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Ascension Island

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Map (geohack)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (11)
Drives on:Left
Route prefixes:none
Long distances:miles
Short distances:yards
General data
Area:34 sq mi (88km2)
Currency:St Helena Pound
Time zone:GMT
Internet TLD
International dialling code:+247
Capital City:Georgetown

Ascension Island is a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic, forming part of the same territory as St Helena and Tristan da Cuhna. The majority of the island's population is related to the RAF/USAF Air Base on the island, and tourism which is largely due to Ascension's stepping-stone role on the way to/from St Helena or the Falklands. The Americans technically operate the Air Base, and pay a nominal lease to the Government for the substantial tracts of land they occupy. Whilst this allows Ascension to operate without UK Government subsidy, it also means that the number of flights the MOD are allowed to operate (civilian flights are not allowed) is controlled, so minimising the tourism potential.

There are 4 settlements on the island. Georgetown is the main port and administrative centre. Two Boats is the other main civilian residential settlement, originally built as the RAF accommodation, but now used by support staff and RAF families on long contracts. Nearby Travellers Hill is now the main RAF base for the transient staff. Finally Cat Hill is home to the US contingent. However, at present there are realtively few US nationals on the island, and so many of the residents at Cat Hill are Saints (natives of St Helena).



Most roads are single carriageway 2 lane Asphalt. The main Ring Road and link to the Airport and into Georgetown are Asphalt (looks a little like AC10) with surface dressing over the top. Unconfirmed reports suggest the Americans brought in a large Hot Mix plant at some stage to lay all these roads and then took it away again afterwards. Other roads look like a microasphalt with very little structural construction below. There are unconfirmed and conflicting reports that Ascension Island Government have just bought a small 4-8 TPH Asphalt Plant for repair work.

Signage and Road Markings

There is a heavy mixture of British and American road markings and signs, possibly some are home-made layouts. Centre line is normally either dotted whites, single solid white or single solid yellow. The latter seems to indicate roads built by the Americans. However, often they’re too faded to really tell.

Signs are few and far between, ‘Stop’ is used in preference to ‘Give Way’ and there are also Irish style ‘Yield’. Where Stop Lines are used, they often seem to be set back at the start of the flare for the junction, making it difficult to see traffic on the main road. This may be due to the scrub growing since the junctions were first set out! Bend warning signs when they occur are UK standard, but often with the accompanying plate ‘dangerous bend’. There are also a lot of US spec signs on the island, particularly around Cat Hill, the US base. Many of these are reminders to wear seat belts!

Pavements and Traffic Calming

There are many speed humps in the urban 20 zones, all seem to severe for UK standards as they’re generally round concrete and quite high. Cattle Grids also feature quite prominently at the entrance to urban areas.

Typical pavement in Georgetown

Pavements can be found in some of the urban areas, but are often intermittent. They are generally Concrete, with no concept of DDA so no dropped kerbs or links to other surfaced areas, including the road they run parallel to. There are no apparent cycleways, and only a handful of adults seem to cycle.

In Georgetown, and to a lesser extent Cat Hill, the natural ground material seems to be black clinker - essentially black volcanic gravel resembling poorly sealed tarmac with new chippings. Combined with the general lack of garden ground around many buildings, and so wide gaps between properties, this has led to the distinction between road and not road being blurred. Some effort has been made to control the movements of vehicles, with white-painted stones placed across 'junctions' to block traffic.

Network Description

Ascension has 6 main surfaced routes, a number of side roads and many miles of dirt road. The side roads not only provide access to property in the urban areas, but also to the various military installations dotted around the island. These are often to be found on the top of hills, resulting in steep climbs with sharp bends. Dirt roads are open to the public, and some even have road signs, but are often only suitable for 4x4s. The two main car-hirers on the island request that their cars do not leave the surfaced roads (they also hire 4x4s, which can).

The most important road on the island is the Airhead Road linking Georgetown with the Airfield, passing through Cat Hill. The other two settlements are linked together via Old Mountain Road and New Mountain Road. Finally, there are 3 routes which lead to various installations on the edge of the island, namely the English Bay Road leading to the BBC relay station, the Ariane Road (also called the North East Bay Road) leading to the Ariane Tracking Station and the NASA Road leading to the former NASA site in the south east of the island.

Vehicle Registration

Vehicles on Ascension seem to be registered to one of three systems. The majority (over 1300) use the standard Government system with an A prefix, ie A1 - A1312 etc. The vehicles belonging to the Administrator are AA1 and AA2. In addition, there are a number of UK MOD vehicles, with standard MOD plates. The third system is that seen on US vehicles. This is presumably a US based system, with a substantial number of 97X12345 style plates (97 = 1997?), but newer vehicles (ie starting 03 / 07 etc) seem to lose the X.