|Distance:||29.8 miles (48 km)|
|Meets:||A423, B4429, B4642, A428, B5414, A4071, M6, A5, A4303, B581, B582, A563, B5366, A594|
|Old route now:||A594|
|Route outline (key)|
Section 1: Southam - Lutterworth
The road begins on the A423 near Southam in Warwickshire. More specifically, it starts at the roundabout at the northern end of the A423 Southam bypass, and heads north-east towards Leicester across farmland. After passing the village of Stockton, we cross the Grand Union Canal just to the east of the eight Stockton Locks.
The countryside is fairly flat around here, and this is reflected in the road alignment which is comparatively straight and level, though there is a diversion to take us round Draycote Water and Country Park. We then cross the M45 without a junction before entering the small village of Dunchurch. The A426 is now the main road through the village as the A45 has been downgraded to B4429 since the building of new slip roads between the A45 and M45 east of the village.
It is a short hop from the edge of Dunchurch to the outskirts of Rugby, and into the town centre where we cross the A428 at the gyratory, flowing on to a short length of dual carriageway (Corporation Street), to a roundabout at the north of the town centre. This section can get quite busy at peak times, especially because the road drops to single carriageway (Newbold Road) after the roundabout. We pass under the West Coast Main Line before turning right at another roundabout onto the dual carriageway Leicester Road, reaching a signalised junction for a retail park, and through four roundabouts, until we reach the signalised roundabout at junction 1 of the M6.
After crossing the M6, the road drops to single carriageway again, and we reach Gibbet Roundabout on the A5, then pass Cotesbach before running alongside the route of the old Great Central Railway (now dismantled) and the M1.
At the entry to Lutterworth a roundabout junction with the A4303 provides a link to junction 20 of the M1. [[A jet sculpture]] in the middle of this roundabout memorializes Sir Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine, who worked in the town. Before the building of the A14, this was the last chance for southbound M1 traffic to access the M6, and vice versa – although much traffic would have used the M69.
Section 2: Lutterworth - Leicester
We now pass through the small town of Lutterworth and continue north running close to the M1 motorway, along a near-straight path before crossing the motorway – which continues along the corridor of the dismantled railway – south of Cosby.
As we enter Whetstone, the road becomes dual-carriageway as it bypasses Blaby, though our progress is interrupted by a series of roundabouts. At the fourth of these, we turn left and pass under a railway bridge, just north of Blaby, before crossing the A563 Leicester Southern bypass at traffic signals. From here the road runs on the east side of the River Soar into the middle of Leicester (the old A46 runs on the west side). The A426 terminates on the A594 ring road near the centre of the city, outside the Welford Road rugby ground, not far from Filbert Street.
The four-way roundabout at Lutterworth was previously a T-junction. The dual-carriageway A4303 crosses here, having bypassed Lutterworth to the south on a new alignment, avoiding the town's narrow streets.
It is correct about the Catthorpe Interchange making this road redundant as the M6 to M1 North cut-off, however the heavy traffic that used to use the A426 between the M6 junction 1 and Lutterworth is now carried on the A14 as it was traffic for the East Coast Ports via the A426, A427, A6116 then A45. In fact residents of villages along the then A427 between Lutterworth and Market Harborough noticed that road become an awful lot quieter with the opening of the A14.
The road originally continued further into Leicester; indeed the A426 was the road that the A50 started on in 1922 before it was extended south to Hockliffe. The A426 ran along Welford Road and Horsefair Street to end on the A6 Granby Street.
The single carriageway Newbold Road section in Rugby was planned to be dualled, but this has now been cancelled, as it is thought the Rugby Western Relief Road will sufficiently reduce traffic levels. Widening this to dual carriageway would be difficult due to property frontages and the railway bridge, but the land is still protected in case the dualling is required in the future.