A55 shield
North Wales Expressway
A55 road map.png
A55 road, Vicar
Looking eastbound at junction 40
Route information
Part of E22
Maintained by
National Highways (England)
North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agent
Length87 mi (140 km)
HistoryCompleted: 2001
Major junctions
West endHolyhead
Major intersections
UK road A487.svg

J9 → A487 road
UK road A5.svg

J11 → A5 road
UK road A470.svg

J19 → A470 road
UK road A494.svg

J33B → A494 road
UK road A494.svg

J34 → A494 road
UK road A483.svg

J38 → A483 road
UK road A41.svg
UK road A5115.svg

J39 → A41 road/A5115 road
UK road A51.svg

J40 → A51 road

M53 motorway (J12)
East endChester
CountryUnited Kingdom
CountiesAnglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Cheshire
Road network
A54 A56

The A55, also known as the North Wales Expressway (Welsh: Gwibffordd Gogledd Cymru)[1] is a major road in Wales and England, connecting Cheshire and north Wales. The vast majority of its length from Chester to Holyhead is a dual carriageway primary route, with the exception of the Britannia Bridge over the Menai Strait and several short sections where there are gaps in between the two carriageways. All junctions are grade separated apart from a roundabout east of Penmaenmawr and another nearby in Llanfairfechan. Initially, the road ran from Chester to Bangor. In 2001, it was extended across Anglesey to the ferry port of Holyhead parallel to the A5. The road improvements have been part funded with European money, under the Trans-European Networks programme, as the route is designated part of Euroroute E22 (HolyheadLeedsAmsterdamHamburgMalmöRigaMoscowPermEkaterinburgIshim).


The Chester southerly bypass

The A55 begins at junction 12 of the M53, the southern end of the motorway, near Chester. It is known as the Chester southerly bypass between J39 Christleton and J36a Broughton. The A55 crosses the River Dee and the border into Wales, passing close to Broughton, Flintshire, and passing north of Buckley, Penyffordd and Northop. There is a major climb between Broughton and Dobshill (Junctions 36a Broughton to 35 Dobshill) though with no crawler lane. Junction 34/33b is point at which the A494 converges and then diverges with the A55. The road briefly has a three-lane section as westbound traffic from Queensferry can leave towards Mold. In the eastbound direction another short three-lane section allows vehicles to join the A494 or exit onto the A55 to Chester. Traffic taking the A55 into England must negotiate a tight 270 degree speed-limited single lane curve to climb up and over the A55/A494 at Ewloe loops. Plans to upgrade the A494 between this junction at Ewloe and Queensferry were rejected by the Welsh Government on 26 March 2008 due to their scale.[2]

Ewloe to Colwyn Bay

Climbing up Rhuallt Hill eastwards.
Climbing up Rhuallt Hill eastwards.

From Ewloe, the road is relatively flat until after Northop when it climbs up onto the flanks of Halkyn Mountain range, passing to the southwest of Holywell with major climbs between Northop and Halkyn (Junctions 33 and 32b) and Halkyn and Holywell Summit (Junctions 32 and 31). This section of road is notorious for poor weather conditions including fog, ice and snow in winter months. In fine weather, however there are extensive views over the River Dee estuary to the Wirral Peninsula, Liverpool and beyond. The highest part of the road is in the vicinity of Brynford at around 790 feet (240 m). The steep descent towards St Asaph is down the new Rhuallt Hill (Junctions 29 to 28), which also provides the first views of the mountains of Snowdonia in the far distance. There is a crawler lane on Rhuallt Hill for eastbound traffic. The road bypasses St Asaph to the north, and runs past Bodelwyddan and Abergele to reach the North Wales coast at Pensarn (Junction 23A). From here onwards to Bangor, the route is close to the North Wales Coast railway.

Colwyn Bay Bypass

Two sections between (Junction 23) Llanddulas to (Junction 17) Conwy are signed as a 70 mph (110 km/h) speed limit because they are actually special roads. This is because these sections were built under legislation for building motorways but they were never declared as motorways.[3][4] Legally it means these two stretches of the A55 are neither part of the national UK motorway network nor trunk roads. As such, the national speed limit does not apply so 70 mph (110 km/h) signs (the maximum speed permitted on UK roads) are used instead. Unlike other sections of the A55 that have National Speed Limit (NSL) signage and are accessible to all motor vehicles, motorway restrictions are enforced on these two stretches of road (therefore no pedestrians, learner drivers, etc).

A 50 mph (80 km/h) limit remains in force through the Colwyn Bay bypass (Old Colwyn to Mochdre). The restriction was imposed for several reasons. First as a safety precaution because the slip-roads on this stretch are unusually short due to the road's design. Part of it was built on a narrow swathe of land through the town that was once the North Wales coast railway; Colwyn Bay railway station had to be rebuilt and the track bed realigned to complete the underpass as the road used the former railway Goods Yard which was relocated to Llandudno Junction. The former four-track railway was reduced to two more northerly tracks to make space for the road. Secondly, the reduced speed limit was intended to reduce road noise for residents. However, since the completion of the Colwyn Bay bypass, the lower speed limit has been an unpopular decision with drivers.[5]

Conwy Tunnel

Approaching the tunnel from the west.
Approaching the tunnel from the west.

The crossing of the estuary of the River Conwy is by means of an immersed tube tunnel, the first of its kind constructed in the United Kingdom.[6] At 1060m, the tunnel is the longest road tunnel in Wales.[7]

The decision to construct an immersed tube tunnel bypass followed an extensive public consultation, named the Collcon Feasibility Study. This ruled out another bridge by the castle on aesthetic grounds, since it would have damaged the view of the world heritage site Conwy Castle, and the two bridges by Robert Stephenson and Thomas Telford. Another alternative bridge crossing was proposed at Deganwy, but this too was ruled out for aesthetic reasons. An inland alternative with heavy grades which would have passed over Bwlch y Ddeufaen pass at 430 metres (1,410 ft), following the old Roman road, was also worked up but rejected for cost and utility reasons as it would have required a very long crawler lane.

The tunnel was constructed by a Costain/Tarmac Construction joint venture,[8] as pre-formed concrete sections, and then floated into position over a pre-prepared trench in the bed of the estuary. The 3 million tonnes of silt and mud extracted to create the trench in which the tunnel sections sat, were vacuumed to one side of the construction site, as to let them drift down river would have harmed the large mussel fishing beds downstream. The silt was deposited upstream of the bridge at Conwy which created a large new area of low-lying land which was subsequently given to the RSPB for a wildlife preserve. The casting basin for the tunnel sections was later converted into a new marina in the lower estuary. Because of the valuable fishery in the river and also because of the history of heavy metal mining in the catchment of the river, extensive ecological assessments were made both prior to the construction of the tunnel and subsequently. These studies finally concluded that no significant environmental damage had been caused.

After five years of construction, the tunnel was opened in October 1991 by Queen Elizabeth II, the tunnel initially had an advisory 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) speed limit, but this was dropped in 2007 as accidents were rare in the tunnels.

Penmaenbach and Pen-y-clip tunnels

This view at sunset shows how the modern A55 Expressway bypasses the older road through the town centre before resuming the original route around the headland.
This view at sunset shows how the modern A55 Expressway bypasses the older road through the town centre before resuming the original route around the headland.
An easterly view of the A55 at Penmaenmawr with the North Wales Coast Railway on the seaward side. The Penmaenbach Tunnels are in the distance
An easterly view of the A55 at Penmaenmawr with the North Wales Coast Railway on the seaward side. The Penmaenbach Tunnels are in the distance

Leaving Conwy in a westerly direction, the construction of this section has involved major civil engineering works because it crosses two major headlands: Penmaenbach Point and Penmaenan Point. Work has involved the cutting of several hard rock tunnels beneath the sea cliffs.

The first to be built in 1932 was the Penmaenbach Tunnel which carried motor traffic to Penmaenmawr. Two smaller tunnels through Penmaenan Point, opened 1935, carried the road onto Llanfairfechan. This new route, carrying traffic in both directions, relieved the original coach road built by Telford in the early 19th century. Cut into the cliffs by hand, this narrow, winding route hugged the contours around both steep headlands. Telford's route has now been converted into a cycleway across Penmaenbach and Penmaenan Points. Originally at the western end (Llanfairfechan) of the modern Pen-y-Clip tunnel, access was only allowed in an easterly direction because travelling the other way would mean heading the wrong way up the eastbound carriageway. However, in 2011 a purpose-built bridge – over the westbound carriageway – was constructed to allow unrestricted access to cyclists and walkers.

The 1930s alignment was used until a new two-lane Penmaenbach Tunnel opened in 1989 to carry westbound traffic. Eastbound traffic would now travel through the 1932 Penmaenbach Tunnel using both its original lanes. Four years later, work to build the Pen-y-clip tunnel was completed. Like at Penmaenbach it carried westbound traffic while the original road carried vehicles in the opposite direction. Both new routes were subject to an advisory 50 mph speed limit until these were lifted in 2007 as there had been few accidents.

However traffic travelling eastbound on the 1930s cliff-hugging route still faced speed restrictions at both tunnel locations. For instance the eastbound carriageway at Penmaenbach is subject to a 30 mph (50 km/h) speed limit due to sharp curves and double white lines nominally preclude lane changing. Plans to rectify the awkward alignment by building another tunnel parallel to the current westbound tunnel (as originally intended when the westbound tunnel was proposed) have been discussed for several years. The work in late-2007 at Penmaenbach eastbound has seen the erection of gantries to close lanes when bidirectional working is in place. New bridges over the railway tunnel entrances at each end were added and a footbridge over the railway at the eastern end to accommodate the cycleway.

Penmaenmawr to Anglesey

The A55 spans Britannia Bridge, connecting Anglesey to the British mainland.
The A55 spans Britannia Bridge, connecting Anglesey to the British mainland.

Some sections of the rest of the route are of lower standard than that of those further east. Some traffic leaves for major holiday destinations such as Caernarfon or the Llŷn Peninsula, though much continues on to the port of Holyhead. As such part of the route is not classed as clearway and has two at grade junctions (roundabouts), Penmaenmawr (Junction 16) and Llanfairfechan (Junction 15). The Bangor bypass, in which the road previously terminated and became the A5 regains high standards and is such through the Anglesey section, bar the Britannia Bridge, which is a single carriageway deck above the North Wales Coast railway over the Menai Strait. In 2007 the Welsh Assembly Government undertook a consultation to determine which of four options would be preferred for another crossing. This section intersects with the A487 towards Caernarfon, and the west coast of North Wales.


Looking east along the road in Anglesey with the mountains of Snowdonia in the background.
Looking east along the road in Anglesey with the mountains of Snowdonia in the background.

The final section of the A55 to be constructed was the Anglesey section. This 20 mile (32 km) section from the end of the Llanfairpwll bypass to Holyhead Harbour was constructed as Private Finance Initiative scheme where the builders, a Carillion / John Laing joint venture, earn a shadow toll based on usage and lane availability. They also have to maintain the road for the extended period of their shadow toll agreement. When travelling eastbound along this section there are fine views of Snowdonia. The approach to Holyhead required major work with a new section over the sea paralleling the Stanley Embankment that carries the original A5 and the North Wales Coast railway.

Improvements underway

Work started in early 2017 on the upgrading of the 1960s built substandard section of dual carriageway west of Abergwyngregyn from Tai'r Meibion towards Tan-y-lon, which is a relatively narrow section of dual carriageway and prone to flooding.[9] After a pause, work restarted on the scheme (now known as the Abergwyngregyn-Tai'r Meibion scheme) in 2021 and encompassing some 2.2 km of the A55. It involves constructing a new road to the north of the dual carriageway for general use including cycleway and farm access. This allowed the closure of 8 central reservation gaps used by slow moving agricultural vehicles which caused safety concerns with the volume and speed of traffic on the dual carriageway. The work was well underway in September 2021 and due to open fully in 2022.[10]

Planned improvements

Plans are also in their final stages to grade separate the two roundabouts at Penmaenmawr and Llanfairfechan planned to be completed by 2022.[11] A Public Inquiry was due to be held on 21/9/21 in Llandudno Junction concerning issues over the side roads. The two roundabout improvements will now be treated separately and the full plans can be seen on the A55 microsite[12] In June 2021 the Welsh Government decided to review all road schemes whilst looking at public transport alternatives.[13] In September 2021 the Welsh Government announced an expansion of their plans for the North Wales Metro that may impact this road scheme. In particular longer turn plans to reopen old rail routes from Bangor to Amlwch and Bangor to West Wales (presumably a link to Cambrian Coast railway and possibly onwards from Aberystwyth to Carmarthen) may impact cash available for road schemes.[14] The Junction 16 scheme involves creating a new grade separated junction close to the Penmaenbach Tunnel with a single overbridge allowing access for all directions. This will replace the limited access junction 16A there for Dwygyfylchi. The existing junction 16 roundabout would be replaced by a limited access junction (westbound off/westbound on) as it is a difficult location close to the North Wales coast railway and cycle route and partly on a railway bridge. A new local road would run from the new Dwygyfylchi interchange to the existing roundabout passing around the rear of the Penguin Cafe/truckstop. The Llanfairfechan junction 15 grade separation is much easier to achieve and will be completed on site as a grade separated junction with a single overbridge allowing access/exit for all possible directions.

In November 2012, the Welsh Government published two more detailed studies looking at options to improve transport in the North East Wales and the A55 / A494 areas.[15] Possible changes to be considered further include


The A55 partly follows the alignment of the Roman road from Chester (Deva) to Caernarfon (Segontium), particularly from Junction 31 to 30 and Junction 13 to 12. Between Chester and Holywell the alignment of this road is uncertain and between St. Asaph and Abergwyngregyn, the Roman road followed an inland route, via Canovium Roman Fort at Caerhun, avoiding the difficulties of the crossing of the Conwy estuary and the cliffs at Penmaenbach and Pen-y-Clip.

A55 opening dates of major improvements









There are three large service areas on the A55, along with numerous other petrol stations at the side of the road. The three major services are:

Bangor Services
(off J11) This service area is 200m off A55 via A5 southbound then turn right at roundabout onto A4244 before immediately turning right into services) – Starbucks, Subway, Greggs, Burger King, Travelodge, Esso, Costa Express

Gateway Services, Ewloe
Eastbound (After J33) – Starbucks, Greggs, Travelodge, Shell, Costa Express
Westbound (After J33B) – Costa Coffee, Subway, McDonald's, OK Diner, Holiday Inn, Shell, Costa Express, Deli2Go

Kinmel Park, St Asaph
Eastbound (After J24) – Esso, Starbucks & Greggs

Westbound (After J25) – Esso, Starbucks & Greggs


This article contains a bulleted list or table of intersections which should be presented in a properly formatted junction table. Please consult this guideline for information on how to create one. Please improve this article if you can. (December 2021)
A55 road junctions
km Westbound exits (B Carriageway) Junction Eastbound exits (A Carriageway)
0.0 Holyhead
British Rail - colour reversed logo.svg
Uk roadsign ferry.svg
Uk roadsign ferry.svg
(Motor vehicles)
Fish quay, Park and ride,
UK traffic sign 801.svg
Long stay
UK traffic sign 510.svg

[coord 1]
Start of road
Local traffic
UK traffic sign 543.svg

Local traffic only
0.5 Town centre A5154
UK traffic sign 543.svg

Town centre A5154
0.7 Trearddur Bay B4545, Kingsland J1
UK traffic sign 510.svg
Trearddur Bay B4545, Kingsland
Trearddur Bay A5153 (B4545), Parc Cybi, Penrhos Stanley
UK traffic sign 827.1.svg
UK traffic sign 801.svg
Goods vehicles
J2 Trearddur Bay A5153 (B4545), Parc Cybi
Valley A5 J3 Valley, Caergeiliog A5
Caergeiliog A5, Boderdern J4 Bryngwran A5, Boderdern
Rhosneigr, Aberffraw A4080, Bryngwran (A5) J5 Rhosneigr, Aberffraw A4080, Gwalchmai (A5)
Rhostrehwfa A5, Llangefni (A5114) J6 Pentre Berw A5, Llangefni (A5114)
Gaerwen, Pentre Berw A5152 (A5) J7 Gaerwen, Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll A5152 (A5)
31.3 Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll A5, Star J7A No access
Benllech, Amlwch A5025 J8 Menai Bridge, Amlwch A5025
33.8 Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll A5(W), Menai Bridge A5(E), Beaumaris (A545) J8A No access (on-slip only)
Entering Isle of Anglesey
UK traffic sign 520.svg
Britannia Bridge
UK traffic sign 520.svg
Entering Gwynedd
Bangor, Caenarfon A487 J9 Bangor, Caenarfon A487
Bangor A4087, Caenarfon (A487) J10 Bangor A4087
Bangor, Betws-y-Coed A5 J11
Betws-y-Coed A5
Tal-y-bont J12 Tal-y-bont
Abergwyngregyn J13 Abergwyngregyn
Llanfairfechan J14 Llanfairfechan
Entering Gwynedd Entering Conwy
51.7 Llanfairfechan J15
UK traffic sign 510.svg
Pen-y-Clip Tunnels[17]
UK traffic sign 529.1.svg
No access (on-slip only) J15A Penmaenmawr
56.2 Penmaenmawr J16
UK traffic sign 510.svg
Penmaenmawr, Dwygyfylchi
Services No access
Dwygyfylchi J16A No access
Penmaenbach Tunnels[17]
UK traffic sign 529.1.svg
Conwy A547
End of special road
J17 Conwy A547
Start of special road[18]
Conwy Tunnel[17]
UK traffic sign 529.1.svg

(53°17′15″N 3°49′26″W / 53.2875°N 3.8240°W / 53.2875; -3.8240 (Conwy Tunnel))
Conwy (A547), Deganwy A546 J18 Deganwy A546, Llandudno Junction (A547)
Betws-y-Coed, Llandudno A470 J19 Llandudno, Betws-y-Coed A470
Rhos-on-Sea (B5115) J20 Rhos-on-Sea B5115
Colwyn Bay B5104 J21 Colwyn Bay B5104
Old Colwyn (A547) J22 Old Colwyn (A547)
Llanddulas A547
Start of special road[19]
Llanddulas A547
End of special road
No access (on-slip only) J23A Pensarn, Rhyl A548
Abergele, Rhuddlan A547 J24 Rhuddlan, Prestatyn A547
84.6 Towyn, St. George J24A No access
Entering Conwy Entering Denbighshire
Bodelwyddan, Glan Clwyd
UK traffic sign 827.2.svg
J25 Bodelwyddan, Glan Clwyd
UK traffic sign 827.2.svg
St Asaph Business Park J26 St Asaph Business Park
St Asaph, Rhyl A525 J27 St Asaph, Rhyl A525
Denbigh A525 J27A No access
Rhuallt (B5429), Trefnant J28 Rhuallt, Tremeirchion B5429
Rhuallt, Tremeirchion (B5429) J29
Entering Denbighshire Entering Flintshire
Tremeirchion J30
Prestatyn A5151, Caerwys B5122 J31 Holywell A5026, Caerwys A5151 (B5122)
Holywell A5026 J32 Rhosesmor (B5123)
Rhosesmor B5123 J32A No access (on-slip only)
Pentre Halkyn, Rhosesmor J32B No access
Flint A5119 J33 Mold, Flint A5119
116.5 Connah's Quay B5126 J33A Northop Hall
120.0 Mold A494 J33B No access (on-slip only)
Queensferry A494 J34
TOTSO[See notes]
Queensferry A494, Manchester (M56)
Buckley A550 (A549), Corwen (A5104) J35 Wrexham A550
Pen-y-ffordd A5104 J36 Broughton, Pen-y-ffordd A5104
128.5 Broughton (A5104) J36A No access (on-slip only)
128.6 Entering  Wales and Flintshire Border Entering  England and Cheshire
Wrexham, Chester A483 J38 Chester, Wrexham A483
River Dee
No access (on-slip only) J39 Chester A5115, Whitchurch A41
Chester, Nantwich A51, Whitchurch (A41) J40 Chester, Nantwich A51
Start of road M53 J12
[coord 2]
Chester, Helsby A56
Non-motorway traffic
Chester A56 Road continues as M53 towards Ellesmere Port
  • Data from location marker posts are used to provide distance and carriageway identification information. Where a junction spans several hundred metres and the data is available, both the start and finish values for the junction are shown.[20]
  • Totso = "Turn off to stay on" meaning that the driver must leave the main carriageway to stay on the specified (A55) route.
Coordinate list
Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap  Download coordinates as: KML GPX (primary) GPX (secondary) GPX (all)
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also


  1. ^ "The Chester to Bangor Trunk Road (A55), Talerdy Junction Phase 2, St Asaph – Environmental Impact Assessment". Welsh Government. Archived from the original on 6 June 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  2. ^ Welsh Assembly Government – Decision on A494 Drome Corner to Ewloe scheme Archived 30 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "The Special Road (Llanddulas to Colwyn Bay) Regulations 1984". legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Motorway Database A55". roads.org.uk. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  5. ^ "50mph limit at Colwyn Bay should be scrapped say drivers". walesonline.co.uk/. 7 June 2012.
  6. ^ "Conwy Tunnel praised on 20th anniversary". BBC News. 25 October 2011.
  7. ^ "North Wales Tunnels". Archived from the original on 18 March 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  8. ^ "The North Wales Coast Road. A55". ciht.org.uk. Archived from the original on 31 December 2008.
  9. ^ Welsh Government Update 11/10/16 The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) published its National Transport Plan in July 2009.<ref Welsh Government | National Transport Plan Archived 18 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "A55: Abergwyngregyn to Tai'r Meibion improvements".
  11. ^ Welsh Government Update 16/6/2016
  12. ^ "A55: Junctions 15 and 16 (Overview)".
  13. ^ "Freeze on new roads projects to be announced".
  14. ^ "New images show true scale of ambitious North Wales metro programme". 10 September 2021.
  15. ^ "Studies to improve transport in North East Wales published". Welsh Labour. 12 November 2012. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  16. ^ "A55 A494 WelTAG Study – Stage 1 Appraisal" (PDF). Welsh Government. 12 November 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 December 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  17. ^ a b c "Tunnels". North Wales Trunk Road Agency. 2011. Archived from the original on 18 March 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  18. ^ "The Special Road (Glan Conwy to Conwy Morfa) Regulations 1990". legislation.gov.uk. The National Archives. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  19. ^ "The Special Road (Colwyn Bay to Glan Conwy) Regulations 1985". legislation.gov.uk. The National Archives. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  20. ^ "Resources". Traffig Cymru/Traffic Wales. Archived from the original on 3 September 2011. Retrieved 22 August 2011. Select Telephone & marker post locations.

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata