|Distance:||37.6 miles (60.5 km)|
|Meets:||A57, A6024, A616, B6106, B6462, A629, B6099, M1, A6133, A61, A633, A6195, B6273, B6422, A6201, A638, B6421, A639|
|Route outline (key)|
The A628 is one of the major Pennine crossings, being the main signposted route from Manchester to Sheffield (via the A616) and Barnsley. Despite its importance, it remains single-carriageway for virtually its entire length. It is the most important road east of Manchester after the M62.
Hollingworth – Flouch Inn
The first section of the A628 across the Woodhead Pass is now wholly inadequate for its purpose. Forming one of two routes connecting Manchester with Sheffield, it carries a very high volume of traffic including huge numbers of trucks, plus local and long distance cross-country traffic. The other road, the A57, is no longer signed as a through route between Sheffield and Manchester, so the A628 gets the bulk of this traffic. As my commentary will hopefully show, it simply isn't up to this job!
We diverge from the A57 at a light-controlled junction at the base of a reasonably steep hill in Hollingworth. After passing through the centre of the village, a short section of NSL and an administrative boundary (Tameside to Derbyshire) take us into the neighbouring Tintwistle. The first inadequacies of the road can be seen here, with traffic passing within six feet of people's front doors. The almost complete lack of pavement is a hazard for pedestrians, and the lack of parking on the S2 road means that delays can build quickly if one of these houses is having something as mundane as a sofa delivered!
As we leave Tintwistle through a short section with a 40mph speed limit, we get increasingly scenic views of Longdendale, the character and appearance of which alters dramatically with differing weather and light conditions. The speed limit then reverts to NSL, and the next 9 miles through the dale are mostly uphill around a never-ending series of bends. Some are broad, others at right-angles complete with numerous warning signs, red road markings and even cats-eye-type reflectors on the crash barriers to highlight the edge of the road (and the sometimes 80-foot drop-off on the other side).
We pass Bottoms, Valehouse, Rhodeswood and Torside Reservoirs and go through Crowden as we continue to climb. Then comes the tiered junction with the B6105, as that road veers sharply down across the dam of the final reservoir, Woodhead, towards Glossop. This section can be tortuously slow if stuck behind a fully-loaded truck, as there are very few places to overtake and not even any lay-bys for lorries to pull over into and let traffic behind them clear.
After meeting the A6024 for Holmfirth, the stone-arched Woodhead Bridge takes us across an arm of Woodhead Reservoir, though the arches are all but submerged when the water is at its highest level. We pass (at long last!) a lay-by carved out of the cliff face - usually chock-a-block with trucks - and leave Longdendale whilst simultaneously crossing the now boarded-up entrance to Woodhead tunnel, on the opposite side of the valley, which was used by the main railway line from Manchester to Sheffield. Incidentally, just prior to said lay-by there is a long-standing memorial to a mountain biker killed at that point that always has flowers and cycling trophies on it. Other accident damage is usually visible throughout this part of the route, generally in the form of knocked-down walls on or near bends.
The road then becomes slightly straighter and steeper, and the drop-off on the right – into what is now a ravine – gets deeper as we near the top, passing a couple more lay-bys as we go. Crossing Salters Brook Bridge brings us into Yorkshire, before we reach the windswept summit at 1450 feet, some 1030 feet above where we began in Hollingworth. This height and exposure means that winter weather is often problematic, and the name Woodhead Pass often features prominently in radio travel bulletins.
A straight section leads into the descent on the eastern side, which is much shorter and steeper, and the lucky people travelling the other way have a crawler lane to pass the vast number of trucks. A new alignment takes us away from the Flouch Inn and its mini island, and instead around a newer one, the junction with the A616. The bulk of the traffic turns right here, and continues towards the M1 and Sheffield. To emphasise this, that road takes on the trunk status we've had up to this point and we continue as merely primary.
Flouch Inn – Pontefract
After a sharp bend to the left we pass through Millhouse Green and Penistone before climbing a long, straight hill and meeting the A629 at the Hoylandswaine roundabout. We then descend for around 2 miles down the other side (which again has a crawler lane heading west), and bypass the village of Silkstone on a 1980s (I think) alignment. We used to enter Dodworth via a level crossing and left hand bend but the village has now been bypassed; this is no quicker than the old route. This new routing is fine for avoiding the level crossing in Dodworth, but how it has been tied into the existing roundabout at the M1 junction is messy. I know space was at a premium and access to Dodworth had to be maintained, but the two additional roundabouts are set very close together and the incline between them looks like a ski jump! I went up there in a 44-tonner the other week and it didn't think much of it!
After descending steeply on a short D2 section to cross the railway line we meet the M1 at junction 37 and continue on into Barnsley. We miss the town centre by way of 1967s ring roads and roundabouts (and the last time we'll see dual-carriageway on the A628), including a brief multiplex along the A61, and leave, passing through Lundwood before bypassing Curdworth and Shafton on a 2000s alignment.
Hemsworth is then bypassed on an early-1990s routing before we meet the A638 at Ackworth Moor Top and then travel through a surprisingly narrow and tight section through High Ackworth. The A628 has a rather ignominious ending (considering its national importance earlier) at an at-grade junction with the A639 in the south of Pontefract.