16 things we learned from a list of every single road name in Great Britain

"The Street With No Name" in Levenshulme, which sadly isn't on the list because it doesn't actually have a name.

1) There are about 790,000 roads with names in England, Scotland and Wales.

The Ordnance Survey Open Names database lists 788,340 roads with a name, from Aachen Way in Halifax to Zurich Gardens in Bramhall.

2) The most common suffix in a road name is, unsurprisingly, ‘Road’

But only a fifth of roads (about 160,000) are called “Something Road”: 15 per cent are Closes, 10 per cent are Streets, 8 per cent are Lanes and 6 per cent are Avenues.

3) The most popular road name in the UK is probably what you would have guessed it would be

Drumroll please for....

“High Street”

...of which there are 2,453. Followed by Station Road (2,023), Church Lane (1,868), Church Street (1,521) and Mill Lane (1,318). This finally, conclusively proves that trains are better than Jesus AND mills.

4) The road with the longest name is in the New Forest

Congratulations, “Bolderwood Arboretum Ornamental Drive”: you did it!

(Not counting ‘names’ that include bracketed or other alternative names. Or ‘Woodpecker Crescent Woodpecker Crescent’ in Burgess Hill, which is presumably an error rather than some quirky bit of Sussex-based self-referentialism.)


5) The road with the shortest name is in Somerset

Rye, a road in the village of Puriton in Somerset, unexcitingly named after the green thing it runs past.

It does, debatably, have some competition: the MediaCity complex in Salford is so trendy that it has colours instead of road names, which means there’s a road listed under the name “Red” in the Ordnance Survey database.

There’s also an “Alt” in Widnes but that’s an abbreviation for “Alternate” which is a very normal thing to name a road. Good job, Widnes.

6) There are places with plenty of roads, but very few Roads

As noted in CityMetric only last week, the City of London may be the most famous example of a place with “no roads” (i.e. no roads named Somethingorother Road; although sadly this is no longer technically true, curse your eyes, Goswell Road).

One posited explanation is that incorporating the word Road into a road name is a modern enough concept that the layout of the City predates it.

7) The second most roadless place in the UK sits at the other end of urban history

In Milton Keynes, only 4 per cent of named roads are Roads. When the town was laid out in the 1960s it was decided the horizontal roads of its innovative grid system would be Ways, and the vertical roads Streets: but the majority of the roads are actually the smaller suburban Closes, Courts, Places & Drives that lie within the box of each grid.

No, this is very interesting actually.

Okay, fine.

8) Fanny Hands Lane

LOL! Image: Chris/Geograph/creative commons.

9) If you think Milton Keynes has an overly methodical road naming scheme, check out this estate near Southampton

Image: Google Maps.

Roads that run one way are A Avenue, B Avenue, C Avenue, D Avenue, E A… you get the idea. Roads that run the other are 1st Street, 2nd Street and so on. I'm coming up, so you better get this party started!

10) Scotland is the home of the Place

For example, “Place” is the most common suffix in East Kilbride, appearing in 17 per cent of road names. It’s also in more than 10 per cent of the road names of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee.

11) There’s a North/South divide between Streets and Roads

Obligatory map:

 

 

There are more Streets than Roads in much of the North: Oldham and Burnley are more than 45 per cent Street. Meanwhile on the south coast, Bournemouth only has one. And it’s not even a very good one.

 

Orchard Street in Bournemouth. Cowabunga! Image: Chris Downer/Geograph/creative commons.

12) Blackpool is 30% Avenues

An avenue is usually a road with lots of trees. This randomly selected avenue in Blackpool has hardly any:

Image: Google Maps.

What’s up, Blackpool? What did you do with all the trees?

13) Gateshead is 18% Gardens

Maybe that’s what the Gates are for!!!!! HA HA.

14) There’s no road called ‘The Road’

But there are 595 “The Street”s and 578 “The Avenue”s. What a creative island we are.

15) Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

Image: Google Maps.

 

16) There’s a road called “Burnt Dick Hill”

Image: Google Maps.

Ow.

Ed Jefferson works for the internet and tweets as @edjeff.

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What are Europe’s longest train journeys?

The Orient Express was a pretty long train. Image: Getty.

For reasons that aren’t clear even to me, a question popped into my head and refused to leave: what’s longer? Britain’s longest train joruney, or Germany’s?

On the one hand, Germany is quite a bit larger – its area is 70 per cent more than Great Britain’s. On the other hand, Great Britain is long, skinny island and Germany is much rounder – the distance from John O’ Groats to Lands End is over 1,400 km, but you never have walk over 1,000 km to cross Germany in any direction.

And it turns out these factors balance almost each other out. Britain’s longest train, the CrossCountry from Aberdeen in Scotland to Penzance in Cornwall, runs 785 miles or 1,263 km. Germany’s longest train, the IC 2216 from Offenburg in the Black Forest to Greifswald on the Baltic coast, is exactly 1,300 km. Germany wins by a tiny distance.

Except then I was hooked. What about the longest train in France? Spain? Italy?

So I did what anyone would do. I made a map.

The map above was all drawn with the Deutsche Bahn (Germany Railways) travel planning tool, which rather incredibly has nearly every railway in Europe. The data quality is better for some countries than others (the lines in France aren’t quite that straight in real life), and the measurements may be a bit off – it’s not always easy to find the length of a train service, especially when routes can vary over the year – but it gives us a good idea of what the routes look like.

Let’s start with the UK. The Aberdeen to Penzance route isn’t really for people who want to go all the way across the country. Instead, it’s a way to link together several railway lines and connect some medium-to-large cities that otherwise don’t have many direct services. “Cross-country” trains like these have existed for a century, but because they crossed multiple different company’s lines – and later, multiple British Rail regions – they tended to get ignored.

 

That’s why, when it privatised the railways, the government created a specific CrossCountry franchise so there was a company dedicated to these underused routes. If you want to get from Edinburgh to Leeds or Derby to Bristol, you’ll probably want a CrossCountry train.

The usual route is Edinburgh to Plymouth, but once a day they run an extra long one. Just one way though – there’s no Penzance to Aberdeen train. 

The longest train in Germany is weird – at 1,400 km, it’s substantially longer than the country itself. On the map, the reason is obvious – it takes a huge C shaped route. (It also doubles back on itself at one point in order to reach Stuttgart).

This route takes it down the Rhine, the biggest river in west Germany, and through the most densely populated patch of the country around Cologne and Dusseldorf known as the Ruhr. Germany’s second and third longest trains also have quite similar routes – they start and end in remote corners of the country, but all three have the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area in the middle.

You’re not meant to take the IC 2216 all the way from north east to south west – there are much more direct options available. Instead, it’s for people who want to travel to these major cities. They could run two separate trains – say, Offenburg-Dusseldorf and Griefswald-Cologne – but making it a single route means passengers benefit from a bit more flexibility and helps DB use its rolling stock more effectively.

France’s longest train exists for a very good reason. Most of France’s high-speed lines radiate out from Paris, and it’s very hard to get around the country without going to the capital. Usually to get from Marseille on the Mediterranean to Nantes near the Atlantic, you’d need to take a TGV to Paris Gare de Lyon station, then get the Métro across the city to Gare Montparnasse.

Once a day though, this TGV avoids this faff by stopping in the suburb of Juvisy and turning around without going into the centre. This lets passengers travel direct between the coasts and reduces the traffic through Paris’s terminals in the rush hour. The exact length of this route isn’t clear, but Wikipedia says it’s about 1,130 km.

Spain’s longest train is very different. This is the Trenhotel sleeper service from Barcelona to Vigo, and it’s pretty fancy. This is a train for tourists and business travellers, with some quite luxurious sleeping cabins. But it is a regularly scheduled train run by the state operator Renfe, not a luxury charter, and it does appear in the timetables.

Being dry, hot and quite mountainous in its middle, most of Spain’s cities are on its coast (Madrid is the one major exception) and as a result the train passes through relatively few urban areas. (Zaragoza, Spain’s 5th largest city, is on the route, but after that the next biggest city is Burgos, its 35th largest,) This is partly why overnight trains work so well on the route – without many stops in the middle, most passengers can just sleep right through the journey, although there are occasional day time trains on that route too if you want to savour the view on that 1,314 km journey.

Finally, there’s Italy. This is another sleeper train, from Milan in the north to Syracuse on the island of Sicily. It goes via Rome and travels along the west coast of... wait, it’s a train to the island of Sicily? How, when there’s no bridge?

Well, this train takes a boat. I don’t really have anything else to add here. It’s just a train that they literally drive onto a ferry, sail across the water, and then drive off again at the other side. That’s pretty cool.

(As I was writing this, someone on Twitter got in touch to tell me the route will get even longer in September when the line to Palermo reopens. That should be exciting.)

So those are the longest trains in each country. But they aren’t the longest in Europe.

For one thing, there are some countries we haven’t looked at yet with very long trains. Sweden has some spectacular routes from its southern tip up into the Arctic north, and although the Donbass War appears to have cut Ukraine’s Uzhorod to Luhansk service short, even Uzhorod to Kharkiv is over 1,400 km. And then there are the international routes.

To encourage the Russian rich to take the train for their holiday, Russian Railways now run a luxury sleeper from Moscow to Nice, passing through France, Monaco, Italy, Austria, Czechia, Poland, Belarus and Russia. This monster line is 3,315 km long and stretches across most of the continent. That’s got to be the longest in Europe, right?

Nope. Incredibly, the longest train in Europe doesn’t actually cross a single border. Unsurprisingly, it’s in Russia, but it’s not the Trans-Siberian – the vast majority of that’s route is in Asia, not Europe. No, if you really want a long European train journey, head to Adler, just south of the Olympic host city Sochi. From there, you can catch a train up to Vorkuta on the edge of the Arctic Circle. The route zigzags a bit over its 89 hour, 4,200 km journey, but it always stays on the European side of the Ural mountains.

Bring a good book.

Stephen Jorgenson-Murray often tweets about this kind of nonsense at @stejormur.


All maps courtesy of Deutsche Bahn.