|Location Map ( geo)
|Barton Seagrave (SP893768)
|Parkeston Quay, Harwich (TM257327)
|Huntingdon • Cambridge • Colchester
|85 miles (136.8 km)
|M11, A6, A1, A141, A14, A11, A12
|A1019, A132, A133, B1352, A135, A14
|Now part of:
|A14, A1307, A143, A1017, A1124, A137, B1352, A120, A136
|Route outline (key)
The A604 was an important major cross country route across East Anglia from the 1930s to the 1990s. At one point it was one of the main roads for traffic heading from the Midlands to the ports at Harwich and Felixstowe.
Most of the A604 was created in the 1935 Road numbering revision which joined several local cross-country routes, including the original A604, to form a long-distance road that could act as an alternative to the A45. The A14 was created partly out of an upgraded A604; the remainder of the route is no longer considered suitable for long-distance port traffic and has been renumbered. Consequently, the A604 has disappeared completely from the British road network.
Route and upgrades
The original route of the A604 started on the A6 at Barton Seagrave, just outside Kettering, and ran east through Thrapston, crossing the A1 at Brampton Hut and ending on the original A14 at Huntingdon at the junction of George Street and the High Street.
In the early 1930s, the Ministry of Transport suggested a number of continuous routes from the Midlands to the East Anglian docks should be created, as it realised it was becoming a major transport corridor for freight traffic. The extension of the A604 to Harwich was one; the other was the extension of the A45 to the Port of Felixstowe. The decision was agreed by local authorities and signed off by the Eastern Division Road Engineer on 15 January, 1934, and implemented on 1st April, 1936, creating a continuous route from Kettering to Harwich.
The first section of the A604 was a renumbered A132. The extended route briefly multiplexed with the A14 before heading east from Godmanchester Town Hall along the Via Devana to Cambridge. It continued to follow this route right through the city centre, including Bridge Street, Sidney Street, Regent Street, and Hills Road, multiplexing with the A10 and A45 en-route, before diverting south of the Roman road and running on Babraham Road to the southeast.
The A604 then headed east towards Haverhill before turning south to Sible Headingham. After passing through the village, it TOTSOed to the left, passing through Halstead and running along the Colne Valley. It passed under the Chappel Viaduct and met the A12 at Lexden, west of Colchester. The A604 then multiplexed with the A12 around the town on the then-new bypass as far as Harwich Road. A short spur to the A1124 ran to the south, while the mainline continued on the former A135 Harwich Road through Maningtree up to the A136 at Dovercourt, turning to run along the former A1019 to terminate at Parkeston Quay near Harwich.
Despite the renumbering to form a continuous route from Kettering to Harwich, the majority of the road does not appear to have become a trunk road, and remained the responsibility of the respective county or city councils.
In the later part of the 20th century, the A604 gradually started to disappear, and by 1998 it had completely vanished.
The section from the M11/A45 (as was; now A14) right through Cambridge to the A11 at Babraham was renumbered A1307 when the M11 and A45 opened in 1978 and bypassed the city to the north and west. This is the original Roman Road through Cambridge (which veers off east along Worts Causeway towards Fulbourn, before retuning to a course parallel to the main road again, on top of a ridge).
At the same time, the other roads through Cambridge (and the A11 through Newmarket), namely the A10, A45 (now A428), and A130, were given A130x numbers (except the A1305 which was already in use in Stockton). This left a gap in the A604 between the M11 at Girton and the A11 at Babraham, which otherwise still ran from Kettering to Harwich.
The section east of Colchester became an extension of the A120 in 1982 when the Colchester Eastern and Elmstead Market bypass was opened, which left the sections from Kettering to Girton and Babraham to the A12 at Colchester section as the A604.
The principal reason for downgrading or renumbering of the route was the creation of the so-called M1-A1 link road in the early 1990s. This consisted of a purpose-built section from the M1/M6 junction to Kettering and an upgraded A604 between Kettering and the A1, continuing to meet the then A45 north of Cambridge. Originally there were plans to number this route as the A604, which would have extended the number considerably further west (and out of its home zone). However, a three-digit number was presumably considered inappropriate for such an important route. Thus the decision was taken at a fairly late stage to remove the A14 number from the Royston-Alconbury road and reserve it for the new route, as well as for the section of the A45 east of the A604 junction, creating a continuously numbered dual carriageway from the Midlands to the East Coast.
Most of the old A14 was reclassified as the A1198, but there was a short section between Huntingdon and Alconbury that became a spur of the A604 for a period. What happened after that is still unclear -- when the old A604 was reclassified as the A14, it appears from some maps that the Huntingdon-Alconbury road remained as the A604 for a while, making it look as though the A14 and A604 had swapped numbers, and leaving a peculiar "rump" A604 entirely in the wrong zone! This road is now numbered as a spur of the A14, which gives it the bizarre distinction of having reverted to its old number even though that number now refers to a completely different route.
In 1997, the final remaining section of A604 between the A11 at Babraham and the A12 at Lexden was downgraded. The route became a continuation of the A1307 to the junction with the A143 in Haverhill, which then takes over (partly on a different alignment) to the southern end of the A1017 Haverhill bypass. The section from here to Sible Headingham section also has the number A1017, and the Colne Valley section from Sible Headingham, through Halstead, to Colchester renumbered the A1124. The road is no longer directly signed as a direct route from Cambridge to Colchester (the suggested route for HGVs appears now to be M11 / A120 / A12), which may suggest the renumberings.
Although now entirely reclassified, the A604 number has not disappeared from signs entirely, a sign on the approach to the A6116 just north of junction 12 of the A14 still reads "Huntingdon A604" and a sign on North Station Road in Colchester still reads "Cambridge A604". Other telltale signs can be seen in Colchester, with local signs reading "Cambridge (A1124)", reflecting its former forward destination when it was the A604, as opposed to more recent signs that simply sign towards Halstead.
- A14 (Kettering - Girton)
- A1307 (Girton - Haverhill)
- A143 (Haverhill - Gorleston on Sea)
- A1017 (Haverhill - Halstead)
- A1124 (Halstead - Colchester)
- A137 (Colchester - Manningtree)
- B1352 (Manningtree - Harwich)
- A120 (Colchester - Harwich)
- A136 (Harwich - Parkeston Quay)
Original Author(s): Paul Berry
- The A604 Trunk Road (Alconbury to A1 Improvement) (Detrunking) Order 1993 - Statutory instrument detrunking a section of the A604 with opening of A604(M)