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Department for Transport statement on metric road signs

Following campaign action against metric signs, the Department for Transport has issued a letter and memo to all local councils confirming that metric distance signs are unlawful. Feel free to quote from the memo in correspondence with councils that install metric signs.

From: Department for Transport,
Great Minster House
London SW1P 4DR

16th July 2002

To Chief Executives of County Councils, Metropolitan District Councils, London Borough Councils, Unitary Councils and District Councils in England

Dear Chief Executive

THE TRAFFIC SIGNS REGULATIONS AND GENERAL DIRECTIONS 1994 - UNITS OF MEASUREMENT In view of the recent publicity about a court case involving damage to road works signs that showed distances in metres, you might find it helpful to have the enclosed note summarising the provisions of the Traffic Signs Regulations in relation to use of imperial and metric units of measurement on traffic signs. I should be grateful if you could bring this to the attention of members of your staff who are involved in the provision of traffic signs.

Yours sincerely, etc

Head of Traffic Management Division


The Traffic Signs Regulations 1994 (SI 1994 No 1519 Part I) allow signs displaying distances in imperial units only (miles or yards). Any sign which incorporates metric distances is not a traffic sign within the meaning of section 64 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and is not covered by the power to place traffic signs conferred by section 65.

Section 65 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 permits traffic authorities to place traffic signs on or near any road in their area. Section 142 of the same Act defines "road" as any length of highway or of any other road to which the public has access - the Act therefore covers privately owned roads to which the public has access as well as highways maintained at public expense.

Designs for direction signs, including those to be used on public footpaths and bridleways, are specified in Schedule 7 to the Traffic Signs Regulations. Distance plates for warning signs are specified in Schedule 1. Items 3 to 8 of Schedule 16 provide for the distances shown on particular signs to be varied to include fractions of miles, or to yards where the distance is less than half a mile, as specified for the sign diagrams listed in those items in Schedule 16. Guidance on detailed design is given in Chapter 7 of the Traffic Signs Manual, available from The Stationery Office.

Direction 35 of the Traffic Signs General Directions 1994 (SI 1994 No 1519 Part II) permits the use of signs indicating vehicle length or width restrictions in metres but only if the restriction is also shown in feet and inches. Signs indicating a height limit may show feet and inches only (diagram 629.2) or imperial and metric limits together (diagram 629.2A).

Chief Executives - TSRGD -12 July 2002

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