Heading east from London? Visiting the Docklands, Lakeside shopping centre or Southend Pier? Take Billy Bragg's advice, then, and hitch a ride on the A13 (and its westward pretenders, A1203 and A1261). But please don't confuse it. The poor thing is pretty muddled up as it is.
If you ever have to go to Shoeburyness
Take the A-road, the OK-road, that's the best
Go motoring on the A13
If you're looking for a thrill that's new
Take in Ford's, Dartford Tunnel and the river too
Go motoring on the A13
There are nearly 30 miles of high-standard, mostly grade-separated and largely three-lane dual carriageway on the A13 route. But it hasn't the first idea what to do with them. A third of that distance is restricted to 40mph or less, for example. At its western end, the A13 peels off and completes the run into central London along congested urban streets, while the high-spec road continues parallel as the A1261 and then A1203, for no readily discernable reason. Despite the latter two being primary routes and by far the fastest way to The City, traffic is signposted off at every opportunity and encouraged to use the tedious old A13. The whole thing just makes no sense.
Half of the road is, truth be told, an embarassment to its managing authority. In 2000, Transport for London took control of all trunk roads within Greater London. Among them was the first 15 miles of A13 - but it came with a newly-let PFI contract whereby a private company was upgrading the road to a very high standard, contrary to TfL's traffic restraint policies. Unable to cancel the contract, TfL had to let the widening and grade-separation work go ahead. It's said that the tedious 30 and 40mph limits on their stretch of the road are an attempt to impose some of their thinking on what is effectively a brand new urban motorway. 40mph on a three-lane carriageway, downhill, without any frontage access, is slow enough to have anyone chewing on the steering wheel with frustration.
On the bright side, the gentle pace of the road gives the motorist ample opportunities to enjoy the incredible engineering on the way: the lengthy viaduct above the marshes near Dagenham; the elderly four-lane flyover at Ripple Road; and the Limehouse Link Tunnel. The latter is notable as being a road tunnel with a grade-separated junction inside it, and was the most expensive road ever built in the UK. Sadly it's the end of the line - it stops at a set of traffic lights. But then that's very much in character for this road.
You're not looking at the whole A13, A1203 and A1261
This page is about the parts of the A13, A1203 and A1261 that are designated a motorway or that have motorway characteristics. Other sections of this road will not be featured here and will not count towards the length of the road as shown below.