Ringway 2 was the direct replacement for what were then London's forty-year-old Circulars, which had been cobbled together from existing streets in the 1920s. The North Circular by this stage had seen some substantial realignment, both before and after the war, but the South Circular had seen almost no changes and was seen as totally unsuitable. Ironically the situation is barely any different today. The first job Ringway 2 had to do, then, was provide the starting point for a half-way acceptable road network for South London.
This in itself seems to be as acceptable reasonable as there could ever be for ploughing a new motorway right through the sprawling residential areas lying between Wandsworth and Eltham. But at the time, the GLC felt greater justification was needed, and instead spoke about it being a distributor for local and regional travel, and other similar nebulous concepts. The idea seemed to be that rather than helping outsiders stay out of London, it helped Londoners move around the conurbation.
But this idea meant that Ringway 2 had to be a huge road and it had to be right in the thick of the urban area - not in areas designated for slum clearance, and not through commercial and industrial districts that Ringway 1 could sometimes make use of. The GLC held great belief in what it called 'accessibility', by which it referred to the road allowing the easiest access possible to the areas it was meant to serve. This usually meant being as close as possible, so Ringway 2 simply had to blast a new line through well-off suburbia. The GLC's claims that it would improve house prices fell on deaf ears.
Objections to Ringway 2 came thick and fast in the inquiry for the Greater London Development Plan. One objector claimed that it would only encourage cars, arguing that the A4 Cromwell Road struck the right balance for traffic. And a Mrs Armitage, speaking on behalf of the Strand-on-the-Green Association (representing an area of West London that would be severed by the motorway) claimed that Ringway 2 did not have enough access points to fulfil its function, though of course her solution was not to add more junctions but to scrap it and only build Ringway 3. Her NIMBY logic also gave the inquiry the revelatory opinion that Ringway 1 would be "under-used" and was therefore pointless!
The following pages describe the route running clockwise from the A40.