Articles

Explore the road network in serious detail — from historical accounts to investigations, detailed tours of specific roads and biographies of the people who had a major impact on the way we travel.

Wherever these articles take you, they try to help you understand not just what is there, but also why things are the way they are.

Clear and legible 4 March 2017

A century ago, one short memorandum issued by the Ministry of Transport laid the groundwork for a system of standardised, uniform road signs and a great deal more.

Histories

To the Limit 26 March 2016

Speed limits are more emotive and divisive than almost anything else about the road network. How do you sort the fact from the opinion? And how did we end up with the speed limits we have?

Guides

The Heads of the Valleys 24 October 2015

The A465 Heads of the Valleys Road is one of the most spectacular trunk roads in the UK, and building it required some of the most remarkable civil engineering. This is the story of how the road was built in the 1960s, and how it's being rebuilt today.

Routes

Histories

Operation Stack 30 August 2015

If there's trouble crossing the Channel, you'll see the lorries queuing on the M20. What is Operation Stack? Why does it cause so much trouble? And why, more than twenty years after it started, are we still using it?

Routes

Guides

Low Emission Zone 4 November 2014

A first step towards emissions-based road pricing, a pointless measure to enforce something that's happening anyway, or another leap forward in traffic planning from the people who created the Congestion Charge? It's hard to say.

Guides

Road Numbers 19 May 2012

We'd be lost without them. Find your way around road numbering - how it works, how it was done and how it doesn't always work all that well.

Guides

Opening booklets 13 June 2010

In days gone by, new roads were often celebrated with a grand opening ceremony and the issue of a commemorative booklet heralding the exciting new highway. You'll find some of them here, complete with a glimpse of all that empty tarmac and a healthy dose of modernist optimism.

Routes

Histories

Roundabouts 27 February 2010

The UK has been driving in circles for a hundred years now, and this humble road junction has become part of British culture. Just what is so special about roundabouts?

Histories

Burdock Way 20 February 2010

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.

Routes

Histories

Oxfordshire Signs 9 January 2010

This is the story of one man at Oxfordshire County Council who pre-empted the development of modern road signs - much to the annoyance of the men from the Ministry.

Routes

Histories

Sir James Drake 6 December 2008

County Surveyor and Bridgemaster for Lancashire in the 1950s and 60s, Drake was instrumental in the motorway revolution.

Biographies

Timeline 18 October 2008

A whistle-stop tour of the motor age, from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. No pedestrians, horse drawn vehicles, invalid carriages or motorcycles under 50cc please.

Histories

Underways 11 November 2006

Proposed at the same time as the Ringways, but ten times as ambitious - and to think the government considered building them both!

Histories

Daniel "Swampy" Hooper 14 October 2006

Britain's most famous anti-road protester, who shot to fame in the mid-1990s and came to represent the whole environmental movement.

Biographies

EuroRoute 14 October 2006

Today you can catch a train to France. You can even put your car on it, and be there in less than an hour. But in the 1980s, Euro Tunnel had competition - including plans to build a motorway across the English Channel.

Histories

Harry Yeadon 23 June 2006

A civil engineer, working principally in the North West of England, responsible for many of the area's motorways.

Biographies

B7076 and B7078 31 December 2005

What sound at first like a pair of forgotten country lanes turn out to have had a major part to play in the history of Scotland's roads.

Routes
Tags

Tours

Liverpool Inner Motorway 29 May 2004

There's almost no evidence of Liverpool's 1960's plans for an inner ring road on the ground - but the motorway that never materialised would have been astonishing. The full details on the route, and the missing part the M62, are here.

Routes

Histories

M4 in Wales 31 October 2002

One man's account of the building of the M4 through Wales, seen as he grew up in Swansea and witnessed it stage by stage - a tour of the motorway from its construction to the present day.

Routes

Histories