Straight, narrow and blocked

IF you're wondering why this year's bank holiday traffic is – yet again – gridlockus maximus, prepare to be enlightened.New research proves that, despite more than 1,600 years of road building, today's road system is no better than it was at the height of Roman rule.

IF you're wondering why this year's bank holiday traffic is – yet again – gridlockus maximus, prepare to be enlightened.

New research proves that, despite more than 1,600 years of road building, today's road system is no better than it was at the height of Roman rule.

The Romans built 7000 miles of major roads in Britain – the same length as all the motorways and major trunk roads in the country today.

And Suffolk, with its network of roads linking London and Colchester to rebellious East Anglia, is more ancient than most.


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Which won't surprise many drivers who are frequently bottle-necked on the A140 and A12

Suffolk archaeologist and Roman road expert, Jude Plouviez , said: "There are some straight parts of the A140 that are pure Roman road. The road linked London to Caister by Norwich which was, in those days, the tribal headquarters of the Iceni tribe under Boudiccea.

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"The original Roman road went west of Ipswich, which was not an important centre then, and linked up to the A12 to Colchester."

In those days the road, used mostly by marching legions, would have been gravel and not much wider than 15 feet.

But if you think things were better in the days of Julius Caesar, think again.

Dr David Musgrove, a landscape archaeologist, said: "Delays due to bridge re-building weren't uncommon, and road-works were a feature then as now."

One thing which has changed is journey times.

Despite having the same length of roads in miles, travel was understandably much slower in Roman Britain. Whereas a road journey from London to Ipswich now would take two hours, 1600 years ago you would have been on the road for four and a half days.

Panel

What have the Romans Ever Done For Us?

Sewers. Romans were the first to flush waste out of cities and forts.

Aqueducts. A series of high bridges to bring water to towns.

The first central heating. Hypocausts used hot water for underground heating.

Concrete. Romans love of cities led to the invention of concrete.

Three course meals. Celtic meals were a one-pot affair until the Italians introduced the idea of three courses. They were well-noted for their fish custard.

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