Essex is quite big. If you don't regularly go there, you might not notice. It doesn't have any cities and it's not famous for taking up a lot of space. But it does have an astonishing array of very big towns, and in between them it has an awful lot of countryside. It's with this in mind that, in recent years, Essex County Council has attempted to help people cover those distances more quickly.
The A120 is part of that strategy. It forms an east-west route across the middle of the county, and links Stansted Airport with Colchester, the port of Harwich and the vital M11 and A12. If you're not from the area you probably won't know it and you almost certainly wouldn't be aware that, in 2003, Essex County Council opened the first phase of their improvement works: 20 miles of brand new dual carriageway, on a completely new line, to replace the existing road between Stansted and Braintree.
There was no fanfare when it opened, but this is, in all but name, the first link of a brand new cross-country motorway: it covers a huge distance (in fact it goes most of the way to linking the M11 and A12 in one shot), has only a few grade-separated junctions miles and miles apart, and even has its own motorway-style rest area near Great Dunmow. This is big thinking for a local authority scheme. And it's a brilliantly fast, smooth ride.
When it opened in 2003 it was hoped that it would soon be extended east on a new line to the A12, and connected to an upgrade of the A130 from Chelmsford to Great Dunmow. Those have not, of course, happened; the first of those schemes was knocked back in a public inquiry and is effectively shelved while the second has never really got off the ground. It's a shame, because Essex really is a big place, and this sort of visionary thinking is a rare commodity.