The International European Road Network is a numbering system that was developed for the major trans-European routes. It first appeared during the 1960s, with a small network of routes winding their way across the continent. The most strategic route was the E5, which practically ran across the full length of Europe, from London to Istanbul.
However, during the 1970s, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) conducted a thorough review of the network. In 1975, they came up with a completely revised network, basing their scheme on the grid numbering principals of the US freeway system.
The idea behind the scheme, more commonly known as Euroroutes or E-Roads, was to provide a network of international strategic routes across Europe, which would be promoted for trans-European journeys - particularly those made for business or freight purposes.
The numbering system
The Euroroutes are numbered according to a series of guidelines that were introduced in 1975, and completely revised in 1992. In simple terms, the major Euroroutes are given two digit numbers, whilst the second tier of routes are allocated three digit numbers.
Reference roads and intermediate roads, called class-A roads, have two-digit numbers; branch, link and connecting roads, called class-B roads, have three-digit numbers.
North-south orientated reference roads have two-digit odd numbers terminating in the figure 5 and increasing from west to east. East-west orientated reference roads have two-digit even numbers terminating in the figure 0 and increasing from north to south. Intermediate roads have respectively two-digit odd and two-digit even numbers comprised within the numbers of the reference roads between which they are located. Class-B roads have three-digit numbers, the first digit being that of the nearest reference road to the north of the B-road concerned, and the second digit being that of the nearest reference road to the west of the B-road concerned; the third digit is a serial number.
North-south oriented class A roads located eastward from road E 99 have three-digit odd numbers from 101 to 129. Other rules mentioned in paragraph 2 above apply to these roads.
Branch, link and connecting roads located eastwards of E 101 have 3-digit numbers, beginning with 0, from 001 to 099.
Annex 1, European Agreement on Main International Traffic Arteries
In some areas, there are some exceptions to the rule (in a similar way to the A42 road in the UK); most of these anomalies are due to a lack of available numbers in the correct group.
However, some exceptions are for different reasons, some of which are listed
In Sweden and Norway, the E47 and E55 retain their pre-1992 numbers (E6 and E4 respectively). This was done at the request of the two governments due to the resulting cost of installing new signs on those and neighbouring roads, particularly as the Euroroute numbering had been integrated into their national networks.
The E8, E63, E67 and E82 are located in the wrong places as they were added later, so were seen as the best available numbers rather than unnecessarily changing the existing numbering system.
Required road standards
With the introduction of the Euroroutes, a series of road standards were introduced to which European states had to adhere to when maintaining the relevant roads.
Roads which form part of the Euroroute network are required to be built to certain design speeds, which are the maximum speeds that vehicles should be able to safely travel in the best conditions.
These speeds are 80 km/h for motorways and 60 km/h for other roads, with design speeds of 100 km/h for high-quality grade separated dual-carriageway routes. Lower design speeds should only be used if the geography restricts the construction of a higher quality route.
Gradients and Curves
The Euroroute standards also set minimum radii of curves and maximum permitted gradients, which vary according to the design speed of the road:
- Design speed of 60 km/h - minimum radius of 120m maximum gradient 8%
- Design speed of 80 km/h - minimum radius of 240m maximum gradient 7%
- Design speed of 100 km/h - minimum radius of 450m maximum gradient 6%
- Design speed of 120 km/h - minimum radius of 650m maximum gradient 5%
- Design speed of 140 km/h - minimum radius of 1000m maximum gradient 4%
All roads need to have a minimum range of visibility, designed to ensure that the following minimum stopping distances are safely available:
- Design speed of 60 km/h - 70m
- Design speed of 80 km/h - 100m
- Design speed of 100 km/h - 150m
- Design speed of 120 km/h - 200m
- Design speed of 140 km/h - 300m
However, where these minimum stopping distances cannot be achieved, the regulations require improved road markings and signs to be present.
There are minimum requirements for the width of central reserves and hard shoulders.
Types of Roads to be used
Some countries were fairly quick to signpost the new Euroroute network, with new signs being erected on some routes within five years of the system being introduced.
Where they are signed, the Euroroute numbers are signposted within a small green rectangle, known as a "shield", and appears alongside the existing national route number. However, only some countries follow this practise of identifying Euroroutes.
Most European countries use the Euroroute system on top of their own national road network, with intermittent signage to advise drivers they are still on the same road. The roads are not comprehensively signposted from other areas and roads.
In Belgium and Serbia, all motorways are Euroroutes, so there is no national number sited alongside; there are no non-motorway Euroroutes. Meanwhile, over in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, the Euroroutes form a part of the national road networks, so these roads do not have any other national number.
Euroroutes are not signposted at all in the UK; the reason for this is believed to be principally due to the lack of cross-border routes and the small number of E-roads present. However, a specific road signs were designed back in the 1970s and even featured in the 1975 and 1981 versions of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (see right)
Over in Ireland, the government has are only starting to be signposted (the M1 being the first road to be treated to new signs including the E-number, in 2008), and in Germany the numbers rarely feature on signage.
And in a completely different stance, Euroroutes in Croatia do not use the main state highways - they follow the old parallel roads instead.
Euroroutes in the UK and Ireland
|Euroroute network map - Great Britain|
|PDF document (53 Kb)|
|Euroroute network map - Ireland|
|PDF document (228 Kb)|
179 miles (268 km)
Larne - A8 - A8(M) - M2 - A12 - M1 - A1 - N1 - M1 - M50 - M11/N11 - N25 - Rosslare
467 miles (767 km)
Southampton - M271 - M27 - M3 - A34 - M40 - M42 - M6* - A74(M)/M74 - M73 - M8 - A8 - Greenock
* - the E05 uses both the M6 and M6 Toll around the West Midlands
145 miles (233 km)
M25 Junction 21 - M1 - M18 - Doncaster
738 miles (1181 km)
Dover - A20 - M20 - M25/A282 - A1/A1(M) - A696 - A68 - A720 - A902 - A90 - M90 - A9 - Inverness
Also runs through Gibraltar, and is the only numbered road within the province.
100 miles (160 km)
Londonderry - A6 - M22 - M2 - Belfast ...SEA... Glasgow - M8/A8 - Edinburgh
189 miles (302 km)
Craigavon - M1 - A12 - M2 - A8(M) - A8 - Larne ...FERRY... Stranraer - A75 - M6 - A69 - Newcastle
275 miles (440 km)
Hull - A63 - M62 - M60 - M62 - A5080 - Liverpool ...FERRY... Dublin - N7/M7 - N18 - N19 - Shannon
235 miles (376 km)
Holyhead - A55 - A494 - M56 - M6 - M62 - M60 - M62 - M18 - M180 - A180 - A160 - Immingham
112 miles (179 km)
Birmingham - M6 - A14 - Ipswich
480 miles (768 km)
Felixstowe - A14 - A12 - M25 - M4 - A48 - A40 - Fishguard ...FERRY... Rosslare - N25 - Cork
16 miles (26 km)
Harwich - A120 - Colchester
100 miles (160 km)
Cork - N8/M8 - Portlaoise