Motorway symbol in Europe and some
countries outside Europe.
has defined a motorway as:
- French Equivalent: Autoroute
- Road, specially designed and built for
motor traffic, which does not serve
properties bordering on it, and which:
- :(a) is provided, except at special points or temporarily,
with separate carriageways for the
two directions of traffic, separated from each other, either by a
dividing strip not intended for traffic, or exceptionally by other
- :(b) does not cross at
level with any road, railway or tramway track, or
- :(c) is specially sign-posted as a motorway and is reserved
for specific categories of road motor vehicles.
- Entry and exit lanes of motorways are included
irrespectively of the location of the sign-posts. Urban
motorways are also included.
Motorways are identical to freeways
road type, and comparable to the United States's Interstate Highway
English-speaking countries the term is used in the United Kingdom, some parts of Australia,
Zealand, Pakistan, some other
Commonwealth nations, and
Ireland (a motorway is also called a mótarbhealach
(plural: mótarbhealaí) in Irish).
In Ireland, a road built to
motorway standard, but without the designation (and the regulations
and traffic restrictions resulting from that designation), is known
as a High-quality dual
Regulations and features
In Ireland, Hungary and the UK, motorways are denoted by an 'M',
prefixed (e.g. M1
) or suffixed (e.g.
A1) road number and blue signage, distinguishing them
from A-roads or N-roads, which are signed in green.
at odds with some countries elsewhere in Europe
, where the colours are reversed. In New
Zealand, motorways are distinguished from regular state highways
with the word 'Motorway' on entrance signage. New Zealand's
motorways had green signage while everywhere else had black, until
green signage was spread to the entire State Highway network by
Transit New Zealand
The construction and surfacing of motorways is generally of a
higher standard than conventional roads, and maintenance is carried
out more frequently; in particular, motorways drain water very
quickly to reduce hydroplaning/aquaplaning
road surface is generally asphalt
(popularly referred to as tarmac
) or portland cement concrete
features are crash barriers
, cat's eye
and, increasingly, textured road
markings (a similar concept to rumble-strips
This 'motorway ahead' sign is used at
each entrance to Irish motorways.
The UK had similar signage before it was phased out.
For a road to be classified as motorway the OECD conditions
described above must apply. The implications of these conditions
- Accessed at junctions by slip roads
off the sides of the main carriageway or joined by link-roads at an interchange, the object of which
is to allow traffic to change route without stopping or slowing
- Traffic lights are seldom
neccessary except at toll booths and to control the number of
vehicles entering the motorway from the slip road during busy
periods) - see ramp meter;
- Certain types of transport are banned, typically pedestrians, bicycles,
learner driver, horses, agricultural vehicles,
underpowered vehicles (e.g. small scooter, invalid carriages).
Republic of Ireland, the "Motorway Ahead" sign at every motorway
junction lists the excluded classes of vehicles (this sign was also
formerly used in the United Kingdom - from which the Irish version is based - but has
been almost entirely phased out). In the UK, the last
junction a road becomes a motorway is signed for 'prohibited
traffic'. In most Australian states, a sign for "Motorway Entrance"
or "Freeway Entrance" was put at the start of these roads, but
these too are being phased out. In New Zealand, a no pedestrians
and no cycles sign precede the "Motorway Begins" sign.
In the UK and the Republic of Ireland there are further
Note that these only apply to roads directly designated as
motorways. Roads may also be indirectly designated as
such, see Inheritance below.
central reservation with a
continuous crash barrier (an exception being the Aston Expressway in Birmingham which has an empty lane instead and a section of
the M40 in Warwickshire, with an unusually wide grass verge
separating the carriageways). With effect from January 2005
and based primarily on safety grounds, the UK’s Highways Agency's policy is that all new
motorway schemes are to use high containment concrete step barriers in the central
reserve. All existing motorways will introduce concrete barriers
into the central reserve as part of ongoing upgrades and through
replacement as and when these systems have reached the end of their
useful life. This change of policy applies only to barriers in the
central reserve of high speed roads and not to verge side barriers.
Other routes will continue to use steel barriers. The Republic of
Ireland has similarly introduced concrete barriers instead of its
former policy of wide grass medians (the UK and Ireland share the
same Design Manual
for Roads and Bridges).
- Emergency telephones (which
connect directly to the police, except in
England where they connect you directly to the nearest Highways
Agency Regional Control Centre who will send either their own
officers (HATO's) or other emergency services
as required) are provided at a regular intervals (in the UK
emergency telephones are situated at intervals of 1 mile, and at
2km in Ireland)
- no roundabouts apart from at the start and finish (some
- Hard shoulder available most of
- Other roads are connected at motorway interchanges only. No
roads join at any other point except for maintenance access.
- Most junctions are numbered
Traffic on a motorway is required to keep moving, except in
exceptional circumstances (cases where traffic queues have built
up, the vehicle has broken down, or the driver has been instructed
to stop by a police
officer). A minimum speed
limit of 50km/h applies in the Republic of Ireland.
A motorway in the UK, whether by design or inheritance, must have a
defining a stretch of road and sliproads as a special road
under the Highways Act 1980
. In the Republic of
Ireland, a Motorway Scheme must be made under the Roads Act
prior to the road's construction. Alternatively, a
the stretch of road as a motorway may also be made under the
Roads Act 2007
, however this process may only be used for
either open, in planning, or under construction on
the day the Act was signed into law.
significantly higher than that of other roads, and the speed limits
correspondingly higher, although
some types of vehicle, such as heavy goods vehicles, may be subject
to lower limits.
In the United Kingdom the speed limit for motorways and some
dual-carriageways is . Many HGVs
to . UK motorways originally had no speed limit, and were designed
for traffic travelling up to . Although the design speed of 100 mph
remains, the majority of UK motorways and dual carriageways are now
subject to the national speed limit of 70 mph for motorcars and
motorcycles; some may have lower limits for various local reasons.
A UK Department
for Transport (DfT) study at several sites in 2006 showed that
over half of all motorway traffic was travelling in excess of this
In 2004 the Conservative Party
increasing the motorway speed limit to on some stretches, although
this did not appear in their 2005 election manifesto. The Association of British
supported the proposal, as they claimed it more closely
represents the normal (and, they claim, safe) driving practice of
the majority of motorway users.
In Ireland the speed limit for motorways and some dual-carriageways
is 120 km/h (75 mph). In certain sections of motorway the
speed limit is 100 km/h, however the vast majority of the
network is 120 km/h.
In Pakistan, the speed limit on motorway was 140 km/h (87 mph)
for light vehicles and 120 km/h (75 mph) for heavy vehicles;
however later it was restricted to 120 km/h (75 mph) for light
vehicles and 110 km/h (68 mph) for heavy vehicles.
Zealand the speed limit on motorways and other dual carriageways is
normally the top limit for state highways, 100 km/h (62 mph),
with restrictions in some areas, such as the Auckland Harbour
Bridge and Central Motorway Junction (both have limits of 80 km/h (50
In Turkey, the speed limit on motorways is 120 km/h.
Germany has no general speed limit on its motorways (Autobahn
); there are only particular speed limits
e.g. at dangerous sections, sections with traffic jam hazards, road
works or at some motorways through cities.
In Poland, it is discussed in the Sejm
the expressway speed limits from 110 km/h (70 mph) to
120 km/h (75 mph), and on motorways from 130 km/h (81
mph) to 140 km/h (89 mph)
In Italy the speed limit on motorways generally is 130 km/h
(80 mph), however it is 150 km/h (93 mph) on some good 3+3
In France and Luxembourg the speed limit on motorways generally is
130 km/h, however it is 110 km/h in rain or if there is
water on the road.
The lowest speed limit on motorways in any country in Europe is
Norway, where the limit usually is 100 km/h (the basic speed
limit is 80, but most motorways have been given 100 as
In Hong Kong the speed limit ranges between 70 to 100 km/h.
expressway, the North Lantau Expressway that connects the Chek Lap Kok
International Airport, has a speed limit at 110 km/h.
Most motorway carriageways comprise a main running surface, with a
along one edge, and a
median or central reservation
separating it from the other
carriageway along the other edge. The hard shoulder is generally
provided for use in emergencies, such as breakdowns, only. However
the M42 in the UK has a system whereby a small section of the hard
shoulder can be used as an extra lane during busy periods.
The nearside edge (the edge up against the hard shoulder) of the
running surface is marked with a solid white line, or in Ireland, a
solid yellow line. The offside edge of the running surface (the
edge nearest to the median) is marked with a solid white line. The
running surface is divided into lanes by white dashed lines. On the
M42 in the UK, the hard shoulder line is not textured because it is
frequently used as a running lane.
In the UK and Ireland the lanes in a given direction are numbered
sequentially from the nearside (hard shoulder) as lane 1, lane 2,
lane 3, etc.
The lane closest to the hard shoulder is generally intended for
normal steady driving, while the other lane or lanes, those closer
to the median, are intended for overtaking or passing slower-moving
vehicles. Vehicles are expected to use the nearside-most lane which
is clear. The Highway Code
for the UK
states that vehicles must pass on the right, unless in heavy
traffic or when turning left. Similar rules apply on German
and in some other countries. In
heavy traffic it may be acceptable to cruise in any lane and to
pass slower vehicles on either side to avoid constant lane
The N4/M50 interchange in Ireland, is
a partially unrolled cloverleaf interchange
The most basic motorway junction
is a two-lane flyover
with four slip-roads,
two on each side of the motorway, to exit or enter. A simple
crossroads or roundabout
is present at
each end of the flyover. A rather large version of a roundabout,
using two curved flyovers, is sometimes used to present a single
large junction for users of the slip-roads or crossing road. The
slip roads leading off the motorway are known as 'exit sliproads',
those leading onto the motorway as 'entry sliproads'. The precise
sliproad at any junction may be identified by reference to the
direction of the carriageway, for example 'northbound entry
roundabout is often used in these situations and has become
very common in Ireland.
greater degree of complexity is present in Britain, with varying
types of Spaghetti Junction-style interchanges.The M50 Western Parkway in
Dublin is going through a major upgrade with spaghetti style
junctions being introduced to relieve traffic
Motorway junctions are usually given a
, indicated in the UK and in Ireland with a white number
on a black background in the corner of signs approaching that
junction. The same junction number is used in both directions on
the motorway. Sometimes, where a junction is newly inserted between
two existent junctions, it will be given a letter also (e.g. 2A).
In Ireland, the junction numbering has only been used consistently
on the M50
since it was
opened, however a junction numbering scheme is now being applied to
all motorways. This has necessitated certain junctions being
renumbered on the M7 (and, in future, on the M4). In Auckland, New Zealand, exit numbers are distance-based, and
are indicated by a green sign reading "Exit XXX" (e.g.
441) on top of exit signage.
In Ireland, when two motorways meet, it is often the end
point/start point of one of the motorways. The motorway that is
ending usually blends into the other at a restricted junction,
permitting traffic to exit and enter the motorway from one
direction only. Examples of this are the M4/M6 junction, the M7/M9
junction, and the under-construction M8/M7 junction. These
junctions can cause frustration for road users, who must travel to
the next available junction and then change direction to use the
Location and construction
Matrix warning sign as found on British motorways
Major intercity or national routes are often built or upgraded to
motorway standard. Motorways are also commonly used for ring roads
around cities or bypass
of built-up areas. In New Zealand,
motorways tend to only occur in large cities, for purposes of
taking commuters between the suburbs and the central city.
In Britain there are plans to improve many motorways as well as to
upgrade some roads to motorway status. In Ireland, the National Roads Authority
connecting main cities
motorways as part of a six-year National Development Plan
has part-funded many
motorway projects in the past, as part of a Trans-European Transport
, and there are plans to invest billions of euro
in such projects in the next ten years, though
this could be postponed due to the economic climate.
the most recently constructed motorways in the UK is the M6 Toll, bypassing Birmingham and Wolverhampton, which opened in 2004 and is the only completely
toll motorway in England.
There are tolled sections of motorway on
, where they cross the River Severn at the
. Although the crossing
of the River Thames east of London on the M25 is tolled,
the bridge and tunnels themselves are officially designated the
A282 to permit usage by non-motorway
In Ireland, the M1
all have tolled sections, and
under construction sections of the M3
also due to have
UK and in
Ireland certain types of traffic are not permitted on
Thus, to avoid people being forced to travel
illegally, there are a number of rules about stretches of road
which must be designated as motorways.
In all cases, there must be an escape route for traffic not wishing
or not permitted to enter the motorway. As a result, the motorway
technically begins as soon as the escape route has diverged from
it; for example at a grade-separated junction, the motorway starts
at the junction with the exiting slip road, and the opposite slip
road is also part of the motorway for this and the following
reason. An exception was the A1 near Leeds, which was
"illegal", as pedestrians could legally cross 300 yards from the
start, but cyclists and other types of traffic not permitted on
motorways had no way of turning back - the escape route was the
Boot and Shoe a mile before.
This is remedied by the A1(M)
As a result, this creates a less-restrictive set of rules for the
of the road. Roads whose only destination is a
motorway must be assigned motorway status, notwithstanding the
possibility of their not being built to normal motorway standards.
example, the A48 motorway outside
Cardiff begins after the last exit to St Mellons, since by staying on the dual carriageway you
cannot get anywhere other than the M4
eastbound; however, it is a motorway-grade highway.
In England and Wales, the numbers of major motorways followed a
numbering system separate to that of the A-road network, though
based on the same principle of zones. Running clockwise from the
the zones were defined for Zones 1 to
4 based on the proposed M2
and M4 motorways
numbers were reserved for the other two planned long distance
motorways. The Preston Bypass
UK's first motorway, should have been numbered A6(M) under the
scheme decided upon, but it was decided to keep the number M6 as
had already been applied. Certain portions or bypasses of A-roads
may be designated as motorways, the name of these portions being
given the suffix "(M)". An example is the A1
Scotland, where the Scottish Office
rather than the Ministry of Transport and Civil
Aviation had the decision, there is no zonal pattern, but
rather the A-road rule is strictly enforced.
It was decided
to reserve the numbers 7, 8 and 9 for Scotland. The M8
follows the route of the A8
, and the [[M80
motorway|M80]] became part of the M90 when the A90 was re-routed along the path of the A85.
Ireland a distinct numbering system is used, which is
separate from the rest of Ireland and from Britain, though the classification of roads along the lines
of A, B, and C is universal throughout the UK and the Isle of Man. According to a written answer to a parliamentary question to the
Minister for Regional Development, there is no known reason as
to how Northern Ireland's road numbering system was devised.
motorways, as in the rest of the UK and Ireland, are numbered M,
with the two major motorways coming from Belfast being numbered M1 and M2.
is a short spur of the
M1 with the M22
being a short continuation (originally intended to be a spur) of
the M2. There are two other motorways, the short
M3 and a motorway section of the A8 road, known as the A8 (similar to how
motorway sections of A-roads in Great Britain are
Republic of Ireland
Ireland, motorway and national road numbering is
quite different to the UK convention.
Since the passage of
the Roads Act 1993
, all motorways are part of, or form,
. These routes are numbered in series, (usually,
radiating anti-clockwise from Dublin, starting with the N1/M1)
using numbers from 1 to 33 (and, separately from the series, 50).
Motorways use the number of the route of which they form part, with
an M prefix rather than N for national road (or in theory, rather
than R for regional road
). In most cases, the motorway has
been built as a bypass of a road previously forming the national
road (e.g. the M7
roads previously forming the N7
the bypassed roads are reclassified as regional roads
, although updated signposting
may not be provided for some time, and adherence to signage colour
conventions is lax (regional roads have black-on-white
directional signage, national
routes use white-on-green).
Under the previous legislation, the Local Government (Roads and
Motorways) Act 1974
, motorways theoretically existed
independently to national roads, however the short sections of
motorway opened during this act, except for the M50, always took
their number from the national road which they were bypassing. The
older road was not downgraded at this point (indeed, regional roads
were not legislated for at this stage). Older signage at certain
junctions on the M7 and M11 can be seen reflecting this earlier
scheme, where for example N11 and M11 can be seen coexisting.
, an entirely new
national road, is an exception to the normal inheritance process,
as it does not replace a road previously carrying an N number. The
M50 was nevertheless legislated in 1994 as the N50 route (It only
had a short section of non-motorway section form the Junction 11
Tallaght to Junction 12 Firhouse until its extension as the
Southern Cross Motorway). The M50s designation was chosen as a
recognisable number. As of 2008 the N34 is the next unused national
primary road designation. In theory, a motorway in Ireland could
form part of a regional road.
Hungary, similar to Ireland, motorway numbers can be
derived from the original national highway numbers (1-7), with an M
prefix attached, eg. M7 is
on the route of the old Highway 7 from Budapest towards Lake Balaton and Croatia.
New motorways not following the original
Budapest-centered radial highway system get numbers M8, M9, etc.,
or M0 in the case of the ring road around Budapest.
the Netherlands, motorway numbers can be derived from the original
national highway numbers, but with an A prefix attached, like
Zealand, as well as in the Scandinavian countries, and in Finland and Russia, motorway
numbers are also derived from the state highway route which they
form a part of, but unlike Hungary and Ireland they are not
distinguished from non motorway sections of the same state highway
In the cases where a new motorway acts as a bypass of
a state highway route, the original state highway is either
stripped of that status or renumbered. A low road number means a
road suitable for long distance driving.
Pakistan, motorways are denoted with the prefix
Motorway service areas
- Roadway noise:
Motorways generate more roadway noise
than arterial streets because of the
higher operating speeds. Therefore, noise health effects are expected from
motorway systems. Noise mitigation
strategies exist to reduce sound levels at nearby sensitive
receptors. The idea that motorway design could be influenced by
acoustical engineering considerations first arose about 1973
- Air quality issues:
Motorways may contribute fewer emissions than arterials carrying the same
vehicle volumes. This is because high, constant-speed operation
creates an emissions reduction
compared to vehicular flows with stops and starts. However,
concentrations of air pollutants near motorways may be higher
because of the substantial traffic volumes. Therefore, the risk of
exposure to elevated levels of air pollutants from a motorway may
be considerable, and further magnified when motorways have traffic congestion.
motorway ever built in the world was the Autostrada dei laghi, inaugurated
on 21 September 1924 in Milan.
Milan to Varese; it was then
extended to Como, near the
border with Switzerland, inaugurated on 28 June 1925. Piero Puricelli
, the engineer who designed
this new type of road, decided to cover the expenses by introducing
motorways built before World War II in
Italy were Naples-Pompeii, Padua-Venice, Milan-Turin,
Milan-Bergamo-Brescia and Rome-Ostia.
Zealand's first motorway opened in December 1950 near Wellington.
This 5 kilometre (3 mile) motorway now
forms part of the Johnsonville-Porirua Motorway
and State Highway 1
Auckland's first stretch of motorway was opened in 1953 between
Ellerslie and Mount Wellington (between present-day Exit 435 and
Exit 438), and now forms part of the Southern Motorway
'Shewing Future Pattern of Principle National Routes' was issued by
the Ministry of
War Transport in 1946 shortly before the law that allowed roads
to be restricted to specified classes of vehicle (the Special Roads Act 1949) was
passed. The first section of motorway, the M6 Preston Bypass, opening in 1958 followed by
the first major section of motorway (the M1 between Crick and Berrygrove) which opened in 1959.
then onwards, motorways opened on a regular basis right into the
1980s; by 1972 the first of motorway had been built. Whilst roads
outside of urban areas continued to be built throughout the 1970s,
opposition to urban routes became more pronounced. Most notably,
plans by the Greater London
for a series of ringways
were cancelled following extensive road protests
and a rise
in costs. The completed M25 London Orbital opened in 1986.
In 1996 the total length of
motorways reached .
Legal authority existed in the Special Roads Act
similar to that in the 1949 Act. The first motorway to
open was the M1
, though it did so under temporary powers until the
Special Roads Act had been passed. Work on the motorways continued
until the 1970s when the oil crisis
and The Troubles
causing the abandonment of many schemes.
In the Republic of Ireland the Local Government (Roads and
Motorways) Act 1974
made motorways possible, although the
first section, the M7 Naas Bypass
did not open until 1983. The first section of the M50 opened in 1990, a part of which
was Ireland's first toll motorway, the
However it would be the 1990s before
substantial sections of motorway were opened in Ireland, with the
first completed motorway – the 83 km M1 motorway
finished in 2005.
Transport 21 infrastructural plan,
motorways or high quality dual carriageways are being built between
Dublin and the
major cities of Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford by the end of 2010.
Other shorter sections
of motorway either have been or will be built on some other main
routes. In 2007 legislation (the Roads Bill 2007
proposed to allow existing
be designated motorways by order. Legislation only allows
for new build roads to be designated motorways. It is now intended
that all the HQDCs on the major inter-urbans – other than some
sections near Dublin on the N4
which do not fully meet
motorway standards - will be reclassified as motorway. The first stage in
this process occurred when all the HQDC schemes open or under
construction on the N7 and N8, and between Kinnegad and Athlone on the N6 and Kilcullen and south of Carlow on the N9,
were reclassified motorway on 24 September 2008.
sections of dual carriageway are proposed to be reclassified as
Most of Australia
's capital cities feature
a motorway network within their urban areas. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth each feature freeway and motorway systems, while
Canberra, Adelaide, Hobart and the
regional centres of Newcastle, Gold
Coast, and Wollongong feature a selection of limited-access
Outside these areas traffic volumes do not generally
demand motorway-standard access, although heavily-trafficked
regional corridors such as Sydney-Newcastle (M1 Sydney-Newcastle Freeway
Brisbane-Gold Coast (M1 Pacific
) and Melbourne-Geelong (M1 Princes Freeway
) that form part of major
long-distance routes feature high-standard motorway links. While
Sydney and Canberra (NH23 Federal Highway
) are the only
two Australian capitals connected by a continuous motorway-standard
link, upgrades to full dual-highway of the heavy-use
Sydney-Melbourne (A31/M31 Hume
) and Sydney-Brisbane (M1 Pacific Highway
routes, a total length of more than 2000 kilometres, are
Pakistan has a network of high-quality,
international-standard limited access (or access-controlled)
motorways, which are maintained and operated by the National Highway
In August 2009, operational motorways in
Pakistan had a combined length of 632 km with another 233 km under
construction and further planned.
Pakistan's motorways are either six-lanes or four-lanes with a
universal minimum speed limit of 80 km/h and maximum speed limits
of 100 km/h for heavy transport vehicles and 120 km/h for light
transport vehicles. They have a central median and are fenced on
the outside for safety and to prevent unauthorized access. For
safety reasons, all kinds of advertising are banned on Pakistan's
motorways. Entry to all motorways in Pakistan is restricted to fast
moving vehicles only. Two wheelers (motorcycles and bicycles) and
slow moving traffic modes are not allowed. However, the Motorway
Police personnel use heavy motor bikes for patrolling purposes.
Construction and agricultural machinery is also restricted.
Pakistan's motorways are part of Pakistan's
National Trade Corridor project that aims to link Pakistan's three
Sea ports of Karachi, Port
Qasim and Gwadar to the
rest of the country and further on with Afghanistan, Central Asia and
Pakistan's first motorway, the M2, was inaugurated in November 1997 and was the first
motorway to be built in South
Asia. The contract was awarded to the Korean firm
Daewoo. The M2 is a 367 km
long, six-lane motorway that links Pakistan's federal capital,
Islamabad, with Punjab's provincial capital, Lahore.
Since the completion of the M2, two additional motorways have
become operational. These are the 54 km 4-lane (with capacity to
increase to 6 Lanes) M3 (Pindi Bhattian-Faisalabad), which links the M2 to Faisalabad and the 154 km
6-lane M1 (Peshawar-Islamabad). One additional motorway is currently
under-construction, the 233 km 4-lane (with capacity to increase to
6 Lanes) M4 (Faisalabad-Multan).
The Thai motorway network is an intercity motorway network that
spans 145 kilometers. It is to be extended to over 4000 kilometers
according to the master plan.
Thailand's motorway network is considered to be separate from
Thailand's expressway network, which is the system of usually
elevated expressways within Greater Bangkok. Thailand also has a
provincial highway network.
The Thai highway network spans over 70,000 kilometers across all
regions of Thailand. These highways, however, are often dual
carriageways with frequent u-turn lanes and intersections slowing
down traffic. Coupled with the increase in the number of vehicles
and the demand for a limited-access motorway, the Thai Government
issued a Cabinet resolution in 1997 detailing the motorway
construction master plan. Some upgraded sections of highway are
being turned into a "motorway", while other motorways are being
List of motorways in