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Ringway 2 was the second innermost of the series of four London Ringways, ring roads planned in the 1960s to circle London at various distances from the city centre. They were part of a comprehensive scheme developed by the Greater London Council (GLC) to alleviate traffic congestion on the city's road system by providing high speed motorway-standard roads within the capital linking a series of radial roads taking traffic into and out of the city. The scheme was cancelled in 1973.
Ringway 2 was planned as an upgrade to the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205) which, in the 1960s, were sign-posted routes circling the capital through the suburbs on mostly standard roads selected by route planners in the 1930s.
Much of the Ringway, particularly the southern section where a new route was required, would have been placed in cuttings to mitigate disruption to local residents.
The North Circular Road was to have been improved to motorway standard along its existing route with the designated motorway number set to be M15. In the years since the Ringways Plan was cancelled most of the route has been upgraded, some of it close to motorway standard, but this has been done in a piecemeal manner. Whilst most of the route is now a six lane dual carriageway with grade separated junctions other parts remain at a much lower standard.
At the western end of the North Circular a new section of motorway would have been constructed to take the route of Ringway 2 eastwards from the junction with the M4 at Gunnersbury along the alignment of the railway line through Chiswick to meet and cross the River Thames at Barnes.
The route of the eastern section of the North Circular Road south from the A406's junction with the M11 to the junction with the A13 (the "South Woodford to Barking Relief Road") was built on the planned motorway alignment and the section between South Woodford and Redbridge roundabout (A12 junction) was, for a time, temporarily designated as part of the M11.
At its eastern end, Ringway 2 was planned to have crossed the River Thames at Gallions Reach in a new tunnel between Beckton and Thamesmead. Although this tunnel was never built, the utility of an additional river crossing in this area continued to be recognised during the decades after the Ringway Scheme's cancellation and various proposals for an "East London River Crossing" have been developed, the most recent of which was the Thames Gateway Bridge, cancelled in 2008.
The South Circular Road was in the 1960s, and remains still, little more than an arbitrary route through the southern half of the city following roads that are mainly just single carriageway. The road planners considered the existing routing unsuitable for a direct upgrade so a new replacement motorway was planned for a route further to the south where the road could be constructed with less destruction of local communities.
Starting in the London Borough of Greenwich at the southern end of the new tunnel in Thamesmead, the planned route for the new southern section of Ringway 2 would have first interchanged with the A2016 then headed south, first through Plumstead towards Plumstead Common and then, via open land, to Shooters Hill Road (A207). Controversially, the route was then planned to cross the ancient woodland of Oxleas Wood and the adjacent Shepheardleas Wood to connect to the "Rochester Way Relief Road" (A2) at a junction at Falconwood.
Heading south from the A2, Ringway 2 would have crossed golf courses and sports grounds west of Avery Hill to reach the A20 at Mottingham where its next junction would have been constructed. Next, heading west out of the London Borough of Greenwich, the motorway would have briefly crossed the northern tip of the London Borough of Bromley, via another group of playing fields before entering the London Borough of Lewisham to connect to the A2212 near Grove Park station. Here the route encounters the first substantial urban development cutting an alignment through the London County Council's Downham Estate – land already in public ownership, thereby avoiding the need for expensive land purchases and compensation payments. Here the motorway would have run parallel with Shroffold Road and Durham Hill to cross Downham Fields then run parallel with Downham Way to meet Bromley Road (A21) where the next junction would have been located.
West of Bromley Road, Ringway 2 would have followed a westerly alignment, crossing the River Ravensbourne, and running across more sports fields and the northern corner of Beckenham Place Park to a junction with Beckenham Hill Road (A2015) near Stumpshill Wood where it would have left the London Borough of Lewisham and re-entered the London Borough of Bromley.
From Beckenham Hill Road, Ringway 2 would have continued through more open land towards Lower Sydenham station where the motorway would have turned south to run along the side of the railway line past New Beckenham station to the point where the railway crosses the River Beck and then the main railway line from Victoria station. Here the route would have followed the railway line (now occupied by Tramlink) south-west towards Birkbeck station where a junction would have been built to connect to Elmers End Road (A214).
Continuing along the railway line south-west of Birkbeck station, the motorway would have skirted the northern side of Beckenham Cemetery and entered the London Borough of Croydon. Here Ringway 2 would have had an interchange with another of the new motorways planned by the GLC, the "South Cross Route to Parkway D Radial" coming south-east along the railway line from Crystal Palace station. Like Ringway 2 this road was never built.
Continuing west, the route would have crossed Penge Road (A213) and the railway line to Norwood Junction. Next, it would have passed across a residential section of South Norwood. Here the roads are not aligned to afford an easy route for a motorway and demolitions would have been required to provide a passage for it to reach Whitehorse Lane where it would have turned south-west again to follow the road for a short distance before turning west again just north of Selhurst Park stadium.
Crossing waste ground and the southern tip of Grangewood Park, a junction would then have been built with Grange Road (A212). More demolitions would have been required to the north of Thornton Heath town centre for the Ringway to meet another railway line at Thornton Heath station. Ringway 2 would have turned to follow the railway north-west towards Norbury. At Norbury a junction would have been provided with the A23 before continuing north-west into the London Borough of Lambeth and on towards Streatham. South of Streatham Common station, Ringway 2 would have left the alignment of the railway to head west across Streatham Vale and Abercairn Road to a junction built on a triangle of railway land and allotments where it would have met the end of the M23 coming north from Mitcham.
Having entered the London Borough of Merton and again taking the easiest alignment, the Ringway would have continued along the railway line to Tooting. A junction with the A24 would have been provided at the south end of Tooting High Street. Between there and Haydons Road station the motorway would have turned north through the industrial area of Summerstown then crossed over the main railway line to Waterloo station adjacent to the River Wandle.
Entering the London Borough of Wandsworth, the Ringway would have taken a route through Southfields via the parks and playing fields on the west side of the Wandle until it reached Buckhold Road where it would have cut a north-west alignment through the residential area of west Wandsworth to reach a junction with West Hill (A3) and Upper Richmond Road (A205).
Ringway 2 would have followed Upper Richmond Road to East Putney from where it would have run alongside the railway line through Putney and into the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It would have followed the railway across Barnes Common then over the River Thames adjacent to Barnes Railway Bridge to meet the northern section.
In 1970 the GLC expected the 25-mile (40 km) long southern ring to cost £305m, including £63m for property purchases. It would require 1,007 acres (4.08 km2) and affect 5705 houses.
Other London Ringways
- Asher, Wayne. 2018. Rings Around London - Orbital Motorways and The Battle For Homes Before Roads. ISBN 978-1-85414-421-8
- Michael Bailey, Road programme cost estimated at £1,700m, The Times, 19 August 1970