Where is it?
The northern end of the most recent Chelmsford Bypass, where the A12 rejoins the line of the original Roman Road, connecting with the old road through town and a couple of other radial routes.
It was nominated by John Buchanan.
What's wrong with it?
It's a British speciality. When it comes to building high-speed roads, we can do simple interchanges with ease. Two roads merging? No problem. Three arms to the junction? Simple. Once it gets complex, though, we go to pieces. Here at Boreham there are five arms to the junction, four of them Primary Routes, plus another three local accesses and a service area. The result is inevitable: whoever is designing it loses all their nerve, forgets all they ever knew about free-flowing links, and just throws roundabouts at the problem until everything is joined together.
What really stings is that the A138 is dual three-lane, while the A12 through the junction is only dual two-lane. But three cluttered roundabouts is all it gets.
Why is it wrong?
It's part of the A12 Chelmsford Bypass, the whole of which could be described as "wrong". It was built in the late 1980s by a government looking for a cheap fix to the problems caused by the old A12 that avoided any controversy. Chelmsford's MP campaigned to get it built and then, when it opened, continued campaigning to highlight what an awful piece of design it was. It passes so far outside Chelmsford that it adds miles on to the journey, it's only two lanes wide throughout (narrower than parts of the old road through Chelmsford), and of course it's full of horrible little junctions like this.
This one gets in to Bad Junctions, though, because it's so much more important than all the others, and therefore so much more unforgivable. So many more strategic routes collide here and are let down by it.
What would be better?
Plans are afoot — distant, hazy plans that is — to deal with it. Essex County Council are working on ideas for a north-eastern bypass of Chelmsford, which would replace the existing A130 with a high-speed road from Braintree to the A12. Their current public consultation is getting views from motorists on what this junction should look like when they finish with it.
They seem open to the idea of free-flowing links, and say the consultation is happening because in the past design on the county's roads has failed to provide well enough for the future. That seems like a backhanded reference to this junction's design if ever I heard it.
Right to reply
There are some excellent diagrams published by Essex County Council regarding the plans for this junction. Interesting how the new free-flowing link from A12 north to A130 has to pass OVER the enlarged and moved south dumbell, making 2 levels of bridges, this is presumably because of the proximity of the railway line. Also traffic travelling A12 south into Chelmsford would have to perform an alarming 360 deg loop to get on to the A138!
Glad to see this junction being villified on the site, it is very intimidating, especially if people that are unfamiliar with it are trying to get to the service area - I've had a few near misses in my time.
I would just say that using the Chelmsford bypass only adds about half-a-mile to a journey and avoids the Army and Navy roundabout - never a bad thing.
The Chelmsford NE Bypass has now received funding, together with the new Beaulieu railway station which will be adjacent to this junction - also needing access, probably via the planned radial distributer road around the Beaulieu hoaing estate. An amazing bit of junction design is going to be needed here to make all this work.