Western Link

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The mystery side of Ringway 2. It's unclear why we know so little about what happens between Hanger Lane and Clapham Junction. Detailed plans were drawn up for the North Circular Road and the southern sweep of Ringway 2, and shortly afterwards, the Eastern Section. Nothing similar has been found for this section.

It is surprising that the west side of the circuit is so elusive: it suggests that this was the lowest priority and that no detailed designs were produced, but this seems odd given that the West Cross Route section of Ringway 1 was given the highest priority because of the level of traffic entering London from the west. Perhaps it was thought that an early completion of the West Cross Route would mean that this section of Ringway 2 would not be needed until later in the programme.

Outline map

Image Continues from R2 Southern Section
Image Link to A3 and Ringway 1 at Clapham Junction
Image Local connections for Barnes and Putney
Image Barnes Bridge
Image A316 (or M3)
Image Possible local connection at Chiswick
Image M4
Image Local connections for Ealing & Gunnersbury
Image A40/M40 (Hanger Lane)
Image Continues to R2 North Circular Road

The route

Evidence for this section of motorway remains sketchy and no real detailed plans or documents have been found. With the Southern Section coming up the Wandle Valley, the motorway would have turned west to join the Waterloo to Richmond railway line towards Putney. East from that point, running along the same railway line, would have been a link road, skirting the north of Wandsworth's town centre to reach Clapham Junction, where it would connect with Ringway 1's South Cross Route. The A3 would also connect in at some point: in some plans it appears to strike north to avoid Wandsworth and join Ringway 2 near to Putney where the motorway branched in two, and in others it continues through Wandsworth on its present line to make a connection closer to Wandsworth Town railway station.

Chiswick would have been isolated inside a small triangle of motorways formed by Ringway 2, M4 and A316

Bizarrely, the extensive system of relief roads that was constructed by Wandsworth Borough Council in the 1960s and 1970s, including a dual three-lane underpass beneath the A3 and a huge gyratory at the end of Wandsworth Bridge, was not connected to the Ringway plans, with funding being acquired from Central Government without the GLC's assistance or approval. Some of these roads may even have been demolished to make way for Ringway 2.

Continuing westward, route information is sketchy. Ringway 2 would have followed the railway through the cutting at Putney and over Barnes station, crossing the Common in a cut-and-cover tunnel. A local interchange would have been provided somewhere around here. It would have continued alongside the railway to cross the Thames at Barnes Bridge, carving a gap through the handsome waterfront at Barnes. This was a source of major controversy.

Barnes Bridge, before and after
Artist's impression of the view from Barnes Bridge, before and after the motorway*

North of the Thames, the motorway was proposed to run in a cutting alongside the railway, with a four-level stack type interchange at the A316 or M3 on Duke's Meadow. This full-access junction suggests that local accesses would be provided to Chiswick on each side of the triangle; otherwise there would be no point in allowing people to travel between the north-east and north-west arms of the junction.

The motorway would have run on the north side of the Hounslow Loop railway line to reach the M4. This formed one side of what became known as the Chiswick Triangle. Under the Ringway plans, Chiswick would have been isolated inside a small triangle of motorways formed by Ringway 2, the M4 and the upgraded A316 or M3. Residents' groups produced diagrams showing that the whole area within the triangle would be within the "nuisance zone" of noise and fumes that occurred within a certain distance of a major road, making a leafy and pleasant suburb significantly less pleasant. Some estimates suggested that more than half of Chiswick would be demolished to make way for the motorways and their junctions.

The Chiswick Triangle
Diagram showing the Chiswick Triangle. The small triangle in the middle
is the only part where background noise levels would fall below 35dB.

The interchange with the M4 would be at the Chiswick Flyover, constructed in 1959, which has few opportunities for an easy upgrade to a motorway-to-motorway junction. Two designs for this interchange have turned up: one is full-access but does not appear to include links to the local road network, while the other does not include connections between the south and east, but clearly does have local connections. One possible theory for the creation of alternative plans is that the upgrade of the A316 to motorway standard was doubtful, and if it did not happen, traffic between Ringway 2 and the M4 would not be able to use it as a shortcut between south and east. The full-access version of the interchange is one of the most ostentatious pieces of design in the Ringway plan; effectively a four-level stack junction twisted to fit into an oddly-shaped site. The whole thing would be elevated to stand clear of ground-level streets and would therefore have been stacked up five levels high. (The junction is detailed on the M4 page.)

The northern section of the route, between M4 and A40/M40, is part of the North Circular Road and as such came under the Ministry of Transport's 1961 report outlining a rolling scheme of improvements. At that time it was intended to dual and grade-separate the road on its existing alignment, and it is thought that this intention remained current through the creation of Ringway 2 in 1969.

History

Shoving a noisy, intrusive eight lane motorway through some of West London's wealthiest suburbs was never going to be an easy task, and while we know little of the precise layout of this section of road, there is plenty of evidence of the reaction of nearby residents. Barnes was among the most vocal parts of London, with the Barnes Motorway Action Group spearheading many of the protests against the Ringways in general throughout the 1960s and 70s.

The West London Assessment Study published in 1988 by consulting engineers Halcrow considered ways of improving transport links in this part of London, including new roads and public transport facilities. It found the best return on investment came from a resurrected Ringway 2, with the construction of a high quality expressway route from the end of the M4, through Chiswick and Duke's Meadows, across the Thames and Barnes Common to reach the A205 South Circular Road. At this point traffic could be disseminated to the Lower Richmond Road towards Putney, the South Circular itself and Roehampton Lane towards the A3.

Map produced by Halcrow
Halcrow brings Ringway 2 back from the dead

Instantly the people of Barnes started causing a fuss over the zombie motorway that had risen from the dead to trouble them again. In response, the final outcome of the study - their "best performing option" - was a package that included the Western Environmental Improvement Route (for which see the West Cross Route), new railway and bus services, and a new route roughly on the line of Ringway 2 between Chiswick and Wandsworth, but with substantial improvements. It was to run in a twin-bore tunnel under Chiswick, the Thames and Barnes, coming to the surface to meet a spur road from Barnes itself and the A205, then going back underground to run underneath the Thames all the way past Putney to emerge on the waterfront at Wandsworth.

The Department of Transport took one look at this grotesquely expensive recommendation and binned the lot - roads and public transport. None of the improvements suggested there were taken forward.

* This artist's impression is taken from a newspaper cutting found at Richmond Local History Service. It is uncredited but from context appears to come from the Richmond Herald circa 1966.