The Rationale for Road Numbering / One Road’s role in the London Olympics
Queens Road, also known as the B351 in Kingston and the B353 in Richmond goes from Kingston Hill (A 308) all the way through Richmond Park to Sheen Road (A305).
A B (C & D) Roads
Roads have been classified in some way in Britain since the 1920s when it was realised that a system was needed to help motorists identify the best route of travel, depending on road condition and size as well as distance between key destinations. The system was overhauled in the 1960s. Local Highway Authorities now manage the classification of roads but must seek approval from the Secretary of State when identifying A and B roads. They also manage the ‘Primary Route Network’ on behalf of the Department for Transport, the roads usually marked green on maps. The ‘PRN’ identifies primary routes (normally made up of an A road or series of A roads) to link primary destinations, primary destinations are selected by the Department for Transport depending on population, attraction, ‘nodes’ (where various routes meet) and number of nearby primary destinations. Kingston and Richmond are both primary destinations within Greater London.
A-roads are meant for large scale transport between and within areas, they are the widest and most direct route between destinations. B-roads are classified as links between A roads and smaller roads on the network. Classified roads are unofficially called ‘C’ and ‘D’ roads, with unclassified routes (local roads) making up 60% of roads in the UK.
The Department for Transport maintains a list of road numbers which are meant to be ‘used in a consistent fashion’. The Local Highway Authority applies for a number and can ‘reserve specific numbers…for future use’ should they so desire!
Olympics 1948 and 2012
Queen’s road was used during the 2012 London Olympic Games on the route of the road cycling competitions. The Men’s Race was held in glorious sunshine on Saturday 28th July and the Women’s Race in pouring rain and thunderstorms on Sunday 29th July. I remember going home from work on the 213 on the Saturday and thinking of what had taken place only a few hours earlier on the same roads. On the Sunday, it was quite strange to see Kingston and all those familiar sights on the television whilst routing for Lizzie Armitstead to win out (she went on to win the Silver Medal).
More than 200 world-class cyclists took part in the events which led to road closures and crowd management throughout Surrey. The races started in the Mall in Central London at 10am and 12noon respectively before heading to Hampton Court, Surrey and Box Hill and back to Central London via Kingston. Both races were expected to cross Kingston Bridge at 3pm and to arrive at the Kingston Gate to Richmond Park within four minutes of entering the borough, with the finishing line at the Mall around 20 minutes away!
The Cycling Time Trials also came to Kingston Borough on 1st August, after which (later Sir) Bradley Wiggins said “coming back round the roundabout in Kingston, I’m never going to experience anything like that in my entire career” as the crowds went crazy!
Sixty-four years earlier, on 28th July 1948, was Opening Day of the other London Olympics. The flame was carried into Wembley Arena by John Mark, a 22 year old described as ‘a young Greek god’ who came from Berrylands.
What had been a military encampment at Richmond Park was converted into an improvised ‘Olympic Village’ for 1500 male athletes (about a third of the overall number of competitors) on 15 acres of high ground near Ladderstile Gate, accessed via Queen’s Road. There was a gym, cinema, and “Scandinavian Vapour Baths”. Exclusive use of Surbiton Lagoon between 8am and 11am for swimming teams had been negotiated. The site was staffed by 300 young people, mostly from the National Union of Students. London Buses were used to transport athletes to competition venues as coach hire was too expensive in the post-war austerity.
Afterwards, the camp was used for military purposes again, until it was dismantled 1966
Department for Transport (2012) Guidance on Road Classification and the Primary Route Network. Available here.
Royal Borough of Kingston (2012) London 2012 Games and Cultural Programme of Events in Kingston
Surrey Comet, 3rd August 2012 ‘Wiggo feels the noise’, Letters Section and ‘An Olympics to remember’ by June Sampson
Surrey Comet, 31st July 1948 p.3 ‘Olympic Flame was lit by Surbiton Man’