"A" roads as opposed to "M" motorways

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LV4-26

Senior Member
Good day forer@s;,

I need a bit of advice here because it's fairly difficult to find a quick google answer in the present case.

This concerns UK. I know 'M', in M1 for instance, refers to a motorway. My question concerns the letter 'A', as in A13.

- Does the 'A' refer to a particular word? If so, which word?
- Could you describe what kind of road it is? Is it simply a dual-carriage road which is not identified as a motorway?

Any additional information appraciated
Jean-Michel
 
  • winklepicker

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    This concerns UK. I know 'M', in M1 for instance, refers to a motorway. My question concerns the letter 'A', as in A13.

    - Does the 'A' refer to a particular word? If so, which word?
    - Could you describe what kind of road it is? Is it simply a dual-carriage road which is not identified as a motorway?
    Hi Jean-Michel.

    No, 'A' is not an abbreviation of a specific word. It just means a main or trunk route, where you would expect a reasonably fast road, plenty wide enough and not too bendy. Sometimes it will be dual carriageway, but not always. We also have 'B' roads, less fast, less wide, more bendy, and 'C' roads: unclassified roads - narrow and bendy. This link should help: it is the official FAQ for SABRE, the Society for All British Road Enthusiasts (I kid you not - we're British, remember!)

    There's also a nice piece of zenophobia...
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I read that 'A road' comes from 'Arterial road' on Wiktionary.
    I suspect that is a myth. The road classes are, depending in where you read, A, B, C, D and U.

    The UK Department for Transport seems to use only A and B (apart from M for motorways). The A and B classification was introduced in 1966, replacing the previous Class I and Class II.
    Source
     

    Aupick

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    I get confused myself sometimes, since there are sections of A road that have an M in parentheses afterwards: you'll find the A1 (M) at various points between london and Edinburgh. I assume it's just that the road at that point has the status of a motorway (speed limits, lane width, slip roads, etc.) but the name of an A road.

    A roads can be dual carriageways, in which case the speed limit will be the same as a motorway (70mph = 110kph)), but they are often just two lanes wide (speed limit 60mph = 90kph) and pass through towns and cities (where the speed limit will drop to 30mph (= 50kph)).

    (In the end, I'm not sure I could point to any differences between British A roads and French routes nationales. B roads are like routes départementales.)
     

    Lora44

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I get confused myself sometimes, since there are sections of A road that have an M in parentheses afterwards: you'll find the A1 (M) at various points between london and Edinburgh. I assume it's just that the road at that point has the status of a motorway (speed limits, lane width, slip roads, etc.) but the name of an A road.
    Ah yes, I read about this on Wikipedia:

    Some sections of "A" roads have been improved to the same standard as motorways, but do not completely replace the existing road; they form a higher standard part of the A-road route. These sections retain the "A" road designation, but are suffixed (M). Examples include:
    There have been occasions where this designation has been used to indicate motorway bypasses of an existing road, but the original retains the A road designation. Examples include:
     
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