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Rare Roman coin is the latest ‘remarkable discovery’ on new road

Roman coin found under A14

A rare Roman coin can be added to the list of amazing artefacts found by the archaeologists working alongside the A14 upgrade in Cambridgeshire.

It follows the discovery of what is believed to be evidence of the first beer brewed in the UK, along with the remains of a woolly mammoth and woolly rhino, both probably at least 100,000 years old.

Other discoveries found by the team – led by the aptly-named Dr Steve Sherlock – include prehistoric henges, Iron Age settlements, Roman pottery kilns, three Anglo-Saxon villages, and a deserted medieval village. The project also unearthed a coin dating back to 57 BC, meaning it was likely minted to help fund the resistance to Julius Caesar.

Get Tony Robinson on the blower: this is enough to fill an entire series of Time Team.

woolly rhino and woolly mammoth

A ‘remarkable discovery’

The coin is described by Highways England as a “remarkable discovery” and depicts the Roman emperor Ulpius Cornelius Laelianus wearing a radiate crown. It’s only the second of its kind to be discovered on an archeological dig in England.

It was found in a ditch of a small Roman farmstead unearthed on the project. The head on the coin has been identified by a leading expert.

We’ve done a little, um… digging of our own, and have discovered that Laelianus was born in 269 AD and that “history has little real knowledge about the gallic emperor”.

A number of coins were issued in his name, but his reign was thought to have lasted for just a couple of months before he was executed by his own soldiers.

A ‘rich history’

Dr Sherlock said: “Discoveries of this kind are incredibly rare. This is one of many coins that we’ve found on this exciting project, but to find one, where there are only two known from excavations in this country that portray this particular emperor, really is quite significant.

“I look forward to seeing how the analysis of this find along with numerous other Roman remains that we have found on this project help us better understand our past.”

Julian Bowsher with Roman coin

Julian Bowsher (pictured), numismatist at MOLA Headland Infrastructure, added: “Roman emperors were very keen to mint coins. Laelianus reigned for just two months, which is barely enough time to do so. However, coins were struck in Mainz, Germania.

”The fact that one of these coins ever reached the shores of Britain demonstrates remarkable efficiency, and there’s every chance that Laelianus had been killed by the time this coin arrived in Cambridgeshire.”

Work on the £1.5bn A14 improvement scheme started in November 2016 and includes a new bypass to the south of Huntingdon. The new road is expected to open to traffic by the end of 2020.

Beer found below the A14 in Cambridgeshire

beer found below A14

Experts working on the upgrade of the A14 in Cambridgeshire have uncovered what is believed to be evidence of the first beer brewed in the UK.

Signs of the Iron Age brew, dating back more than 2,000 years, were uncovered in tiny fragments of charred residues from the beer making process from earth excavated as part of the £1.5bn A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme.

The beer follows woolly mammoths, abandoned villages and burials in a series of fascinating discoveries made during the four-year scheme. 

Dr Steve Sherlock, Highways England archaeology lead for the A14, said: “The work we are doing on the A14 continues to unearth incredible discoveries that are helping to shape our understanding of how life in Cambridgeshire, and beyond, has developed through history.

“It’s a well-known fact that ancient populations used the beer making process to purify water and create a safe source of hydration, but this is potentially the earliest physical evidence of that process taking place in the UK.”

A team of 250 archaeologists have been working on the project, investigating sites across 360 hectares. This latest discovery also revealed that the locals, dating back as far as 400 BC, also had a taste for porridge and bread.

‘Needle in a haystack’

Sample from the A14

Archaeobotanist Lara Gonzalez, who discovered the beer, said: “I knew when I looked at these tiny fragments under the microscope that I had something special. The microstructure of these remains had clearly changed through the fermentation process and air bubbles typical of those formed in the boiling and mashing process of brewing.

“It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack but as an archaeobotanist, it’s incredibly exciting to identify remains of this significance and to play a part in uncovering the fascinating history of the Cambridgeshire landscape.

“The porous structures of these fragments are quite similar to bread, but through microscopic study, it’s possible to see that this residue is from the beer-making process as it shows evidence of fermentation and contains larger pieces of cracked grains and bran but no fine flour.”

Work on the £1.5bn A14 improvement scheme started in November 2016 and includes a new bypass to the south of Huntingdon. The new road is expected to open to the traffic by the end of 2020.

Road re-surfacing

England’s local roads resurfaced once every 92 years

Road re-surfacing

The Transport Committee has launched an inquiry into the state of England’s roads after it was revealed that the frequency of re-surfacing has dropped from once every 55 years to once every 92 years.

That’s according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance survey, which found that for unclassified roads, the leap is even more severe, with minor roads resurfaced every 132 years.

There’s a marked improvement in London, where roads are re-surfaced every 31 years, although this drops to 18 years on principal roads.

But the Transport Committee has had enough, citing road condition and maintenance as a “matter of public concern”, adding a tabloid-friendly “plague of potholes” to the mix.

‘Plague of potholes’

The government is spending £46m repairing potholes

Chair Lillian Greenwood MP said: “Local roads are the arteries of prosperous and vibrant towns and cities. They are critical to the movement of goods as well as our own journeys. However, many people will not have to travel further than their local shops to see an extreme state of disrepair.

“This plague of potholes represents a major headache for all of us. The consequences of a deteriorating local road network are significant – undermining local economic performance and resulting in direct costs to motorists, through damage to road vehicles. The safety of other road users, particularly cyclists, is compromised.

“Our inquiry aims to investigate the situation in England, including current funding constraints and potential alternative models that could offer a solution. We know that this is a high priority issue among the public and I hope our inquiry will help put the onus on the Government to address it sooner rather than later.”

The Committee is appealing to road users and interested parties for written evidence on the state of England’s local roads and how they have fared over time. It is also seeking input on the direct and wider socioeconomic cost of not maintaining the roads.

You never know, you might receive a birthday greeting from the Queen before the road outside your house is resurfaced.

Roundabout in Tavistock

People don’t know how to use roundabouts

Roundabout in Tavistock

Motorists in Tavistock, Devon, are being told to stop misusing roundabouts by the town’s police officers.

According to a report in the Tavistock Times Gazette, a campaign has been launched to crack down on dangerous driving, which follows a number of near misses. Local PCs and community support officers will be monitoring the town’s flat and mini-roundabouts, contacting drivers who flout the rules of the road.

“A lot of people don’t observe the rules of roundabouts,” said a police spokesperson. “We have seen a number of near misses and we have been observing people and are going to be sending out letters to anyone we see doing this with words of advice.

“We want people in Tavistock to start observing the rules of roundabouts.”

According to a local source, the two main problem areas are the A386 at the junction of Plymouth Road and Brook Lane, along with the mini-roundabout at the junction of West Street, Duke Street and Drake Road, outside the town hall.

Rule 188 of the Highway Code is clear on the use of mini-roundabouts: ‘Approach these in the same way as normal roundabouts. All vehicles MUST pass round the central markings except large vehicles which are physically incapable of doing so.’

Tavistock’s police officers have had enough, adding: “The problem is people seem to think it is OK. We’ve had people doing it in front of us. There’s a real cross-section of people doing this too, young people through to older people. We want to make people understand that roundabout discipline still counts on flat roundabouts.”

75% of Tavistock drivers unable to circumnavigate a roundabout

Tavistock roundabout

It didn’t take long for us to find evidence of the blatant disregard for roundabout etiquette. A quick look on Google Maps revealed this Ford Focus going straight over a mini-roundabout on Plymouth Road, blissfully unaware of the camera car following along behind.

Figuring that this could be a one-off, we headed to Tavistock in search of proof that the town’s people are in fact a model of good manners, sticking to the letter of the law.

Sadly, the reverse is true. In a five-minute spell, a staggering 15 of the 20 cars turning right from Bedford Square into Duke Street failed to circumnavigate the mini-roundabout. That’s a failure rate of 75%.

One driver in a Nissan Micra had the cheek to ‘toot’ a pigeon as he drove the wrong way on the roundabout. Will nobody think of the Columbidae?


Determined to paint Tavy’s drivers in a better light, we nipped across town to the roundabout at the junction of Plymouth Road and Brook Lane.

In just 60 seconds, a total of 15 cars emerged from the Plymouth direction. Of these, 11 drove over the roundabout, with four observing the rules of the road. Again, that’s a failure rate approaching 75%. The town’s police officers will be writing an awful lot of letters…

What are your thoughts on Tavistock’s clampdown on roundabout abusers? Is it a minor misdemeanour or a dangerous act that needs to be nipped in the bud? Are people misusing roundabouts in your hometown? Let us know via the comments or send in your own dashcam evidence. To paraphrase Alan Partridge, stop doing roundabouts wrong.

>NEXT: 3D crossings trialled in Iceland

New A30 open on Bodmin Moor

Holidaymakers rejoice, your drive to Cornwall just got a little easier

New A30 open on Bodmin Moor

Would you get out of bed at silly o’clock in order to be one of the first to drive on a new stretch of road? Probably not, but we did, so you don’t have to. Or something.

Finally, following two years of delays and a blanket 40mph speed limit, the dual carriageway across Bodmin Moor at Temple is open, bringing welcome relief to local residents, businesses and the millions of tourists who visit Cornwall every year.

It removes another section of single carriageway between Scotland and Cornwall, with Carland Cross – some 30 miles west on the A30 – the next bottleneck on the way to Land’s End.

Recently, Highways England announced plans to upgrade the road between Carland Cross and Chiverton Cross, with work expected to commence in 2019/2020 at a cost of between £100 million to £250 million.

A champagne moment for Cornwall?

In effect, then, the dual carriageway at Temple simply shifts the problem further into Cornwall, but let’s not allow that to get in the way of what is a momentous day for the county and the A30.

Or, at least, it should be. As we arrived at 6am, the night workers were removing the cones from the point of the overnight diversion at Launceston, but there was no fanfare. No ribbon across the road. No councillor armed with champagne, cheerily declaring the road open.

Instead, the dignitaries have chosen to gather on a bridge at a more respectable time of day, by which time thousands of motorists will have blessed the virgin tarmac, enjoying the disappearance of the average speed cameras that have welcomed people to Cornwall for the previous two years.

It’s a far cry from the days when booklets were produced to mark the opening of a new road. “The opening of the Preston By-pass marks the beginning of a new era of motoring in Britain,” said the official bumf for Britain’s first motorway in 1958.

As the excellent Chris’s British Road Directory rightly says, we’ve become a little blasé about new roads, cursing them during construction and not giving them a second thought once they have opened.

In fairness, Kier – the company entrusted to handle the construction work – has done an excellent job of keeping motorists updated with progress, even if the completion date is a year behind schedule.

This was the scene at 6.55am, less than an hour after the road officially opened:

It’s not quite finished. There’s still a fair bit of work to do either side of the dual carriageway and the bridge across the A30 at Temple Tor won’t be open until the end of July. But crucially, the holidaymakers who will converge on Cornwall over the coming weeks and months will discover that their west journey is just that little bit easier.

More time to spend on the beach, or at least queueing at the roundabout where the A30 meets the A39 at Carland Cross. 

Here’s a video of our early morning drive on Cornwall’s newest dual carriageway. If nothing else, it shows just how changeable the weather can be on Bodmin Moor. Little wonder the project was delayed by heavy rainfall.

135 drivers hit with lane hogging fines since 2013

135 drivers hit with lane hogging fines since 2013

135 drivers hit with lane hogging fines since 2013

A freedom of information investigation has discovered that just 135 on-the-spot fines have been dished out for lane hogging since police were given new powers to prosecute at the roadside in 2013.

The law was introduced in August 2013, giving police officers the power to fine motorists £100 and hit them with three points on their licence for sitting in the middle lane of the motorway.

Confusingly, of the 45 police forces questioned about the penalties, only 8 were able to give an exact number of lane hoggers they’ve prosecuted – the rest simply classed it as ‘careless driving’.

This offence also covers things like tailgating, undertaking and even driving too slowly – with 1,158 drivers hit with fines for careless driving since 2013. This means the real number of lane hogging fines could be higher, but it still means that only a few hundred lane hoggers are caught each year on average.

The investigation, carried out by Confused.com, mirrors a similar investigation by Motoring Research in 2014 – which found that police on London’s orbital motorway, the M25, dished out just 13 lane hogging fines in the first year since the law was introduced.

Confused.com’s motoring editor, Amanda Stretton, said: “Middle lanes aren’t for coasting in, because this practice can cause congestion and dangerous manoeuvres from other drivers. Not only could you find yourself with a £100 fine or points, but you could put your own life and others at risk.”

Research by the website found that almost one in five (19%) drivers say they have never been taught about middle-lane hogging – as motorways are not included in the practical driving test.

This could help explain why 50% of motorists believe that some drivers aren’t even aware that they’re staying put in the middle lane in the first place.

Worryingly, almost two-fifths (37%) of UK drivers are unaware that middle-lane hogging is an offence punishable by a fine and points on your licence.

empty road Scotland

Shhh: are these Britain’s quietest A-roads?

empty road Scotland

Ah, the joys of the open road. A grey ribbon of tarmac snaking its way through unspoilt countryside, leaving you to enjoy every gear-change and blip on the throttle. Bliss.

Sadly, the reality is somewhat different. Ask anyone who has done the school run, or commuted to work at peak time or tried to get to Glastonbury and they’ll tell you that open roads are few and far between. Truth is: you’ve got to drive a long way to escape congestion.

Indeed, as research conducted by Avis reveals, you’ll need to venture to the far corners of Britain to find traffic-free roads. Using official data from the Department for Transport, Avis has been able to pinpoint the quietest A-roads, defined by the lowest amount of vehicles per kilometre, per year.

A897: It’s oh so quiet

It won’t surprise you to learn that the quietest A-road happens to be in Scotland – more specifically the A897 in the Highlands. The 37.1-mile stretch of road makes its way from Helmsdale to Melvich and was formerly the B872.

But before you pack your bags and head north of the border, hoping for an evocative drive through the Highlands, the A897 doesn’t get a particularly good write-up on the SABRE (Society for All British and Irish Road Enthusiasts) website.

It says: “Whilst it is a very important route for the scattered communities that lie along it, tourists would be better advised to look further west for a real taste of the Highlands.”

A481: Be quiet and drive

The A481 in Powys is ranked second – a 9.9-mile stretch that will be familiar to anyone who has visited the Royal Welsh Showground near Builth Wells. As SABRE points out, the road links the town with “nowhere in particular”, which might explain why it’s so quiet.

Unsurprisingly, none of the A-roads on the list are located in the South, South East or West Midlands, but we’re sure locals will know of their own private rat-runs and roads far from the madding crowd.

The list in full:

  1. A897 – Scotland
  2. A481 – Wales
  3. A3079 – South West
  4. A5091 – North West
  5. A686 – North East
  6. A1111 – East Midlands
  7. A1062 – East Anglia

Avis conducted the research to promote the launch of its new Select Series – a collection of seven cars that give customers peace of mind they’ll get the exact make and model they’ve selected. Cars include the BMW 1-Series, Volvo V60 R-Design Lux Nav, Lexus NX 300h and Hyundai Santa Fe Premium.

Nina Bell of Avis said: “We want to help our customers experience the real joys of driving with limited disruptions and stresses, such as traffic and busy city centre routes. Now with our Select Series range, they can test drive the exact car they want where the distractions are the fantastic and remote landscapes.”

Of course, you don’t need an Avis rental car to experience these roads. An electric car would be more suitable – assuming you have the range required to reach these A-road outposts.

Alternatively, only two new cars meet the standards set by Quiet Mark. One is the Lexus CT200h, the other being the Lexus RX450h. Shhh.

empty road Scotland

Shhh: are these Britain's quietest A-roads?

empty road Scotland

Ah, the joys of the open road. A grey ribbon of tarmac snaking its way through unspoilt countryside, leaving you to enjoy every gear-change and blip on the throttle. Bliss.

Sadly, the reality is somewhat different. Ask anyone who has done the school run, or commuted to work at peak time or tried to get to Glastonbury and they’ll tell you that open roads are few and far between. Truth is: you’ve got to drive a long way to escape congestion.

Indeed, as research conducted by Avis reveals, you’ll need to venture to the far corners of Britain to find traffic-free roads. Using official data from the Department for Transport, Avis has been able to pinpoint the quietest A-roads, defined by the lowest amount of vehicles per kilometre, per year.

A897: It’s oh so quiet

It won’t surprise you to learn that the quietest A-road happens to be in Scotland – more specifically the A897 in the Highlands. The 37.1-mile stretch of road makes its way from Helmsdale to Melvich and was formerly the B872.

But before you pack your bags and head north of the border, hoping for an evocative drive through the Highlands, the A897 doesn’t get a particularly good write-up on the SABRE (Society for All British and Irish Road Enthusiasts) website.

It says: “Whilst it is a very important route for the scattered communities that lie along it, tourists would be better advised to look further west for a real taste of the Highlands.”

A481: Be quiet and drive

The A481 in Powys is ranked second – a 9.9-mile stretch that will be familiar to anyone who has visited the Royal Welsh Showground near Builth Wells. As SABRE points out, the road links the town with “nowhere in particular”, which might explain why it’s so quiet.

Unsurprisingly, none of the A-roads on the list are located in the South, South East or West Midlands, but we’re sure locals will know of their own private rat-runs and roads far from the madding crowd.

The list in full:

  1. A897 – Scotland
  2. A481 – Wales
  3. A3079 – South West
  4. A5091 – North West
  5. A686 – North East
  6. A1111 – East Midlands
  7. A1062 – East Anglia

Avis conducted the research to promote the launch of its new Select Series – a collection of seven cars that give customers peace of mind they’ll get the exact make and model they’ve selected. Cars include the BMW 1-Series, Volvo V60 R-Design Lux Nav, Lexus NX 300h and Hyundai Santa Fe Premium.

Nina Bell of Avis said: “We want to help our customers experience the real joys of driving with limited disruptions and stresses, such as traffic and busy city centre routes. Now with our Select Series range, they can test drive the exact car they want where the distractions are the fantastic and remote landscapes.”

Of course, you don’t need an Avis rental car to experience these roads. An electric car would be more suitable – assuming you have the range required to reach these A-road outposts.

Alternatively, only two new cars meet the standards set by Quiet Mark. One is the Lexus CT200h, the other being the Lexus RX450h. Shhh.

Ministers call for an end to lengthy roadworks

Roadworks TomTom

It’s the news the beleaguered motorist has been waiting for: an end to what feels like roadworks that go on for miles and miles. Highways England is considering proposals to limit the length of roadworks on motorways and A-roads to a maximum of between two and five miles, bringing some relief to commuters.

Government ministers are putting pressure on contractors to shorten the length of roadworks, with the Department for Transport (DfT) calling for “common sense decisions.” A spokesperson for the DfT said: “Our road investment strategy will deliver the biggest upgrade to Britain’s roads in a generation and secure our transport network for the long term.

“But as it is delivered we’ve got to respect the drivers who use our roads every day.

“That means taking common sense decisions to minimise frustrations wherever possible.”

Favourable, if sceptical response to news

Music to the ears of UK motorists? The response on Twitter has been largely favourable, although some are sceptical that the proposed changes will actually take place:

Drivers who have to face the misery of the M3 on a daily basis will undoubtedly welcome the news. Work is currently underway to transform the section between junctions 2 and 4a into a smart motorway, complete with a 50mph limit along a 13.4-mile stretch of road. Construction started last autumn and isn’t expected to be complete until the winter of 2016.

A common sense step?

There are similar works taking place on the M1 and M6 motorways, with drivers resigned to the fact they will face delays to their journey.

Under the proposals, many of the current roadworks would need to be scaled back. The AA’s Edmund King called for more overnight works, with motorway roadworks “limited to 10 miles”, arguing that “more incentives” would encourage contractors to get the work finished on time.

Meanwhile, RAC chief engineer David Bizley, told Motoring Research: “The Government’s road investment strategy has promised motorists the biggest improvement to England’s major roads in a generation. However it is vital that this upgrade is delivered in a way that does not cause unnecessary inconvenience.

“The sight of mile after mile of traffic cones and reduced speed limits, only for work to be taking place on a single small stretch of road, is a source of frustration for motorists. A move to complete major roadworks in phases, which would see motorists encounter shorter ‘bursts’ of temporary speed limits rather than a single one that runs for a long distance, will be seen as a common sense step by drivers.”

£15 billion ‘road revolution’

The government has committed to spend £15 billion before the end of the decade, as part of a ‘roads revolution’ across the country. Planned projects include a smart motorway between junctions 3 and 12 on the M4, along with a similar scheme between junctions 4a and 6 on the M5 in the Midlands. Needless to say, the new proposals will have an impact on the proposed works.

There are currently no timescales attached to the proposals and no guarantee that the limits will be enforced. We’ll bring you more news when we have it.

M42 Motorway

Government announces £15 billion roads plan

M42 MotorwayThe government is to triple spending on roads with a £15 billion plan that will add more than 1300 miles to Britain’s road network.  Read more