A motorway is a road designed and built solely for motorised traffic. In English-speaking countries the term is used in the United Kingdom, some parts of Australia, New 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 carriageway. Motorways are identical to freeways as a road type, and comparable to the United States's Interstate Highways as a classification.
In Ireland, Hungary, parts of Australia and the UK, motorways are denoted by an 'M', prefixed (e.g. M1) or suffixed (e.g. A1(M)) road number and blue signage, distinguishing them from A-roads or N-roads, which are signed in green. This is 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 road signs while everywhere else had black, until green signs were spread to the entire State Highway network (the national highways) 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. The road surface is generally asphalt concrete (popularly referred to as tarmac) or portland cement concrete. Other features are crash barriers, cat's eyes and, increasingly, textured road markings (a similar concept to rumble-strips).
For a road to be classified as motorway the OECD conditions described above must apply. The implications of these conditions include:
Note that these only apply to roads directly designated as motorways. Roads may also be indirectly designated as such, see Inheritance below.
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 50 km/h applies in the Republic of Ireland.
A motorway in the UK, whether by design or inheritance, must have a Statutory Instrument (SI) 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 1993 prior to the road's construction. Alternatively, a Statutory Instrument defining the stretch of road as a motorway may also be made under the Roads Act 2007, however this process may only be used for high-quality dual carriageways either open, in planning, or under construction on the day the Act was signed into law.
Motorway safety is 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 70 mph (113 km/h). Many HGVs are restricted to 56 mph (90 km/h). British motorways originally had no speed limit, and were designed for traffic travelling up to 100 mph (161 km/h). Although the design speed of 100 mph remains, the majority of British 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 Department for Transport (DfT) study at several sites in 2006 showed that over half of all motorway traffic was travelling in excess of this limit. In 2004 the Conservative Party proposed increasing the motorway speed limit to 80 mph (130 km/h) on some stretches, although this did not appear in their 2005 election manifesto. The Association of British Drivers 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.
In New 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 mph)).
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 to raise 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 lane motorways.
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 limit).
In Romania, the speed limit on A1 motorway is 130 km/h; however, this value cannot be achieved due to improper conditions of the road (recommended speed is 100 km/h). On A2 motorway (The Freeway of Sun), speed limits are 80 km/h during winter months and storms and 130 km/h for the rest of the year. Occasionally, fog occurred on the A2, making the traffic conditions to become unsafely. A2 is still under construction on the third portion.
Most motorway carriageways comprise a main running surface, with a hard shoulder 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 United Kingdom and in Ireland the lanes in a given direction are numbered sequentially from the nearside (hard shoulder), such 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 British Highway Code states that vehicles must pass on the right, unless in heavy traffic or when the vehicle is turning left. Similar rules apply on German autobahns and in some other countries. In heavy traffic, it might be acceptable to cruise in any lane, and to pass slower vehicles on either side, to avoid continual lane changes.
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 slip'.
The signal-controlled roundabout is often used in these situations and has become very common in Ireland. A far 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 congestion.
Motorway junctions are usually given a number, 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. Exit 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 restricted exit.
Major intercity or national routes are often built or upgraded to motorway standard. Motorways are also commonly used for ring roads around cities or bypasses 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 has been connecting main cities with motorways as part of a six-year National Development Plan. The European Union has part-funded many motorway projects in the past, as part of a Trans-European Transport Networks, 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.
One of 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 the M4 and M48, where they cross the River Severn at the Severn crossings. 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 traffic. In Ireland, the M1, M4, M8 and M50 all have tolled sections, and under construction sections of the M3, M6 and M7 also due to have tolls.
While a motorway is being built or upgraded, it may exist in an intermediate form sometimes referred to as semi-highway, half-motorway or semi-motorway that lacks all the characteristics of a finished motorway. Such a road is often a grade-separated, controlled-access undivided highway which constitutes a single carriageway of a future full-profile highway while the second one is built. While physically similar to two-lane freeways, these roads are strictly built as temporary structures as a part of a freeway or highway in construction.
Semi-highways can sometimes remain in the same state for long periods of time because of the high cost of building on certain terrain, such as in some parts of Switzerland. Sections of semi-highways are also frequently found in difficult terrain (where construction costs may be prohibitive), as a temporary and lower cost alternative to full construction. For example, instead of using two tunnel boring machines, one machine can excavate both without delaying the opening of the highway in either direction.
Most older highways in Croatia were originally built in phases where the intermediate form existed, the most prominent example being the A6 motorway, large sections of which remained in this state between 2004 and 2008. The Croatian Roads Authority announced that in the five years ending in 2005 450 kilometers (280 mi) of highways were built and an estimated 453 kilometers (281 mi) were being planned. In this same time frame 81 kilometers (50 mi) of semi-highways were completed, with 61 kilometers (38 mi) being planned.
Several sections of German Autobahns have yet to be upgraded to full profile. The lower 100 km/h (62 mph) speed limit for undivided roads applies in derestricted speed zones, and passing may be permitted in the oncoming traffic lane. Examples include BAB 60 near the Belgian border and BAB 62 between Landstuhl and Pirmasens in Rhineland-Palatinate. In contrast, German federal highways (Bundesstraßen) are usually built as permanently undivided highways with frequent grade separations.
Newer Hungarian motorways are also built first as semi-highways and later completed. Examples are the M2 and M15. The M2 also features an unusual three-lane configuration. The M9 highway section connecting Szekszárd-Dombóvár in Transdanubia, Hungary will utilise 3 semi-highway sections during the construction process before achieving speedway status. Highway 66-611 will be modernized requiring a 15 kilometers (9 mi) section to initially start with the construction of a two-lane semi-highway. The aim is to increase road security reducing accidents and achieve status similar to the M65 highway.
Swiss Autobahns are also sometimes built short of their design for topographical and financial reasons. The trans-Alpine A13 includes many tunnels and sections of semi-highway. These are similar to the Autostrassen, which are typically permanent structures.
The Pan-European Corridor X in Serbia will utilise semi-highways until full funding and construction can be completed. 800 million euros is the initial investment for construction of Corridor X, however it is estimated that another 1.6 billion euros will be needed for the entire length of construction. At this initial stage it is projected that about of Corridor X through Serbia will be finished highway, and the remainder of the route will be semi-highway or local main roads.
In the United Kingdom and in Ireland, certain types of traffic are not permitted on motorways. Thus, to avoid having 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(M) near Leeds, which was "illegal", since pedestrians could legally cross 300 yards beyond the start of the motorway, but then cyclists and other types of traffic not permitted on motorways had no way of turning back - the escape route was the "Boot and Shoe" one mile before. This is remedied by the A1(M) extension.
As a result, this creates a less-restrictive set of rules for the standard 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. For example, the A48(M) 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 M1 the zones were defined for Zones 1 to 4 based on the proposed M2, M3 and M4 motorways. The M5 and M6 numbers were reserved for the other two planned long distance motorways. The Preston Bypass, the 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(M).
In 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 became part of the M90 when the A90 was re-routed along the path of the A85.
In Northern 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 Northern Ireland Minister for Regional Development, there is no known reason as to how Northern Ireland's road numbering system was devised. However 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. The M12 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(M) (similar to how motorway sections of A-roads in Great Britain are numbered).
In the Republic of 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, national primary roads. 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 bypassing 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.
The M50, 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.
In Hungary, similar to Ireland, motorway numbers can be derived from the original national highway numbers (1-7), with an M prefix attached, e.g. 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.
In New 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 route. 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.
In Pakistan, motorways are denoted with the prefix M.
In Romania, motorways are numbered with the letter A (from "autostradă") and the number 1 and 2: - A1 runs from Bucharest (Bucureşti) to Piteşti, AG; - A2 (The Sun Motorway - Autostrada Soarelui) runs from Bucharest (Bucureşti) to Cernavodă, CT, being under construction to Constanţa, CT. Both of them are two lane motorways with a hard shoulder.
The first motorway ever built in the world was the Autostrada dei laghi, inaugurated on 21 September 1924 in Milan. It linked 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 a toll.
A map '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. From then onwards, motorways opened on a regular basis right into the 1980s; by 1972 the first 1,000 miles (1,609 km) 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 Council 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 2,000 miles (3,219 km).
Legal authority existed in the Special Roads Act (Northern Ireland) 1963 similar to that in the 1949 Act. The first motorway to open was the M1 motorway, 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 both intervened 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 West-Link. 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 – being finished in 2005.
Under the 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) was proposed to allow existing roads 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 and N7 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. Further sections of dual carriageway are proposed to be reclassified as motorway.
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, Geelong, Gold Coast, and Wollongong feature a selection of limited-access routes. 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 Motorway) 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 (Australia)) 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 Highway/Freeway) and Sydney-Brisbane (M1 Pacific Highway) interstate routes, a total length of more than 2000 kilometres, are underway.
Most of New Zealand's major centres feature a motorway network within their urban areas. Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin each feature freeway and motorway systems, with most of New Zealand's major regional centres featuring a selection of limited-access or expressway routes. Outside these areas traffic volumes do not generally demand motorway-standard access. New 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.
Pakistan has a network of high-quality, international-standard limited access (or access-controlled) motorways, which are maintained and operated by the National Highway Authority. 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 Arabian Sea ports of Karachi, Port Qasim and Gwadar to the rest of the country and further on with Afghanistan, Central Asia and China.
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 purpose-built.
List of motorways in
.]] A motorway is a word used in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, some other Commonwealth nations, and Ireland for a fast road, with four lanes or more. It is used to carry many cars. A Motorway has no traffic-lights or ground level intersections. All roads crossing the motorway go over a bridge or a tunnel. Places where cars can leave or enter the motorway are called exits.