The A465 is a major road in south Wales. That part of it westwards from Abergavenny is more commonly known as the Heads of the Valleys Road because it joins together the northern ends (or 'heads') of the South Wales Valleys. This section is also officially known as the Neath to Abergavenny Trunk Road. It approximately follows the southern boundary of the Brecon Beacons National Park, and an Ordnance Survey Pathfinder guide describes it as the unofficial border between rural and industrial South Wales. It provides a more direct and toll-free route between Northern England and the Midlands to South West Wales and Ireland.
The A465 runs southwest from Bromyard towards Hereford. It joins the A4103 just before Hereford. It starts again at Hereford, crosses the Wales-England border over the River Monnow, continues south-west to Abergavenny then west to Brynmawr, then continues west through the heads of the valleys region, past Ebbw Vale, Tredegar, Rhymney, Merthyr Tydfil, Hirwaun and Glynneath. Near Glynneath, the road heads down along the floor of the Vale of Neath bypassing Resolven, Neath and Skewen before terminating at its junction with the M4 motorway, junction 43, at Llandarcy.
Until 1996, the A465 ran for most of its length in the Vale of Neath – between Glynneath and Aberdulais – along a narrow single-carriageway road, now redesignated as the B4242. The high accident rate on this stretch was one of the factors leading to the construction of a new dual-carriageway section (the "Missing Link") between these points. All of the final section of the A465, from Hirwaun to Llandarcy, is now, therefore, dual carriageway.
The highest point (signposted) of 1,350 feet (410 m) is on the Ebbw Vale section. It now has a new dual carriageway and slip roads between Dowlais Top and Tredegar via Rhymney. At Dowlais Top there are link roads such as the A4060, which runs down to the south end of Merthyr Tydfil and links with the A470, and the A4054 which goes through Merthyr Vale and Aberfan. Another link is the A4102 which leads into Dowlais and Merthyr Tydfil Town Centre. Finally, the A465 passes Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, then continues to Cefn Coed y cymmer (North End of Merthyr Tydfil), then leads to the A470 link and then continues down the west side of the valley to Neath.
Even before the construction of the first road across the Heads of the Valleys in the 1960s, with the A465 Neath-Abergavenny trunk road opening in 1964, concerns and complaints were made about the capacity and safety of its single carriageway, three-lane design.
In 1990 a regional traffic study identified the need for improvement of the A465. In 1994 alternatives were presented for Public Consultation for the improvement of the 25-mile length between Abergavenny and Hirwaun connecting the existing A465 dual-carriageway link to Swansea and the M4 motorway to the A40 which is an important part of the link to the M50 motorway and much of England. In July 1995 the then Secretary of State for Wales announced the Preferred Route. This mainly consisted of widening the existing road to provide a dual carriageway standard with grade-separated junctions (and extra climbing lanes on certain hills) between Abergavenny and Hirwaun. The design was developed and a draft Line Order was published in 1997. This was tested at Public Local Inquiry in 1998 after which the Secretary of State for Wales announced the decision to proceed with the scheme in 1999.
Much of the land on the route is undulating, but despite this, the preferred route alignment is considered to be high standard and will allow most of the route to have the national speed limit applying — 70 mph (110 km/h) for cars, 60 mph (97 km/h) for coaches and 50 mph (80 km/h) for HGVs.
The scheme was split up into 7 sections, with sections 6 and 7 later being combined into a single scheme for the purposes of construction. The First Minister has stated on a number of occasions, the promise that the dualling of the road will be complete by 2020.
The Upgrade sections are:
The section between Llandarcy and Hirwaun is already dual carriageway. Construction works began on section 4 (Tredegar to Dowlais Top) in early spring 2002, and were completed by November 2004. Construction of section 1 (Abergavenny to Gilwern) began in February 2005. This section is a largely on-line upgrade of the existing single-carriageway road. This section was completed on 22 May 2008.
The contract for Section 3 - Brynmawr to Tredegar was awarded to Carillion Plc in March 2010 with planning commencing soon after, it was announced in August 2012 that approval for the scheme to commence had been given and that construction should commence by the end of 2012 with completion due by early 2015. In keeping with the previously completed sections, a scheme website has been launched.
Planning for Section 2 - Gilwern to Brynmawr started in June 2011 and construction began in January 2015 and is expected to last until 2017. Further information can be found on the scheme's website.
The National Transport Plan, published in March 2010, expected Brynmawr to Tredegar to be completed by 2014 and Gilwern to Brynmawr started by the same date. The remaining sections from Dowlais Top to the A470, and from the A470 to Hirwaun were to be completed by 2020. Speaking in the Senedd in August 2010, the First Minister said completion of the A465 upgrade was the ultimate solution to the high number of casualties on the road.