The Case for Investment in the A38

Plymouth’s goal is simple; to bring about the modernisation of the A38 to ensure the route reflects its status as a major trunk road.  This goal is not tied to the city boundary; Plymouth City Council seeks and supports investment for the whole of the A38 to secure a high quality and resilient connection from Bodmin to the M5/M4.

The modernisation of the A38 forms a part of the long term ambitions for the City as set out in the Plymouth Plan. To deliver this plan and support regional growth, the city and the South West region needs a modern A38, built to a motorway standard, accommodating planned growth and supporting the South West region’s economy in the years to come.


Whilst we acknowledge that the A38 will not be transformed overnight, decades of under-investment must begin to be addressed now to avoid the stifling of major centres of growth in the South West.

We have 5 priorities we want Government’s sustained help on to deliver our significant growth agenda:

  • Widening the A38 between A386 Manadon Junction and the B3413 at Forder Valley, providing additional capacity on a key link where current peak hour delays are frequent.
  • Widening the A38 on the approaches to Weston Mill Junction, providing additional capacity on the main access to the Naval Base.
  • Improvements to Deep Lane Junction including the provision of a Park & Ride site, supporting sustainable growth and new development along the city’s Eastern Corridor.
  • Capacity and safety enhancements to A38 Manadon Roundabout, improving Plymouth’s worst performing junction with the A38 and A386 at Manadon Roundabout.
  • A route based study of the A38 from Exeter to Bodmin, to review existing/future performance of the route and inform investment decisions for RIS 3.

A38 Route Based Strategy Illustration

Investment in the A38

  • Greater capacity: future proofing our network by tackling current congestion and journey time delays, removing this major constraint that hinders the economic sustainability and future growth in Plymouth and the hinterland.
  • Journey time reliability: providing reliant and faster journey times along the length of the route that will transform our connectivity to regional and national markets.
  • A safe and serviceable network: reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured on the network by investing in the wholesale modernisation of the A38.

The Case for Investment

In 2014 Highways England published their Route-based Strategy for the South West Peninsula [1].  This highlighted a number of locations within Plymouth where delays are frequent and congestion often occurs.  The regions worst performing link resides at Manadon Junction and the approaches to it, which is why it is vital we secure investment to rectify these issues during RIS period 2.

Beyond Plymouth’s boundary the A38 from Saltash to Bodmin and Deep Lane to Exeter suffers from inconsistent road and junction standards, low quality maintenance and in places there is a poor safety record that needs to be addressed.  We are therefore promoting a collective, cross boundary approach to long term, sequenced and integrated investment for the A38 in the South West Region. 

A38 Existing Performance Report

A38 Future Performance Report

A38 Wider Area Performance Report

The Economic Benefits for the Region

The ‘A38 Case for Action – The Wider Economic Case for Investment in the A38 study indicates that the historic lack of strategic investment in the road is holding back regional economic growth.  It shows that nearly £900m of productivity growth and induced investment would be gained by improving the A38 between Bodmin and Exeter.  This will encourage new investment, business start-ups, and benefit growing industries such as aerospace marine science, engineering and renewables as well as the area’s well established tourism sector.

The Wider Economic Case - Technical Report 

The Wider Economic Case

The A38 between Bodmin and Exeter is the critical strategic road link for the South West Peninsula, linking Cornwall, Plymouth, Torbay and Devon with the rest of the UK. The majority of the region’s current economic activity and planned future growth is on or around the A38 corridor.

Highway England’s research [2] demonstrates that sectors heavily dependent on the Strategic Road Network (SRN) employ 7.4 million people and contribute £314 billion in GVA to England's economy. These sectors (leisure and tourism, advanced manufacturing, retail, wholesale and logistics) could potentially grow by 35% by 2030, yet the SRN will not cater for all of this growth without investment. 

In its present form the A38 will struggle to support our growth agenda due to the: variable standard of road, limiting junction capacities and the sheer volumes of traffic that rely on this single route. 

By modernising and enhancing the standard of the route we can provide: journey time reliability, increased capacity and improved road safety which is needed to support our housing, jobs and growth targets. 

Regional Support 

Cornwall Council, Devon County Council, Torbay Council, West Devon Borough Council, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership and Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership along with key business stakeholders in the region are all backing the A38 Case for Action.

No More Time to Lose

Of the £15bn that was invested in the Strategic Road Network during RIS period 1, no investment was made available to enhance A38 between Bodmin and Exeter.  With the onset of RIS2, we need to address this imbalance by vocalising our support for investment in A38.

What You Can Do

The Department for Transport formulating their Road Investment Strategy 2 programme and have sought a wide range of views from those who use the Strategic Road Network.

Our RIS2 priorities are: Widening the A38 between A386 Manadon Junction and the B3413 at Forder Valley; Widening the A38 on the approaches to Weston Mill Junction; Improvements to Deep Lane Junction including the provision of a Park & Ride site; Capacity and safety enhancements to A38 Manadon Roundabout; and a route based study that produces a long term investment plan for the A38 from Bodmin to Exeter.  

Hopefully these priorities align with your own aspirations for A38.  Whatever your views may be, they can only be considered if you submit them.  You can do this by emailing:

Thank you for your consideration in this matter, and your support.

[1] Highways Agency, 2014, South West Peninsula Route Strategy Evidence Report,, Accessed 04 July 2018

[2] Highways England, 2016, The Road To Growth Discussion Paper,, Accessed 09 January 2018