Road Numbers

It might not be to everybody's taste, but the subject of road numbering in Britain is surprisingly interesting. No, really! This section explores the alphanumeric designations of Great Britain's roads in detail, covering the way the separate numbering systems work for all-purpose roads and for motorways, how the system was created in the early twentieth century, and some of its curiosities. It also features a very enjoyable account of the numbering scheme, written when it was still something of a novelty.

From A1 to B9178, the simple and straightforward system that puts every number in its place.

Numbers for motorways from M1 to M898, and also the confusing question of those Ax(M) designations.

Numbers that are misplaced, lost, found, recycled, invented, evolved, duplicated, doubted, mistaken or just plain wrong.

The process of actually handing all those numbers out, and why it was ever attempted in the first place, is well worth a look.

In autumn 1934 a journalist turned up at the Ministry of Transport hoping to gather some information for an article about road numbering. This is what he wrote.

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Picture credits

  • The photograph of the C14 signs appears courtesy of Mike Burns.

In this section

What's new

South London's lost motorways

Completing the story of London's epic Ringways, we've just published the Southern Radials, five more motorways that never saw the light of day.

To the north east!

Two new additions to our collection of Opening Booklets take us to Darlington and Middlesbrough.

The ghost junction

The only UK motorway that didn’t connect to ordinary roads finally got its own interchange in 2019. But it's not open, because it still doesn’t touch any ordinary roads.

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Junction Three

The M621 has one junction where everything leaves the motorway and heads for the city, and a very bizarre junction it is too.

About this page

Published19 May 2012

Last updated23 February 2017