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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bmag Nov 20th 2012 - Motorway numbers

It’s always good when you find someone who shares the same interests as you, especially when those interests are a touch esoteric. All those eclipse-chasers I met in Cairns, for instance. They’ve now gone back to their daily grind, but for a brief moment we were united by our shared passion for the ultimate occultation, the obscurity of the sun by the moon! Similarly, I’m discovering more and more people who share my enjoyment of patterns in dates. You may recall I dedicated a whole column (bmag, 21 February) to the subject. Imagine my joy when someone tweeted me at 8.09am on 10/11/12 just to make sure I had noticed the sequence!

Another slightly geeky fascination of mine, as yet unexplored here in the pages of bmag but rekindled this week by reader Andrew Birch, is the alphanumeric naming of our motorways. Andrew wondered if I had noticed the recent addition of an M4 (I hadn’t). He was also keen to point out the curious case of the missing motorway, the M6 (I’ll explain shortly!). My interest in alphanumeric motorway names comes from growing up in the UK. A trip to Manchester would begin on the A6, before we joined the M6 at Preston and then the M61 and M60. It’s a different language but it’s just how everyone speaks. Here, it’s never really taken off. The M1 to the Gold Coast was our first, yet despite us also having an M2, M3, M4, M5 and M7, noone seems to use those names. If I’m telling someone how to drive from Ipswich to Mt Coot-tha, I’ll say come up the M2 onto the M7 then the M5. Often I’ll have to start again: “Come up the Ipswich Motorway, go past the Logan Motorway exit and onto the Western Freeway.”

Of course, with the advent of in-car GPS devices, does anyone really need to know the names of roads? Probably not. Just as the internet has rendered unnecessary any knowledge that you once kept in your head. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to think there are things I know without having to consult a piece of technology. And so, for the record, here’s how the motorway numbering works.

The odd numbered roads run (roughly) north-south and the even numbered roads are west-east. The M1 goes from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast via the Sir Leo Hielscher (Gateway) Bridges. The M3 (A3 in parts) is the Pacific Motorway from Eight Mile Plains to the CBD, along the Riverside Expressway, up the Inner City Bypass to Lutwyche and Gympie Roads, meeting the M1 at Bald Hills. The M2 is an odd beast. Travelling from Ipswich, M2 refers to the Ipswich Motorway as far as Gailes. Then the Logan Motorway takes on the name M2, but not for the entire length of the Logan Motorway. Turn onto the Gateway Motorway at Drewvale and you’re still on the M2 (until you meet the M1 at Eight Mile Plains). The M7 is the Ipswich Motorway from Gailes to the Clem7 Tunnel and on to the new AirportLink toll road. And the M5 runs from Springfield to Toowong and will continue into the Legacy Way tunnel once completed.

So what about the missing M6? The section of Logan Motorway from Drewvale to the M1 at Loganholme still carries the old designation “Metroad 6” (a six in a hexagon) and has yet to be renamed. Main Roads Minister Scott Emerson tells me the introduction of new signage has been gradual: “On top of the cost of replacing signs on the primary route, there is also the cost of signage of the tributary routes.” But there’s a twist when it comes to the M6. Mr Emerson says: “As you know it was sold off by the previous government so signage is now a matter for Queensland Motorways.”

This just leaves the brand new M4 which, as Andrew Birch recently discovered and was excited to share with me, is the Port of Brisbane Motorway from the M1 near the Gateway Bridges to the Port of Brisbane. How could you not be fascinated by all of that?! Now here’s some homework for you! Next time you drive south along Oxley Road, see if you can work out what’s wrong with the signage as you approach the Ipswich Motorway.

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