Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

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Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby a1adam » Wed Nov 17, 2010 13:11

Just wondering what the logic is, if any?

The A20 runs parallel to the M20 all the way from Swanley to Folkestone. The A2 runs parallel to the M2 all the way from Strood to Faversham. The A40 runs parallel to the M40 from Denham to Wheatley. The A30 happily co-exists with the M3.

So why was the road that runs parallel to the M11 renumbered from the A11?

It also annoys me that the A5 and A6 have had their southern sections renumbered, and the A34 and A41 have had their middle sections renumbered. Worst of all though is the A11, which now disappears for fifty miles between Stratford and Linton.

It just seems so pointless renumbering a historic trunk road to some silly 4 digit number like A1081 or A5183. There seems to be no rationality behind it. Especially when it's done piecemeal and inconsistently.

For example: the A5 through northwest London is a non-primary, basically local route. Yet it's good enough to still be called the A5. The A5 resumes north of the M1 near Redbourne, yet the section inbetween through St Albans is the A5183. Utterly pointless. Particularly as this stretch is just as busy.

The A6 is another good example. It's fine for the barely-driven stretch of the A6 north of Kendal to keep the number, yet when it comes to the always busy stretch from Luton to Barnet, the road has changed number to A1081.

There's nothing wrong with having a non-primary stretch of single-digit A road. The heritage of these routes, plus their continued viability as non-motorway alternatives, is a good reason to keep their historical numbers. A road, especially these historical ones, has a feeling, a distinct character all the way. From South Mimms up to Shap, no matter what town, the A6 always FEELS like the A6!

Throughout my life I have met people from various towns on the A6, and the road is a common denominator (for example, I once attempted matchmaking between a guy who from Leicester and a girl who from Chorley, and the A6 was a shared cultural reference!).

My conclusion is that we should renumber back to the original number all these old routes that continue to run parallel to motorways. I don't subscribe to the argument that these are renumbered to discourage people from using them as through routes...you don't have to be Steven Hawking to realise that a long straight line on a map shadowing a motorway is the old route, whatever number you give it! I can't think of a single person who would ever say: "Ooh I wanted to drive from Epping to Newmarket without going on the M11. But hey ho, as there is no A11 I simply won't bother." Are people really that stupid?!

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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby multiraider2 » Wed Nov 17, 2010 14:01

a1adam wrote:is a Are people really that stupid?!


Assume that everybody on the road is, and you won't go far wrong.

In all seriousness, I would also prefer these routes to keep their identity throughout, but discouraging use by the change of route number is a policy that has been around for a while. I do not know if anyone has actually collected evidence of what effect this does have on potential drivers of the old route.

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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby Ritchie333 » Wed Nov 17, 2010 14:16

a1adam wrote:The A20 runs parallel to the M20 all the way from Swanley to Folkestone.
Actually, it doesn't. There is a gap between M20 junctions 8 and 9 in Ashford where the pre bypass line of the A20 is the A292. This came about because the M20 in this area (or at least part of it) was an online upgrade of the A20.

a1adam wrote:It also annoys me that [list of well known renumberings]
It used to annoy me when I was younger, but I've since got over it. :wink:

A couple of reasons why I think it's done :

* It makes drivers go the way the authorities want them to go, to some extent. Now you and I might well know that the A104 / B1393 / A414 / A1184 / B1383 is the old A11, but your average driver won't and will take the M11 instead.

* It makes various traffic orders such as detrunking, speed limit changes, or other maintenance less ambigious if the downgraded section and the still existent section have different numbers, particularly if they're of different standard and quality, and hence would require different levels of traffic management.

I don't think most people are bothered by road numbers. Around here people might now about the M20, but they probably don't know about the A251, and they definitely don't know about the B2229.
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From the SABRE Wiki: M20 :


The M20 is the London to Folkestone motorway. It is the principal route to the Channel Tunnel from the rest of Britain, and hence one of the busiest. It is notorious for Operation Stack, a congestion managing scheme where goods vehicles queueing for the tunnel and cross-channel ferries are "stacked" along the mainline of the motorway.

Part of the motorway was one of the first to open in Britain, as the A20(M) Maidstone Bypass in 1961, but the motorway was never

... Read More

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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby Matthew » Wed Nov 17, 2010 14:16

Going on a slightly different tangent, I believe that there is the potential for a mentality - if you will - for road numbers which are lower to be consider as a high standard of road. There's some parts of the A5 I'd avoid like the plague as it's just single lane and takes a fair bit of traffic on it.

Does road renumbering offer benefit though? Take what was the old A50 through Northamptonshire, Spratton, Welford, etc. That's been the A5199 for some years now. With it no longer considered a primary route (and there's the added bonus of the A14 of course) did the renumbering go some way to reduce traffic levels in the area?

Above all, I think renumbering any road should be done in a very progressive fashion over a number of years. If it was all to change tomorrow I think it has the potential of confusing a lot of people.

People learn the standards of roads through experience. What the number is, however, is mostly irrelevant.
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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby a1adam » Wed Nov 17, 2010 14:38

Ritchie333 wrote:It used to annoy me when I was younger, but I've since got over it. :wink:


I'm the other way round, the older I get the more these matters get on my wick lol...

Seriously though, my main beef is with the inconsistency of it. The A6 is shadowed all the way by, variously, the M25, the M1 and the M6 (with the exception of the Peak District bit which goes off on its own merry way), and yet it's only a short stretch at the south that has been renumbered. If you wanted to adopt a policy of renumbering former trunk routes, then do it consistently or not at all! What's good for the A30 should be good for the A11.

The underlying point, and the main reason it bugs me I suppose, is that I believe these roads do have an important historic heritage, and I believe we should preserve, at the very least, the original road numbers. Certainly the London radial routes formed the very foundations of our road numbering scheme, so to butcher this system willy-nilly, just to prevent some numpty accidentally driving through Radlett or wherever, seems rather overboard to me. The Romans no longer travel the length of Watling Street in their carriages, yet nobody is suggesting we rename the road.

At Shap summit on the A6, there is a memorial to the drivers who used to use this route to Scotland. Just keeping the original road number is in itself a tribute to those who used these routes before the advent of the motorway.

I know from past debates that the more pragmatic amongst you believe that roads are simply there to get from A to B, but we have a choice nowadays. Take the motorway if you want to get there quickly, but if you'd like to experience a side of historic England that still survives away from the highways, then follow the old routes.

I suppose its a similar argument to the metropolitan counties like Greater London. Avon, Merseyside etc. Pragmatism in the modern world vs cultural identity/heritage.

One good practical argument I could make though is that it is ridiculous to have road numbers with huge great gaps in them. Without that winding chain through Saffron Walden and Bishops' Stortford to connect the two stretches, what does the A11 through Bow have in common with the A11 through Thetford Forest? Ditto the A34 in Manchester and the A34 in Winchester minus the A34 through Bicester.

By severing these routes we effectively create duplicate road numbers and risk making a mockery of the simple-but-effective road numbering system.

But yeah, agreed, not worth losing any sleep over in the great scheme of things 8-)
Last edited by a1adam on Wed Nov 17, 2010 15:19, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby M5Lenzar » Wed Nov 17, 2010 14:51

I agree with the OP's statement that the old route should keep its traditional number. The A38 largely retained its number when bypassed by the M5, although a stretch between Waterloo Cross and Exeter is now the B3181, with various other numbers used for the old road in Exeter.

Why the whole thing can't be A38 is beyond me, tbh.

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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby Chris Bertram » Wed Nov 17, 2010 15:03

a1adam wrote:... the A34 through Bicester.

That was the A41. The A34 went through Woodstock and Stratford-on-Avon. But your point is good nevertheless.
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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby a1adam » Wed Nov 17, 2010 15:09

Chris Bertram wrote:
a1adam wrote:... the A34 through Bicester.

That was the A41. The A34 went through Woodstock and Stratford-on-Avon. But your point is good nevertheless.


I realised that after I wrote it. Well spotted, can't get anything past you guys lol.

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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby Ritchie333 » Wed Nov 17, 2010 15:20

a1adam wrote:The underlying point, and the main reason it bugs me I suppose, is that I believe these roads do have an important historic heritage, and I believe we should preserve, at the very least, the original road numbers.
What do you define as "the original road numbers?" Do you mean the draft list first proposed by the MOT in the summer of 1922, the first actual list published, or the set of numbers that actually appeared on the MOT maps (which are not quite the same)? What about allocations of numbers that turned out to be obvious mistakes (the A1 not going through Scotch Corner was severe enough to have errata printed on the first MOT maps)? What about roads that were allocated but didn't physically exist on the ground (such as the Bristol Portway)?

Also, I'm not sure that all of the original road numbers did correlate particularly to historic routes. Some, like the A1 and the A3 clearly did, but the A5 wasn't the historical coaching route (that ran on the A45 and A41 via Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton), and the A6 was little more than a line on a map.

The allocation of road numbers is fluid and changes all the time - it's impossible to draw the line in the sand.

M5Lenzar wrote:Why the whole thing can't be A38 is beyond me, tbh.
So, by that logic, you would support renumbering the top end of the A38 as the A615, and the bottom end as the A389? :?
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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby Steven » Wed Nov 17, 2010 15:37

Ritchie333 wrote:the A5 wasn't the historical coaching route (that ran on the A45 and A41 via Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton)


And the A464, hence the original route of A41 that ran to Oakengates. :mrgreen:
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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby a1adam » Wed Nov 17, 2010 15:39

Ritchie333 wrote:What do you define as "the original road numbers?" Do you mean the draft list first proposed by the MOT in the summer of 1922, the first actual list published, or the set of numbers that actually appeared on the MOT maps (which are not quite the same)? What about allocations of numbers that turned out to be obvious mistakes (the A1 not going through Scotch Corner was severe enough to have errata printed on the first MOT maps)? What about roads that were allocated but didn't physically exist on the ground (such as the Bristol Portway)?

Also, I'm not sure that all of the original road numbers did correlate particularly to historic routes. Some, like the A1 and the A3 clearly did, but the A5 wasn't the historical coaching route (that ran on the A45 and A41 via Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton), and the A6 was little more than a line on a map.

The allocation of road numbers is fluid and changes all the time - it's impossible to draw the line in the sand.



Hmmm, I see your point. Following my argument to its logical conclusion would mean renumbering roads back to 1922 numbers, through towns and villages bypassed over half a century ago such as Taddington and London Colney on the A6.

For me the problem really occurs when one road number is assigned to different stretches of road no longer contiguous with each other, therefore breaking up continuity of the route. I'm not referring to short multiplexes, but renumbered routes that are basically the same road as the original route.

I also think you have to make a special case for the first 10, because these routes are zone boundaries, and therefore still have a function other than as long-distance primary routes.

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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby M5Lenzar » Wed Nov 17, 2010 15:50

Ritchie333 wrote:
M5Lenzar wrote:Why the whole thing can't be A38 is beyond me, tbh.
So, by that logic, you would support renumbering the top end of the A38 as the A615, and the bottom end as the A389? :?


I am referring to the short section that is needlessly B3181/A379 to be renumbered back to A38. The road should be as it was the day before any M5 related diversions were made in the area, excepting improvements made between then and now, such as the Taunton re-routing.

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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby Bryn666 » Wed Nov 17, 2010 15:54

It rather shows how inconsistent our highway policies are in this country.

Surely if a new motorway opens to relieve an old road, renumbering the old road makes sense. Extending Lenzar's logic, would you ever renumber bypassed A-roads? Perhaps the A1 should still run through the towns it bypasses?

Does anyone here really bemoan the fact there's no A90 between Dunfermline and Perth? Or that the A11 bit the dust? There's no reason for keeping those old numbers except misty eyed nostalgia and a reluctance to let go of the past.
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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby Ritchie333 » Wed Nov 17, 2010 15:57

a1adam wrote:Following my argument to its logical conclusion would mean renumbering roads back to 1922 numbers.
I think the problem with that is that nobody (except road enthusiasts!) has any memory of some of the original route numbers, especially anything before 1935. I can't see many people getting excited about the old road between Scotch Corner and Blackwell being marked as "Historic A687".

In fact, if you try driving some of these roads from end to end, even those that have got the same number, you'll find you're probably in a minority that does so. Unless I was specifically intending to video it for SABRE, I wouldn't consider driving the A2 from end to end, because I know what it's like to get stuck at Chatham Railway Arches enough times now to avoid it like the plague, even though I like some of the sections further east. The A50 is an even more extreme example - I wonder how many people think it goes from Kegworth to Stoke?

Sorry, I could nitpick counter examples all day long if I put my mind to it, but it'll get counterproductive after a while so I'll stop there!

Steven wrote:And the A464, hence the original route of A41 that ran to Oakengates.
Oh yeah, the A464 doesn't go to Nantwich anymore does it? That's what happens when you spend too many evenings calibrating old maps. :oops:
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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby Ritchie333 » Wed Nov 17, 2010 15:58

M5Lenzar wrote:I am referring to the short section that is needlessly B3181/A379 to be renumbered back to A38.

Are you talking about the original route through the centre of Exeter, or the 1930s diversion on the former A378 via Countess Wear? What about the former A38 Cullompton Bypass?

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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby PeterA5145 » Wed Nov 17, 2010 16:00

Bryn666 wrote:Does anyone here really bemoan the fact there's no A90 between Dunfermline and Perth? Or that the A11 bit the dust? There's no reason for keeping those old numbers except misty eyed nostalgia and a reluctance to let go of the past.

But it has been done with ludicrous inconsistency – why has the A11 been downgraded through Essex, but the A38 remains intact from south of Taunton to Birmingham despite parallelling the M5 all the way? Also, if you want to have a "rational" road numbering system, it makes no sense to have discontinuous sections of road with the same number.
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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby Steven » Wed Nov 17, 2010 16:02

Bryn666 wrote:Surely if a new motorway opens to relieve an old road, renumbering the old road makes sense. Extending Lenzar's logic, would you ever renumber bypassed A-roads? Perhaps the A1 should still run through the towns it bypasses?


Realistically, there are two separate issues here:

* A lower class of road is bypassed by a higher class.
* A road is bypassed by an improvement, though the new road is of the same class.

In the second case, then clearly the number needs to be moved and the older road downgraded. The first case, however, is more borderline. We all see how the average driver will follow a blue line, and as next preference will take a green line. This means that whether the bypassed road keeps its old number is moot, as it is clearly bypassed by the new higher classification. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal choice as to whether to downgrade or not bother.

Personally, I'd keep the number and stick white signs on it as a useful diversionary route, but there you go!
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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby Bryn666 » Wed Nov 17, 2010 16:03

I did say it highlights the lack of consistency - it is interesting to note a lot of bypassed routes remained primary up until the early 90s - i.e. the A62, A58, A672.

That said, the A50 between Stoke and Warrington should be a primary route - if the bigger settlements were bypassed it'd be welcome M6 relief.

Ultimately, I suspect it boils down to the NIMBY factor... part of the 'sell' of a road is the old road will be renumbered...
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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby a1adam » Wed Nov 17, 2010 16:07

But Bryn, the point is that the A11 hasn't in fact bitten the dust. It's just had a rather large chunk gouged out of the middle of it!

The sentimental argument is the easier one to demolish rationally, I agree. But not the practical argument against having one road numbered the A11 in Inner London and another road over fifty miles away also called the A11 heading towards East Anglia.

It fundamentally changes the role of our road numbering system if we move away from the basic principle of one road number being assigned to one continuous route, and it's that principle that I feel is being breached by renumbering sections of route.

In other words: a numbered route should start at place X, end at place Y, and it should be possible to drive all the way along it from start to finish.

Even the most hardened, utilitarian-minded of you must raise an eyebrow at the idea of the A4361 NOT really being just another section of the A361. Of course it is!

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Re: Renumbering Roads Parallel To Motorways (eg A11, A5, A6 etc)

Postby Bryn666 » Wed Nov 17, 2010 16:08

It boils down to local politics at the end of the day.

FWIW, I'd have got rid of the A11 in E London as well. It needn't be there.
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