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Map of past and present National Routes in Victoria.
| National Routes in Victoria once formed the interstate links connecting the major population, industrial and principal regions of Victoria to the rest of the Australia. The purpose of National Routes was to create a route numbering scheme which held no regard for state borders, but was readily identifiable to interstate travellers. National Routes were the first type of route numbering to be attempted in Australia on a large scale, with Victoria receiving routes in 1954.
The concept of a nation-wide route numbering scheme was concocted by the Conference of State Road Authorities (now Austroads) in 1953/54. Each state road authority agreed to the scheme, and the system was progressively rolled out.
In 1954, the Hume Highway was trialled as National Route 31, chosen due to its prominence as a transport corridor connecting Melbourne to Sydney. Soon after, National Routes 8 (Western Highway) and 20 (Sturt Highway) were designated.
The numbering of routes followed a pattern similar to Melbourne’s Metropolitan Routes – north-south routes were odd numbered and numbers increased from south to north; east-west routes were even numbered and numbers increased from east to west. In a similar story to the Metropolitan Routes, later additions made to the system were out of place to the original numbering plan, possibly due to the lack of suitable numbers (though this was not an issue in Victoria). When a National Route was re-routed, and the existing (original) route remained an important link, there was an option of signing it as an Alternative Route. However, many Alternative Routes were not former alignments, and this did not prevent them from being signed if they too provided important links.
The introduction of the National Highway system in November 1974 saw routes 8, 20 and 31 ‘promoted’ to the status of National Highway. The new green and gold shields that these routes received indicated that they were fully federally funded and were of higher importance than normal National Routes. The last Victorian National Route to be reassigned was route 39 in 1992. On a side note, all Alternative Routes spurring of National Highways are National Routes, eg. an Alternative Route of National Highway 39 would be known/classed as 'Alternative National Route 39'.
The death of National Routes in Victoria began in 1996 with the introduction of the Statewide Route Numbering Scheme. National Routes were converted to an alphanumeric route number, thus rendering the black-and-white shield redundant. Most National Routes in rural Victoria kept their number during the conversion; the only exception was National Route 16 which became B400.
Today, only fragments of the system exist as short routes not yet converted in Melbourne’s metropolitan area. As the alphanumeric system has not yet arrived here, the system still survives albeit as a shadow of its former self.
|Signing the System:|
|The initial signing of the National Route Numbering System was primarily done with the use of trailblazers – ie. standalone shields. They were placed periodical along the length of the route and at intersections with other National Routes, State Highways and major Main Roads. The actual shield itself was black text on a white background, with the text and border embedded with reflectors for better visibility at night. Because of this, they were referred to as ‘button copy’ shields. When specifying the direction of a National Route, trailblazers had arrows included in the top half of the shield.
In 1972, new signage practices were developed by the Country Roads Board which adopted the use of direction signs on declared roads, including on National Routes. All advance and intersection direction signs on National Routes now had the National Route shield included on the sign face with the focal points in a white, uppercase Series D font on a black background. According to the 1972 Road Furniture Manual, reassurance direction signs only showed the road name and did not include the National Route shield. By the 1980's, the font used for focal points had changed from Series D to the mixed cased Series E modified.
In 1983 saw the introduction of new reflective signage as well as other aesthetic changes. All direction signs were re-standardised to have a green background. To further improve signage, more reassurance direction signs which included the National Route shield were deployed all over the state on the relevant highways. Also during the same period, direction arrows in trailblazers were now separated and placed in an auxiliary board above the shield.
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