Roads in the United Kingdom

From OpenStreetMap Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Generally we follow the standard global guidelines for mapping UK roads in OpenStreetMap. This page provides supplementary guidance specific to the UK.

Also see Road signs in the United Kingdom.

UK tagging

Please use the following table when deciding which highway=* tag to use.

Description Tag
Roads under Motorway Regulation. highway=motorway
A-roads with primary status (signed yellow on green) highway=trunk
A-roads with non-primary status (signed black on white) highway=primary
B-roads highway=secondary
Smaller through roads linking cities, towns or villages, or linking suburbs within built up areas
(Generally used only on roads wide enough to allow two cars to pass safely where adequate road markings are in place; may have unsigned classifications such as C, D or U: see Tagging Road Numbers, below)
Other (i.e., not in the above classes) non-residential roads in towns. Examples include; minor shopping streets, roads in commericial districts, and public roads in industrial areas. highway=unclassified
Country lanes highway=unclassified
Residential roads
(Used only on roads that have no other function other than for residential purposes)
Service roads
(driveways, carpark entrance roads, private roads, bus-only roads, etc). Please remember access=* and service=* where applicable
Private roads highway=* access=private
Track (Larger than a path; generally big enough to fit a vehicle down).
Use in conjunction with tracktype=*.

Tagging road numbers

The ref=* tag should only be used on roads which are signposted with a national official number. These are Motorways, A-roads, B-roads and, in a very small number of special cases, some roads signposted by the local authority with a C-prefix.

In all other cases, such as use of road numbers from highway authorities statutory lists, use official_ref=*. If you do want to use this latter information, please ensure that your source is free of copyright or otherwise compatible with our licence.

Unpaved country roads

Ford on Red Lodge Road, Marefield

In a number of places there exist designated public highways which are unpaved and not regularly maintained by the local highway authority. They usually look like tracks, and only detailed local knowledge is likely to uncover that their status is different. Known examples include Red Lodge Road way 198802841 & Blackspinney Lane way 195159159 in Leicestershire. It is recommended that these be mapped as highway=track even though the highway authority may record them as unclassified roads. Additional tags which should be added are access=yes, surface=*, tracktype=* and, possibly, designation=public_highway. In many areas such roads & tracks have been formally designated as byways or restricted byways and the tagging is then straightfoward.

Public Rights of Way

For roads that also hold a Public Right of Way designation, please follow the tagging scheme for Public Rights of Way. Ensure that the PRoW's reference number is tagged as prow_ref=* and not ref=*.

Additional Highway Tags for the United Kingdom

Additional Highway Tags for Motorways and Trunk roads in the UK.
Description Tag
Carriageway Ref is used to distinguish the carriageway of a road. Every carriageway of a road will have its own letter which is standardised across all dual carriageways in the UK. This information can be found on Driver Location Signs, however typically the B carriageway heads towards the largest population (usually London) while the A carriageway goes in the other direction. carriageway_ref=*
The operator of the road. This is usually the public trunk road organisation, rather than a private company used in DBMO contacts. operator=National Highways

operator=Welsh Government

operator=Transport for Scotland

The National Highways' area of which the road's responsibility is under (England Only) national_highways:area=*formerly highways̠_englandːarea=*
This can be set to "yes" or "no". Only on roads where there is a mandatory variable speed limit can this be used. Almost exclusively smart motorways. maxspeed:variable=*
Active Traffic Management can be set to "yes" or "no". Only to be set to "yes" on smart motorways, or on roads that have full lane control and under variable speed limit which respond to traffic situations in real time by either an automated system or human operators. active_traffic_management=yes
On motorways where there is no hard shoulder because it has become an "All Lanes Running Smart Motorway" or built/widened without one, then set the shoulder tag to no. It can be presumed shoulder=yes for motorways otherwise. shoulder=no


Historically the UK OpenStreetMap community tracked our progress as we mapped UK roads. This information is no longer kept up to date but you can still see the pages here: