South Wales Trunk Road Agent



  1. What is a Trunk Road?
  2. Why do we have roadworks?
  3. Why don’t I see all this maintenance being undertaken on the network?
  4. Why do I sometimes see cones and signs on the road but nobody working?

What is a Trunk Road?


The Trunk Road Act 1936 created the trunk road network. It was defined by the then Minister of Transport as roads in Great Britain which constitute the ‘ national system of roads for through traffic’ and ‘roads of national importance’

 In 1998 they were defined in ‘Driving Wales Forward’ as a national system of strategic routes providing:

  • Links to the main centres of population
  • Key routes to major communications interchanges
  • Links from peripheral areas to the centre
  • Key cross-border links to the English network
  • Links to the rest of Europe

The trunk road network provides the main transport arteries of the country, playing a vital strategic role in the economic and social fabric of Wales. It is also uniquely the part of the transport system for which the National Assembly for Wales as highway authority has direct responsibility.

Motorways are a special type of trunk road with the main difference being that only motorised vehicles of certain classes can use them. Provisional licence holders, pedestrians, cyclists and horses are some road users that can not.

Following on from the 1998 definitions the main functions of the trunk road network are:

  • Providing links between main centres of population, industry, tourist areas and important communities.
  • Promoting safe, secure, predictable, and rapid movement of people and goods throughout Wales.
  • Providing access to major seaports, airports, rail and bus terminals.
  • Providing cross-border connections.
  • Being part of the Trans-European Road Network.

Why do we have roadworks?

The trunk road network fulfils a vital role in Wales’ economic and social well being. It accounts for only 5% of the total road network but carries more than half of all traffic using major roads in Wales.

With all this traffic comes wear and tear and it is important to undertake both routine and emergency roadworks to

  • Keep the road network in good working order
  • Protect the safety of road users
  • Minimise the need for expansive maintenance at a later date

The types of routine activities to undertaken maintain the network are:

  • Emergency repairs to the asset after incidents and accidents
  • Keeping signs & road markings in good condition
  • Maintaining boundary and safety fences
  • Clearance and maintenance of drainage systems
  • Clearance of litter and sweeping of the carriageway (motorway only – other roads are the responsibility of the local authorities)
  • Cutting grass and vegetation at junctions and within the central reservation to improve visibility
  • Maintaining traffic signals, street lighting

Why don’t I see all this maintenance being undertaken on the network?

A significant amount of work is undertaken on the network annually, but it is planned to minimise disruption to drivers with a significant amount of work planned overnight or in off peak periods.

It is in a small number of cases for example widening or large maintenance schemes that you will see roadworks happening during the day. This is because the works are so large that the works cannot be completed overnight or that it would be unsafe and uneconomic for signs and cones to be removed and replaced every day.

Why do I sometimes see cones and signs on the road but nobody working?

The reason that there are instances when you will see cones, signs and a reduced speed limit in force but no one appear to be working is because often safety barriers or the carriageway have been affected by the works and are considered temporarily unsafe.