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

Go west! New Ringways pages are here

A new set of Ringways pages are now online, looking at unbuilt motorways and road projects west of London.

No smoke without ire

London's Ultra Low Emission Zone has just expanded to cover the whole inner city, and across the UK, other cities are implementing their own Clean Air Zones. Is this the future?

Devon help us

Road signs are colour coded for different types of road, but in Devon there are more colours than anywhere else. What do Devon's colourful signs mean?

Have you seen...

Burdock Way

The humble West Yorkshire town of Halifax may well be the creator of the most adventurous urban road scheme in the country. It's astonishing, but what was built isn't even the half of it.