Europe

Area code not applicableCommon abbreviation EULast updated 24-9-2006
Road classSyntax explanationAdministrative subordinationSub classesZonesSystemRemarks
European roadE[0-9]<1-3>EuropeE[0-9][05];1[0-2]5GridNo suffixes except in Sweden
Other <130
Other 3-dbetween E[0-9][05]
E0[01][0-9]Sequential
General description: Odd 2-digit numbers are generally north-south routes, while even numbers are east-west routes. Numbers increase in eastbound and southbound direction respectively. The grid is more strict for even numbers than for odd numbers. 2-digit numbers may begin with 0. A road can consist of several different parts without connection, e.g. the E01 is the eastern Irish coastal highway, and the western Spanish and Portuguese main north-south highway, even though there is no ferry from Ireland to La Coruña. This is because the E01 is the westernmost main north-south route, and Europe does not have a straight western boundary. The zero preceding 1-digit numbers indicates that the roads in question are not more important than the other 2-digit numbers, which would be suggested by the common rule 'the more digits, the less important'. This 0 is not always indicated on signs, especially in Scandinavia. In fact, I have no evidence that any road sign shows a trailing zero in a two-digit E number.
2-digit numbers ending in 0 and 5 are the main cross-continental routes. Recently odd numbers E101-E127 have been introduced in eastern Europe and Central Asia. They form an extension of the grid (some even 2-digit numbers have also been extended to the east). See also Russia. As for 2-d numbers, E105, E115 and E125 are the most important ones. The number E95 which used to run from Saint Petersburg via Moscow to Simferopol, was changed to E105 and the E95 was rerouted to Odesa.
3-digit numbers Exyz are usually between the east-west routes Ex0 and the E(x+1)0 and approximately between the north-south routes Ey5 and E(y+1)5 . Here x is between 0 and 9, with E9yz south of the E90, and the E10 is not really a main route and does not serve as border between number ranges. z is almost never 0. An exception is the (new) E420 from Charleroi to Reims. The E870 could also be an exception, see below. If a number Exyz exists, and z>1, then usually Exy(z-1) also exists. There are a number of exceptions. The (new) E429 seems to be an anomaly, as the only other numbers beginning with 42 are E420, E421 and E422. Apart from the E429, the highest existing value of z is 8.
In the Caucasus and Central Asia, another type of new numbers has been introduced: 3-digit numbers with trailing zeroes (E001 - E016). This is because in these areas, it would not be possible to use 3-d numbers according to the system described above. These are numbered sequentially (all 16 numbers exist). The E001 and E002 are the only ones in the Caucasus, the rest are in Central Asia. See also this Press release. Note that there are also Asian highways in the Caucasus and Central Asia, some of which follow the same routes as European roads.
In some countries there are no European roads (Andorra, Iceland and Malta). In other countries they are defined officially but never used, e.g. the United Kingdom and Ireland. On the other hand, there are countries where European roads do not have a national number or only an administrative one, for instance Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Almost all European countries have national road numbers. For more information see individual countries.
For a list of all numbers in the new system, see Route list
Road signs: In countries that use E numbers on signs, they appear in white text on green rectangles. In Spain, the format is E-[0-9]<2-3> (i.e. a dash appears after the E).
History: The current system was designed in 1975 and started to appear on road signs in the early 1980's. It is still not fully implemented. In many countries the old system still appears on signs.
The old system, which was introduced in the 1950's, had 1- to 3-digit numbers, and roughly speaking, the higher the number, the less important the road was.
Shortly before the new system was introduced, many odd 2-digit numbers were increased by 2 and 3-digit numbers were increased by 1 or changed otherwise. This has produced much confusion, and for some time different map publishers used different numbers. It seems that the Macedonian government initially used the 'old' system of non-increased numbers, so that the Bulgarian E871 is joined with the Macedonian E870, but it is not certain that these numbers were actually signposted. New maps indicate the number as E871. Some examples of the chaos surrounding the introduction of the system:
RouteCurrent numberShell 1987Ravenstein Strassen 1987, Aral 86/87Aral 1994
Bergen - OsloE16E131E136E136
Haugesund - OsloE134E132E135E135
Ålesund - DombasE136E69 (old)E137E69 (old)
The new system was ignored in Scandinavia for about ten years, though it appeared on most new maps. Some publishers later changed numbers back to the old system! In the early 1990's, however, the new system seems to have been accepted, but with many adjustments compared to the numbers that appeared on earlier maps. For instance, the Norwegian E6, the main north-south route, has not been changed into E45 as planned before. With some imagination one can reconcile the E6 with the new system (Note that the preceding 0 is omitted). Similarly, the Swedish E4 is not an east-west route.
The extension to the east took place in the late 1990's. In countries like Poland, Ukraine and Belarus, where E numbers already existed, many new routes have been added and numbers have been changed. For example, the E371 in Poland is new. The Italian E33 was changed to E31, even though there was already an E31 in the Netherlands and Germany.
The system used to be clear and elegant. The new additions have unfortunately compromised this elegance severely. It would have been possible to avoid this. Instead of changing the E95 one could have used 3-d numbers for the less important routes (e.g. E393 instead of E101). Central Asia should not have E numbers in the first place and the same holds for the Asian part of Russia.
Sources and links: Personal experience, various maps and atlases

    Official sites:
  1. Europäisches Übereinkommen über die Hauptstrassen des internationalen Verkehrs
  2. Trans-European road network (TERN)
  3. Trans-European Transport Networks
  4. UNECE Trans-European North-South Motorway Project (TEM)
  5. UNECE Road Transport working documents Route lists, latest proposals
  6. UNECE Road Transport reports
    Other links:
  7. Route list by Rudi Longueville Old and new routes
  8. Press release about Central Asia (2001).
    Other pages within this site:
  9. Route list
  10. Road sign colours
  11. Asia
  12. What's the use of E numbers? Research regarding the advantages and disadvantages of E numbers compared to national numbers

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