National primary road

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Naas Road (N7), non-Motorway high-grade dual carriageway.

A national primary road (Irish: Bóthar príomha náisiúnta) is a road classification in Ireland. National primary roads form the major routes between the major urban centres. There are over 5,300 km of national primary roads. This category of road has the prefix "N" followed by one or two digits. Motorways are prefixed "M" followed by one or two digits.


Non-motorway National Route sign in Ireland.
2+2 section of the N4 (Dromod-Roosky bypass) in Co. Leitrim.

The routes numbered N1–N11 radiate anti-clockwise from Dublin, with those in the range N12–N26 being cross-country roads. Routes numbered N27–N31 are much shorter roads than the majority of the network: they link major pieces of infrastructure (such as ports and airports) to the network, while the N33 is a feeder route to a major motorway (the M1). Finally, the N40 and the M50 are bypass roads of Ireland's two largest cities, Cork and Dublin. National secondary roads (see next section) are numbered under the same scheme with higher numbers (from N51 on). On road signage, destinations served but not on the route in question are listed in brackets, with the connecting route also listed (see thumbnail). Directional road signs on national primary roads are usually in white text on a green background, with the road number in yellow. Signs for roads of different standard are shown using appropriately coloured patches according to a system derived from the UK's Guildford Rules.

Most national primary roads are of at least wide two lane standard, with sections within Greater Dublin and near the regional cities typically being at least dual-carriageway standard. There are however some narrow two-lane sections remaining.

Northern Ireland route sections (which are classified separately according to NI schemes) are in some cases included in a theoretical complete cross-border route – for example the N3 route, which re-enters the Republic. These are listed here in brackets for completeness (and are present on southern road signage).

Sections of some national primary roads form part of the European route (E-route) network. Sections of the N25, N11 and N1 roads form the Republic of Ireland part of route E1 (or E01); sections of the N7, N18 and N19 roads form part of route E20; the N8 forms part of route E201 and sections of the N25 form part of route E30. E-route numbers have recently been placed on some route confirmation signs on newer sections of some of these roads.


N11 Exit sign.

From the 1920s through to 1977, Irish roads had been numbered under a system of Trunk Roads and link roads (see Trunk Roads in Ireland for details). The introduction of a National Route numbering system had been discussed since the late 1960s. Legislation to allow its introduction was passed in 1974: the Local Government (Roads and Motorways) Act 1974,[1] which introduced the concepts of motorways and national roads into Irish law. The routes of the original 25 national primary roads were defined via Statutory Instrument (the Local Government (Roads and Motorways) Act, 1974 (Declaration of National Roads) Order, 1977[2]) in 1977 and the new numbers began to appear on road signs shortly thereafter, with the N4 road and N6 road the first to be signed. The first motorway, the M7 Naas bypass, opened in 1983.

Since the introduction of the National Route numbering system, the system has remained relatively unchanged in its overall design, although as new bypasses open the various routes themselves have undergone changes. The legislative basis for the system changed in 1993 with the Roads Act 1993.[3] This act introduced a major change: a new body, the National Roads Authority (NRA), was set up to manage the national road network. It also made motorways integral parts of national routes (previously they had been a separate classification) and introduced the new classifications of Regional road and local road. In 1994, three national secondary roads (N57, N64, N79) were reclassified as national primary roads and subsequently renumbered (N57 to N26, N64 to part N18, N79 to N30) while a section of the N60 between Castlebar and Westport in Co. Mayo was reclassified as the N5. Four other national primary routes (N27, N28, N29, N31) were added to the network: a section of the R600 regional road between Cork city centre and Cork Airport was reclassified as the N27, the N28 was partly newly constructed and partly a reclassified section of regional road (R609), the N29 was newly constructed and the N31 was made up of roads previously classified as regional roads.[4] The N32, which had been constructed from new as an extension of the M50 Northern Cross Route project became part of the system in 1996. The N32 was reclassified as the R139 regional road in 2013. The N33 also became part of the system in the late 1990s, although it was only defined in the 2006 definition of the state's national roads, the Roads Act 1993 (Classification of National Roads) Order 2006. In 2012, the N40 was created which completely encompasses the Cork South Ring Road. Parts of the N22 and N25 were reclassified to create this road. To date it remains the newest national primary road. Route numbers N34 to N49 (excluding N40) remain unallocated.

Upgrades to motorway status and high quality dual carriageways

N11 Junction 23; new standard exit sign for restricted access roads in Ireland.

Under the National Development Plan, the major national motorways - the N1 from Dublin to the Border, N6 (along with that section of the N4 leading to it) Dublin to Galway, N7 Dublin to Limerick, N8 Portlaoise to Cork, and N9 Dublin to Waterford were upgraded to motorway or high-quality dual-carriageway standard. These roads have at least two lanes in each direction, an unbroken central median, and access only at special interchanges. In addition motorways have a set of regulations limiting access to certain types of motor vehicle traffic and other special rules, including higher speed limits of 120 km/h. Upgrades to the specified roads were completed in 2010. In addition, a new motorway – the M50 – was built around Dublin. Where a section of national primary road is designated a motorway, signage is white-on-blue instead of white-on-green, in addition, the prefix "N" is dropped, and replaced with "M" instead on road signs. A high quality dual carriageway may be redesignated a motorway by means of an order under the Roads Act 2007.

In addition to the major inter-urbans, the N11, N17, N18, N20, N21, and N25 – all of which form links between regional cities or other strategic links – also have major sections of good standard dual carriageway (in the N18's case, the entire route is to become dual carriageway and motorway by late 2018), with some sections of motorway also possible. Current plans are to substantially replace the existing N20 with a motorway (the M20).[5]

Based on the combined lengths of existing roads, current construction and proposed future construction, it is probable that over 50% of the national primary road network will be either motorway, high-quality dual carriageway or 2+2 dual-carriageway by 2030. Approximately 38.5% (1,105 km) of the network may be motorway.

List of National Primary Roads

This list of national primary roads, and their descriptions, is based on the Roads Act 1993 (Classification of National Roads) Order 2013.[6] The road lengths are from National Route Lengths as of 31/12/2013 published by the NRA[7] and are accurate to the end of 2013. Most lengths have been rounded slightly.

National Primary Roads in Ireland
Road Name Description Length
E-01 euroroute IE.pngN1 national IE.pngM1 reduced motorway IE.png Dublin – Border (North of Dundalk) – (A1 NewryBelfast) 89.91 km (55.87 mi)
N2 national IE.pngM2 reduced motorway IE.png Dublin – Monaghan – (A5 OmaghDerry) 133.02 km (82.65 mi)
N3 national IE.pngM3 reduced motorway IE.png Dublin – CavanBallyshannon 129.21 km (80.29 mi)
N4 national IE.pngM4 reduced motorway IE.png Dublin – Sligo 198.21 km (123.16 mi)
N5 national IE.png (N4 from Dublin) – LongfordCastlebarWestport 132.13 km (82.10 mi)
N6 national IE.pngM6 reduced motorway IE.png (N4 from Dublin) – KinnegadGalway 147.99 km (91.96 mi)
60px N7 national IE.pngM7 reduced motorway IE.png Dublin – Limerick 186.92 km (116.15 mi)
E-201 euroroute IE.png N8 national IE.pngM8 reduced motorway IE.png (N7 from Dublin) – PortlaoiseCork 147.39 km (91.58 mi)
N9 national IE.pngM9 reduced motorway IE.png (N7 from Dublin) – NewbridgeCarlowWaterford 119.09 km (74.00 mi)
N10 national IE.png (Spur off M9 to Kilkenny) 17.14 km (10.65 mi)
E-01 euroroute IE.png N11 national IE.pngM11 reduced motorway IE.png Dublin – Wexford 129.12 km (80.23 mi)
N12 national IE.png Monaghan – Border (Ardgonnell Bridge) – (A3 to Belfast) 6.87 km (4.27 mi)
N13 national IE.png (N15 from Sligo) – StranorlarLetterkenny – (A2 to Derry, A6, M22, M2 to Belfast) 43.76 km (27.19 mi)
N14 national IE.png Letterkenny – Lifford – (A38 to Strabane) 17.48 km (10.86 mi)
N15 national IE.png Sligo – Donegal – Lifford – (A38, A5 to Derry) 110.99 km (68.97 mi)
N16 national IE.png Sligo – (A4 to Enniskillen, A4, M1 to Belfast) 47.59 km (29.57 mi)
N17 national IE.png Galway – ClaremorrisCollooney – (N4 to Sligo) 122.85 km (76.34 mi)
60px60px60px (N4, N17 from Sligo) – Claregalway – (N6 from Galway) OranmoreEnnisLimerick 98.47 km (61.19 mi)
60pxN19 national IE.png (N18 from Limerick/Ennis) – Shannon TownShannon Airport 3.45 km (2.14 mi)
N20 national IE.pngM20 reduced motorway IE.png Limerick – Cork 96.45 km (59.93 mi)
N21 National IE.png Limerick – CastleislandTralee (to N22/N69 Tralee Bypass) 84.37 km (52.43 mi)
N22 national IE.png Cork – KillarneyFarranforeTralee (to N22/N69 Tralee Bypass) 116.33 km (72.28 mi)
N23 national IE.png (N21 from Limerick) – CastleislandFarranfore – (N22 to Killarney) 9.509 km (5.909 mi)
N24 national IE.png Limerick – Waterford 116.13 km (72.16 mi)
E-30 euroroute IE.pngE-01 euroroute IE.pngN25 national IE.png Cork – Waterford – Rosslare Europort 187.80 km (116.69 mi)
N26 national IE.png (N4, N5 from Dublin) – SwinfordBallina 29.79 km (18.51 mi)
N27 national IE.png Cork city centre – Cork Airport 6.30 km (3.91 mi)
N28 national IE.png Cork – Ringaskiddy 11.25 km (6.99 mi)
N29 national IE.png (Spur off N25 east of Waterford to Belview Port) 3.55 km (2.21 mi)
N30 national IE.png (N25 from Cork, Waterford near New Ross) – Enniscorthy – (N11 to Dublin) 33.17 km (20.61 mi)
N31 national IE.png M50 (junction 14) – Leopardstown Rd – Brewery Rd – (N11 at Stillorgan) – Dún Laoghaire harbour 7.11 km (4.42 mi)
N33 national IE.png (Spur off M1 to Ardee) 7.59 km (4.72 mi)
60px Cork South Ring Road 15.30 km (9.51 mi)
60pxE-01 euroroute IE.pngM50 reduced motorway IE.png M50/Dublin ring-road: East Wall – (M1 to Dublin and Belfast) – Turnapin – Palmerstown – Redcow – Shankill (N11 to Wexford). 45.55 km (28.30 mi)
Total Length of Network: 5,305.56 km (3,296.72 mi)

See also


  1. "Local Government (Roads and Motorways) Act, 1974". Irish Statue Book, Attorney General of Ireland.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "S.I. No. 164/1977 – Local Government (Roads and Motorways) Act, 1974 (Declaration of National Roads) Order, 1977". Irish Statue Book, Attorney General of Ireland.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Roads Act, 1993". Irish Statue Book, Attorney General of Ireland.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. [1] S.I. No. 209/1994 — Roads Act, 1993 (Declaration of National Roads) Order, 1994
  5. "N20 brochure Route Options" (PDF).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Roads Act 1993 (Classification of National Roads) Order 2006" (PDF). Department of Transport.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "National Route Lengths as of 31/12/2013" (PDF). Transport Infrastructure Ireland.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>