Road classification in Poland


Poland has a population of 38.5 million and an area of 312,685 (wikipedia). The country is a member of the European Union, but not a member of the Euro zone. The country has several road classifications, which relate to an international, a national or a local level.

International level

Some of Poland’s roads form part of the following international networks

  • TERN trans-European road network (e.g. project 25, motorway axis Gdańsk–Brno/Bratislava-Vienna)
  • The pan-European corridors
  • The international E-road network

And, for cyclists

  • Some of the EuroVelo routes (link)

At least one of these imposes minimum geometric design standards for roads which are part of its system.

There is a national policy towards a strengthened network “of functional connections between Polish metropolises and cities in (neighbouring) countries” (ref. 381). In what might be described as a proposed national strategic road network, the document also says that “The  key  target  is  to  construct  a  backbone  network  of  fast  traffic  roads  (motorways  and/or expressways) by 2030, ensuring connectivity between major cities”.  In this context the document says that main  roads  (…)  were  divided  into  three  basic categories:

  • Class A – Core  backbone  network  of  grade  separated  roads,  constructed  to  a  motorway  standard
  • Class S – Auxiliary  grade  separated  roads,  constructed  to  an  expressway  standard
  • Other national roads

National level

We can identify different national road classifications in Poland (the numbering of these in the following paragraphs is my own). First, the Polish Central Statistical Office (CSO) classifies roads in three ways (ref. 379):

national classification 1 (CSO)

  • Urban (roads within administration borders of cities) and
  • Non-urban (roads outside administrative borders of cities)

national classification 2 (CSO)

Here the CSO classifies roads in accordance with an Act of March 1985 (and later amendments) as:

  • National roads – motorways, expressways etc.
  • Regional roads – defined as “roads other than those presented above, which are links between cities, have a great significance for the voivodship, and roads with a military significance not included among state roads”
  • District roads – defined as “roads other than those mentioned above, which link powiat capital cities with gmina capital cities and gmina capital cities with other such cities”.
  • Communal roads

national classification 3 (CSO)

  • Hard surfaced roads
  • Unsurfaced roads

national classification 4

The Poish road design guidelines published by the General Directorate for Public Roads (ref. 375) refer to seven technical classes of road (the English terms are approximate translations):

  •  I – highways (A)
  • II – expressways (S)
  • III – speeded up roads (GP)
  • IV – main roads (G)
  • V – collector roads (Z)
  • VI – local roads (L)
  • VII – access roads (D)

The source document indicates a range of design speeds and design parameters for the different road classes.

Poland 01

Local level – road classification in the city of Warsaw

Two documents of interest on this topic are “The spatial policy of Warsaw” (ref. 365, 2007) and “The transportation system of Warsaw, sustainable development strategy” (ref. 364, 2010). Both documents refer to road classification for the city, but there does not seem to be a lot of consistency (see table). This may partly be due to questions of translation.

Poland 02

Ref. 364 includes a figure which shows a bicycle route network for Warsaw (which looks rather disjointed). However there is no reference to a bicycle route hierarchy. This reference is refreshingly open, where it says that there is  “Insufficient hierarchization of the existing road network, with many roads simultaneously acting as local, suburban, and long–distance traffic roads.” The document proposes that “actions taken will strive to establish a functionally correct hierarchy of roads within the road system.”


As recently as 2003 it could be said that, nationally the “existing  sections  of  motorways  and  expressways  do  not  form  a  coherent  network which would take the burden of traffic off  the existing roads” (ref. 373). In 2010 it seems that Poland’s capital city did not yet have a functionally correct hierarchy of roads.Important documents such as the National spatial development concept for 2030 (published in 2012, ref. 381) refer to the national importance of certain international routes but these do not seem to have been acknowledged in any comprehensive road hierarchy.

It is interesting to note that some road classifications involve just two possible answers (such as  yes/no choices). For example

  • Is the road link part of a TERN international road corridor?
  • Is the road hard surfaced or unsurfaced?

 Of course, this type of simple classification can be found in other countries as well.


Thanks to Marek Motylewicz of Bialystok Technical University for pointing out the reference document (ref. 375)


364 – Capital City of Warsaw, “The transportation system of Warsaw, sustainable development strategy” (2010)

365 – Capital City of Warsaw, “The spacial policy of Warsaw” (2007)

373 – Ministry of Infrastructure, “Transport situtation and emerging development trends 2003”

375 – Generalna Dyrekcja Dróg Publicznych, “Wytyczne projektowania dróg WPD-1” (Warszaw 1995)

379 – Central Statistical Office, “CSO – Statistics, road transport 2005-2009” (2011)

381 – Ministry of Regional Development, “NSDC national spatial development concept 2030” (2012)



About roadnotes

Robert Bartlett is an international consultant with over 30 years of professional experience as a highway and traffic engineer with leading companies and organisations in several countries, including Germany, China (Hong Kong), Qatar and the UK. Specialised in urban studies, transport and the use of GIS, research has included new ideas on subjects such as the study of social justice using GIS, the dimensions of vehicles, and comparative geometrics (highways and transport).
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