The A38 is a lengthy route - in fact, it’s the second longest road in the UK, shorter only than the A1. It stretches from Bodmin, in Cornwall - at one end of the country - to Mansfield, in the east Midlands and the very heart of the UK.
Because of its reach right into Cornwall, one of the UK’s most popular holiday spots along with its geographical neighbour, Devon, the A38 has always traditionally been a major route for holidaymakers travelling down from the north. The volume of traffic may have eased slightly with the M5 taking a good deal of the strain, but it’s still very busy and delays are not unusual - especially in peak holiday season.
From Bodmin to Mansfield, the length of the A38 is close to 310 miles, covering several counties, including Gloucestershire, Somerset, Staffordshire and Warwickshire.
The A38 is often divided into three different sections of motorway and referenced in these terms - mainly because of the overall length of the route. These are:
A30 Midlands Section - starting at South Normanton, at J28 of the M1, and finishing at Shenstone, in the Midlands and the M6 Toll.
A38(M) Aston Expressway - this is a short stretch of road, incorporating the infamous Spaghetti Junction. It connects to the M6.
A38 Devon Expressway - this is a picturesque route that runs for just over 40 miles, starting at Exeter and ending at Plymouth.
If you’re planning to drive on the A38, check your route before you travel and keep up to date on any potential traffic issues and delays.
Worst Junctions on the A38
A lengthy route stretching from the mid-point of the country to one of its most southerly points, and heavy traffic flow - it’s no surprise that the A38 has junctions that experience build-up and result in delays for drivers.
Some of the worst and busiest junctions on the A38 are on the final leg of the route, from Exeter to Bodmin, moving from Devon to Cornwall. Congestion is common at several locations, especially during peak hours of travel, including junctions at Manadon, St Budeaux, West Mill and Marsh Mills. The Manadon roundabout has been described as Plymouth’s ‘worst performing’ junction.
The areas through Plymouth from Ivybridge to Saltash, and around Exeter, are notoriously busy.
Accident Hotspots on the A38
The A38 has a poor safety record. In the proposal document titled A38 Case for Action, presented in 2018 by Cornwall Council as part of a campaign for investment in the A38 from Bodmin to Exeter, it was stated that:
‘Sections of the A38 have accident rates of more than twice the national average. Over five years there have been 830 accidents involving injury between Bodmin and Exeter, including 100 serious accidents and 16 fatal accidents.’
Carkeel Roundabout, in Saltash in the A38, is known as an accident blackspot, as the scene of several accidents in the last few years.
Another accident blackspot on the A38 is the Glynn Valley area, between Liskeard and Bodmin.
Issues aren’t exclusive to the southern end of the A38. The area of the A38 near Burton-on-Trent, in the Midlands, has also seen several accidents in recent years. In 2017, the stretch of the A38 in Derbyshire, between the junctions of the A516 near Mickleover and Toyota Island, near the A50, was closed for 12 hours after multiple vehicles were involved in a collision.
Upcoming A38 Major Roadworks
Sections of the A38 have been earmarked for improvements so, if you’re planning to drive the route, do keep updated on any traffic news. Use the RAC Route Planner app before you travel to be aware of any delays on the A38.
Upcoming major roadworks on the A38 include:
A38 Derby Junctions - three existing roundabout junctions are being improved, with a provisional start date of 2019/20. These roundabouts are the A38/A5111 Kingsway, the A38/A52 Markeaton, and the A38/A61 at Little Eaton. This is an extensive project which is scheduled to finish by 2023, with investment in the region of £200 to £250 million.
A38 Saltash Tunnel - this is a shorter term improvement scheme, expected to be completed at the end of March 2019. The work is to upgrade the tunnel incident detection system at Saltash, and will involve overnight closures.