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A trunk road, trunk highway, or strategic road is a major road—usually connecting two or more cities, ports, airports, etc.—which is the recommended route for long-distance and freight traffic. Many trunk roads have segregated lanes in a dual carriageway, or are motorway standard.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdommarker, Trunk Roads were first defined for Great Britainmarker in the Trunk Roads Act 1936. Thirty major roads were classed as Trunk Roads and the Minister of Transportmarker took direct control of them and the bridges across them. This development did not extend to Northern Irelandmarker, which has always had a separate system of highway and road traffic law.

At that time, of British road were classified as Trunk Roads. Additional roads have been 'trunked', notably in the Trunk Roads Act 1946. Others, like virtually all British motorways, have entered the system as a result of new construction. As of 2004, Great Britainmarker has 7,845 miles (12,625 km) of Trunk Roads, of which 2,161 miles (3,478 km) are motorways. [58010]Trunk roads in Englandmarker are managed by the Highways Agency. Scotlandmarker has had responsibility for its own trunk roads since 1955; these are currently managed by Transport Scotland. Walesmarker has had responsibility for its trunk roads since 1965. England has 4,814 miles (7,747 km), Scotland has 1,982 miles (3,190 km) and Wales has 1,048 miles (1,687 km) of trunk roads, inclusive of motorways. The Highways Agency also have a full network map of trunk roads and motorways in England.

Most interurban trunk roads are "primary routes", the category of recommended roads for long distance and freight transport, but not all primary routes are trunk roads, the difference being that trunk roads are maintained by central government bodies rather than the local councils. Primary routes are identified by their direction signs, which feature white text on a green background with route numbers in yellow. Trunk roads, like other 'A' roads, can either be single- or dual-carriageway.

Trunk roads were often listed on older maps with a "T" in brackets after their number so as to distinguish them from non-trunk parts of the same road, however this addition is no longer included on current Ordnance Surveymarker maps which simply distinguish between primary and non-primary 'A' roads. A trunk road which has been upgraded to motorway standard can sometimes retain its original "A" number but with an "M" in brackets to denote that motorway regulations apply on it. Long distance examples of this are the A1marker in Englandmarker, and the A74 in Scotlandmarker.

De-trunking: United Kingdom

It is possible for roads to become 'de-trunked' to non-trunk roads (county 'A' roads in the UK), for example when superseded by a motorway following a similar route. When a road is 'detrunked' signposts are often replaced, making the route of the original road harder to follow.

In some places however, the road number will change and will usually be signposted in the style "B000, was A00", although repeated changes can lead to such oddities as "A5, was A5" (between St Albansmarker and Redbournmarker).

In England the government has de-trunked much of the trunk road network since the late 1990s, transferring responsibility to local councils to allow the Highways Agency to concentrate on a selection of core trunk routes, mostly dual carriageways and motorways.


In the Republic of Irelandmarker major roads were previously classified under an old system as Trunk Roads, and had route numbers prefixed by "T". Connecting roads were classified as Link Roads, and had route numbers prefixed by "L". Many of these roads had their origins in historic routes, including turnpike roads.

Although a number of old road signs using these route designations may still be encountered, Irelandmarker has long since adopted a newer classification scheme of National Primary and National Secondary routes ("N" roads), Regional roads ("R" roads), and Local roads ("L"-prefixed roads). Local roads were previously not signposted, although they are now signposted in many areas of the country.

The current "L"-prefixed Local roads are not connected with the previous "L"-prefixed Link Road classification.

De-trunking: Ireland

Some former Trunk Roads, or sections of former Trunk Roads, became non-trunk Regional roads under the new road numbering system introduced in the 1970s and 1980s. More recently, sections of some National Primary routes which have been bypassed by motorways or other road improvement schemes have been downgraded to Regional road status.

United States

Though the term trunk road is not commonly used in American English, the U.S. highway and Interstate highway systems can be considered American trunk highways. However, individual states are responsible for actual highway construction and maintenance, even though the federal government helps fund these activities as long as the states enact certain laws and enforce them. (Such laws have included the raising of the minimum drinking age and the lowering of speed limits.) Each state maintains all of its roads and tries to integrate them into a system appropriate for that state. Notably, the states of Michigan and Wisconsin designate their highways as "state trunklines" and "state trunk highways," respectively.[58011]


Chinamarker has begun development of the National Trunk Highway System (NTHS), which will create many east-west and north-south highways, plus seven radials heading out of the capital, Beijing.



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