road) which allows us to leave Cannock town centre at the local landmark of the Leaping Leopard pub, painted bright yellow with black spots and the national HQ of the Monster Raving Loony Party no less!
The road then follows its northwards path towards Stafford, passing the former collieries at Huntington, and going through the beautiful woodlands that are Cannock Chase. We then enter the county town of Stafford, past the headquarters of Staffordshire Police, and pass the junction with the A513 before meeting a large roundabout containing many shops and a garage at the junction with the A449 towards Wolverhampton and the A518 towards Telford. We then follow the Queensway (again, a sort of half-ring road) to Gaol Square Roundabout, as the A34 leaves the town centre northwards near Stafford Gaol. We then reach a small roundabout with the A5013 that makes a bee-line for J14 of the M6, before reaching the A34 spur that also goes to J14. This really marks the edge of Stafford, and the road is now dual carriageway from here all the way through the mid-Staffordshire countryside, where we by-pass the small town of Stone. Mind the speed limit change, and we meet the A51 coming in from Lichfield, which multiplexes with us for about 2.5 miles, before it disappears off left towards Nantwich. This is a pleasant road, and a good alternative to the M6 for this stretch for those of us who like to drive slowly.
Soon, we pass Trentham Gardens and shortly start to enter the dreary Potteries conurbation. We soon reach the A500 'D-road' which is grade-separated above us, and for travellers going beyond Newcastle, it's probably the best choice at this point. The A34 carries on at this point towards Newcastle town centre, starting immediately as single carriageway at Trent Vale, then to dual-carriageway after about a mile. The road has some strange roundabouts en-route, where there are gated off roads running through the centre of them. These are there to allow north-bound very long and heavy "road trains" conveying transformers from the ALsthom factory at Stafford, to pass easily. Passing through Newcastle town centre, following the ring road, we follow the A34 still on its northbound path, and we reach the other end of the grade-separated A500 at Talke. Here the two-bridge roundabout over the A500 has a third bridge in the middle to give easy passage to the road trains.
After just under 1.5 miles, we reach the busy traffic lighted TOTSO with the A5011, where we go right, and follow the very narrow road through Kidsgrove before the road opens out and we have a stretch of countryside, before reaching Congleton. The A34 avoids the town centre by an old pre-war bypass that is totally insufficient for today's traffic, and in quick succession (or slow, depending on traffic!), we meet the A534 from Sandbach and M6 J17, the A54 from Holmes Chapel and M6 J18, the A54 heading for the Peak District and the (in)famous Cat and Fiddle road and the A536 heading for Macclesfield. On Rood Hill in Congleton there used to exist a large concrete illuminated sign (known as the Congleton Lighthouse) warning of the dangerous hill. It is believed to have been demolished around 1939 to make way for the construction of the town centre bypass. Upon leaving that final junction, the road is a delight and joy to drive down (traffic permitting). Lovely flowing curves, nice long straights and gorgeous countryside. The A537 crossroads comes up all too quickly, and marks the point that you're about to come into another urban section, i.e. Alderley Edge. However this village is now avoided by the Alderley Edge Bypass, a 3-mile single carriageway bypass which opened on 19 November 2010. This new bypass is unusual in having a very high quality cycle/pedestrian way on either side of the main carriageway.
The Alderley Edge Bypass joins the earlier Wilmslow and Handforth by-pass, opened in 1996, at a roundabout where the A34 crosses its former route, now the B5086. The southern unlit section is a 70 zone, but the northern lit section is a 50mph limit. It has a junction with the "Road to Nowhere" A555 Manchester Airport link road, that doesn't (a) go to Manchester Airport or (b) link with anywhere. Looks good as you pass under it though! Slightly north of this is a roundabout with the B5094 which is in the process of being signalised.
After a while, we re-join the old dual carriageway A34 just outside the Stockport boundary, and meet the A560 crossing us, going from Stockport to M56 J2, and just beyond that J4 of the M60 (or the M63 for people who haven't got used to the new number yet), and just after that we enter the city of Manchester. For about 3 miles from this point, the road doesn't seem to change one bit. Houses, slight rises and falls in the surface, shops round each junction. It's easy if you've only travelled this way a few times to get very lost as to whereabouts you are on this section through the southern suburbs. The road is called Kingsway, that gives a clue to its 1920s origin. Built to open out the area for housing, the tram tracks used to run down the central reservation to East Didsbury,and trams, (or Metrolink !), now does again serve this location, albeit using disused railway formation. If you want to know why there is a tall and very prominent clock tower at the nearby Tesco store, it is the last remnant of the old 1920s bus garage ! The road here is 40 mph and the traffic lights well phased, but all this comes to a sudden end when a very small roundabout appears and the A34 turns first sharp left under the railway, then after less than 100 yards sharp right at another very small roundabout to travel the other side of the railway line.
You can see (although not for much longer) the student tower hall of Owens Park on your left, and soon everywhere you seem to look along this road there are halls of Manchester University and UMIST, before the road emerges round the back of the Manchester Royal Infirmary and St. Mary's hospital, and goes dual carriageway as you reach Manchester University. This section, up until about 10 years ago had tidal flow, but it was taken out due to the number of accidents.
This section ends at the Mancunian Way (the A57(M)) at the Sackville Street Junction, and due to the one-way system, the actual route of the road depends on the direction you take.... Northbound, the A34 turns left just before the A57(M) along Grosvenor Street, turns right along Oxford Road, past Manchester Metropolitan University and the BBC, and disappears somewhere near the town hall, although I suspect it actually carries on along Peter Street and Quay Street, past Granada Studios and ends at the A6/A6042 junction across the river in Salford. Southbound is more clear. It starts just inside Salford, on the A6 Chapel Street, follows Bridge Street, John Dalton Street, and Princess Street before emerging alongside the UMIST campus on Brook Street, where we meet back up with the A57(M), where you can see the junction that comes off, and towards us the wrong way up the one-way street!
Original Author(s): Steven Jukes
Until 31 March 1935 the A34 ran no further north than Oxford, and the road from Solihull to the A41 in Birmingham was a part of the A42. The road from there to Stafford was the A455, to Newcastle the A449, then a mile or so of A52 before the A526 took motorists the rest of the way to Salford.
Although many of the towns on this route have been bypassed, the A34 still follows largely its original line, although in the 1980s the A34 and B4210 swapped routes immediately to the north of Walsall. Only once the suburbs of Manchester are reached does the A34 leave its original route completely. The old route is obvious through Alderley Edge, Wilmslow and Handforth. The A34 then bore to the right to reach Wilmslow Road, now the A5149, before zigzagging through Cheadle and running along Manchester Road, now the B5095. The road then ran through Didsbury along the now-A5145 and B5093 before continuing north along Wilmslow Road and Oxford Road to reach central Manchester. The northbound A34 still follows the road's original route.
Kingsway was constructed in the 1920s and originally given the A5079 number. In 1967 the A34 was rerouted along this higher quality route. So that the road still reached central Manchester rather than ending on the A6 in Longsight the road avoided the northern end of Kingsway, instead zigzagging under the railway line onto the formerly unclassified Birchfield Road. The final section of A34 through the city centre - and now the road's southbound route there - was originally the B5221.