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Sweden

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Sweden
Sverige
Location Map ( geo)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (36)
Country code S
Drives on:  right
Route prefixes:  E, R, L
Traffic light sequence:  green · amber · red ·
 red+amber
Signage colour
Motorway:  green
Main road:  blue
Other:  white
Units
Long distances:  kilometres
Short distances:  metres
Heights:  metresFuel:  litres
General data
Population:  10,223,505 (2018)
Area:  450,295 km2
Currency:  Krona SEK (kr)
Time zone:  GMT+1 (summer: GMT+2)
Internet TLD code:  .se
International dialling code:  +46
Capital City:  Stockholm
Borders
Denmark, Finland, Norway

Sweden is a country in Northern Europe.

Roads

Motorways

Motorways (motorvägen) in Sweden are signed in green, and as per other countries marks the start of motorway restrictions with chopsticks signs. Generally speaking, most motorways are of two lanes in each direction, with the exception of some urban motorways near the big cities, where three or four lanes can be seen.

Sweden has a second class of motorway, known in English as an expressway (motortrafikled). These are designed to a lesser standard, sometimes with a single lane in one or both directions. Some of these expressways have been rebuilt from older single carriageways that had a third lane in the centre - rather like our S3 roads in the UK.

Motorways and Expressways can be part of a National Route (Riksväg) or a County Route (Lansväg), but its number will remain the same.

The first proper motorway standard road in Sweden was the 17km stretch of the E4 between Malmö and Lund. This four lane was opened in 1952-3, and was designated as a motorway in 1957.

Until the 2010s, motorway junctions were not numbered, and were referred to by name. The term "motet" or "trafikplats" denote a motorway junction in Swedish, and so you will get junction names such as Trafikplats Tureberg or Fiskmotet. In the late 1990s, junction numbering started to appear. This is shown on signs as a small yellow square with a stylised junction symbol with the number.

In both types of motorway, pedestrians, non-motorised vehicles and slow moving vehicles are prohibited.

Toll roads

Roads on the Swedish network are free to use, there are no toll roads, and motorway vignettes are not required.

Some city centres have, or are planning congestion/environmental charges. Currently Stockholm and Gothenburg have charges to enter and travel around the city - some of the main roads passing through the cities will also attract the charge. Fees are due when passing under each toll gantry, and can be paid online.

State run ferries across lakes and rivers are generally free to use.

Highway numbering

Numbered Swedish roads do not carry a letter prefix (e.g. A1, M2 etc.) to denote the quality of the road. The only exception is for the trans-European E Roads. Spurs are denoted using decimal points - for example the road that goes over the Älvsborg Bridge in Gothenburg is the E6.20, being a spur of the E6.

E Roads

E Roads in Sweden form the backbone of the road network. In general, they are built to a high standard. The main routes, such as the E4 and E6 are built to motorway standard in many places in the south. In the north, and in less trafficked areas, the E Roads can be S2+1 (usually with a central wire barrier) or even standard S2. The E45, for example, has sections that pass through remote towns and villages as it would not be economical to bypass them.

Some of the road numbers, such as E4 and E6, do not follow the modern numbering convention for E Roads as the Swedish authorities used the old numbering system on all signage. It was decided that it would be too costly and inconvenient to renumber and resign the roads.

E Roads in Sweden
Route Length From To Notes
E4 1590km Haparanda (Finnish Border) Helsingborg (ferry to Denmark) Starts in Torneå, Finland - approximately 1km from the Swedish border. Motorway/expressway standard as far north as Gävle, with a few motorway improvements in the north.
E6 480km Svinesund (Norwegian Border) Trelleborg (ferry to Germany, Poland, Lithuania) Main west coast route, connecting Oslo and Copenhagen by continuous motorway, via Malmö and Gothenburg. Fully upgraded to motorway standards apart from last 4km to Trelleborg.
E10 470km Riksgränsen (Norwegian Border) Luleå West-East route through the far north. Mainly a two lane single carriageway route.
E12 460km (Norwegian Border) Holmsund (ferry to Finland) Runs via Umeå. Known as the "Blue Road" as it follows the Umeälven river.
E14 350km Storlien (Norwegian Border) Sundsvall Road starts in Trondheim, Norway.
E16 360km (Norwegian Border) Gävle From Bergen and Oslo. Is the dominant multiplex with the E45 between Torsby and Malung.
E18 511km (Norwegian Border) Kapellskår (ferry to Finland) Principal route between Oslo and Stockholm.
E20 770km Öresund Bridge (Danish Border) Stockholm Muliplexes with E6 between Malmö and Gothenburg, then runs east via Örebro.
E22 560km Trelleborg Norrköping (E4) Runs along the southern and eastern coast, via Kalmar.
E45 1680km Gothenburg Karesuando (Finnish Border) Mainly S2 road, except for the Gothenburg - Trollhättan.
E65 58km Malmö Ystad A short section of the route that runs along the south coast of Scania.
E265 0km E18 Kapellskår (ferry to Estonia) The route from Sweden to Estonia was numbered E265 in 2010. The ferry is the starting point of the route, so technically no road in Sweden has this number.

National Roads

National Roads (Riksvägen) are the next most important roads in Sweden. They tend to run cross country, and form a network of high quality routes between most major towns and cities. Riksvägen can be identified as they have road numbers from 9 to 99 (1-8 aren't used). The lower numbers start at the south end of the country, and increase as you go northwards.

Most routes are single carriageway, with occasional S2+1 and D2 sections. However some sections, such as Route 40 from Gothenburg to Alingsås have been upgraded to motorway standards.

County Roads

County Roads (Lansvägen) are the lowest class of roads to have their numbers shown on signage and on maps. There are two categories of Lansvägen - until 2017 they were known as Secondary and Tertiary Roads, now they are known as "Primary County Roads" and "Other County Roads".

"Primary County Roads" have a common numbering system throughout Sweden. Generally, they have three digits, and run from 100 in the south, and increase to 499 in the north. Contrary to the name, the roads cross county boundaries regularly. These roads are signed and shown on maps.

"Other County Roads" have their own number series in each county, from 500 upwards, and can be three or four digits. Each of these roads are prefixed with their respective County Letter - for example O 533 is a road in Gothenburg ("O" being the letter for Västra Götaland County), and H 759 is a rural route in Kalmar County. The road numbers are generally not seen on maps or signage.

Signage

An iconic Swedish sign, the elk warning sign is often stolen by tourists!

Signage follows the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, and therefore all warning and regulatory signs will be familiar to European motorists. In common with other Nordic countries, Swedish signs have a yellow background instead of the usual white. This is to aid drivers in snowy conditions.

Directional signage is white-on-green on motorway standard roads, and white-on-blue for other roads. Local signage can be black-on-white, and private roads (i.e. those not maintained by the state/local council) can be signed as black-on-yellow with a red border.

Overhead gantries for direction signage are used more regularly than in the UK, as direction arrows would become invisible during snowy periods.

Speed limits

The following is a rough guide. All speed limits are signed explicitly at the start of each section of road:

  • 50km/h - Urban. Many residential areas have a recommended 30km/h limit.
  • 70km/h - rural roads - unless signposted otherwise. Speeds can be as high as 90km/h on high quality main roads, and up to 100km/h on dualled sections.
  • 110km/h - typical rural motorway speed limit. On some quieter, more modern motorways 120km/h is permitted. Some urban motorways can have limits as low as 70km/h due to heavy traffic, complex junctions or tunnels. Variable speed limits are common on busy sections.

Speed cameras ("Fartcamera") are common on main roads, and can be difficult to spot. Police can also set up mobile speed traps. Fines are levied based on income level, and are more serious in residential areas.

Switch from Driving on the Left to Driving on the Right

Sweden had left-hand traffic (Vänstertrafik) until 1967. Despite this virtually all cars in Sweden were left-hand drive and the neighbouring countries already drove on the right. This caused confusion and accidents at the borders. In 1955 a referendum was held, and the public voted by large majority (83%) to continue on the left. However, as the roads became busier, Parliament approved a 1963 proposal and the change was to be made on the 3rd September 1967 - known as "Dagen H" (H-day, standing for "Högertrafik" or right traffic).

A huge campaign was made in the four years leading up to Dagen H, including a distinctive logo that appeared on many items. Nearer the date, new signage was erected and covered over with black plastic. New lines and arrows were painted on the roads and covered with tape. This was made slightly less confusing as the standard colour for road lining changed from yellow to white at this time.

On the day, all non-essential traffic was banned from the roads from 01:00 to 06:00. Any vehicles on the roads during that time had to follow special rules. All vehicles had to come to a complete stop at 04:50, then carefully change to the right-hand side of the road and stop again before being allowed to proceed at 05:00. In some towns the ban was longer to allow complicated intersections to be reconfigured. Many tram networks were scrapped (only Gothenburg and Norrköping's survived) as the trams had the doors on the wrong side. Curiously, the rail network and Stockholm subway still follow the left hand rule - trains "swap sides" as they travel from Copenhagen.

The relatively smooth changeover saw a temporary reduction in the number of accidents due to caution because of the novelty of right hand driving. However accident levels soon returned to their original levels.

Vehicle registration

Vehicle number plates are black text on a white background. They are reused when vehicles are scrapped and exported, and are generated at random.

Until 2020, they contained three letters followed by three numbers. As there was a shortage of available numbers/letter to reuse, some number plates now have three letters, three numbers, and then an additional letter.

Trailers and caravans have a separate number to the vehicle that they are being towed by.

The previous system, in use up to the 1960s, used the County Letter (as per the county road numbering above) and up to five numbers, for example M12345 would be a vehicle registered in Malmöhus/Skåne County.




Sweden
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