A3 - A243 - A309
Where is it?
South of Kingston, where the A3 Kingston Bypass becomes the A3 Esher Bypass.
It was spotted by Dave Ryan.
What's wrong with it?
For a start, the roundabout interchange with the A243 only has two lanes each way through the underpass — it's the narrowest point on the Kingston Bypass. The lane is dropped too early — the A309 takes a large amount of traffic but all of it has to squeeze under the roundabout first.
But that's not all. The A243 is a major road into Kingston and you can only reach it... southbound, when you're pretty much past Kingston. Northbound traffic either has to come off too early and go through Esher or too late at Tolworth. Of course, that doesn't stop some people: you can always exit northbound by pulling across the merging sliproad from the A243 and diving off down a residential street. Stupid? It wouldn't be necessary if the junction worked.
And still there is more. The underpass itself is not properly drained. It doesn't just form puddles when it rains, it forms the kind of lake that makes drivers of small cars come to a sudden stop half way down the slope, causing major delays in bad weather.
Why is it wrong?
The access problems can be explained quite easily. The Kingston bypass was built in the 1930s and originally returned to the A3 line by what is now the A309 here. In the 1970s, the Esher bypass was constructed, branching off the Kingston bypass at this point. Historically there had never been access to what is now the A309 from the west so it wasn't provided when the Esher bypass was built. The rest can only be explained by a lack of foresight in the engineering of the interchange.
What would be better?
The land actually exists to built south-facing sliproads from the A309, and free-flowing ones at that! But back in the real world, perhaps the drainage problems can be sorted out.
Right to reply
Hate this junction? Or do you think it hasn't had a fair trial? Make yourself heard! Post a comment.
These are the most recent comments on this junction. You can see all comments if you prefer.
An anonymous contributor has a plan:
The northbound A3 on the way into this junction is horrible. After the magnificent Esher Bypass, you are greeted by a 20mph limit drop, speed cameras and the road narrowing to 2 lanes, not to mention the A309 joining in while there are still only two lanes. This leads to huge queues, that sometimes even stretch back to Esher Common. The solution is to demolish the A309 slip road that joins before the underpass, and replace it with a slip road from the A3 to the Ace of Spades roundabout, which the A309 merges with before the roundabout. This would also solve the problem with the entrance into Kingston. Sadly, I don't think anything can be done about the lane drop, apart from the speed limit drop being less drastic. As for the way out of Kingston southbound, there is plenty of space to build a slip road onto the A3.
A303paul fills in the history:
The Ace of Spades was the first junction on the Kingston Bypass to have grade separation and its limitations are accounted for by its age. I'm not sure if what is now the A309 ever had three lanes but if not the lane drop would make sense. The stumps of the original concrete lamp posts were still visible last time I went through. I recall these were odd double bracketed posts with the underpass side head linked to the post by a long pole to make it lower
By all accounts in the 50s it was the wild west of the road network. D3 with narrow lanes (probably the first D3 in the country) and banked turns, it was totally derestricted until the 70 national road limit came in but had traffic lights at regular intervals and sort of resembled reigate avenue (A217) now
Add in 1950s cars with mechanical braking and brake fade and....suffice to say that I am told one garage (I think at the Combe Road junction) used to put the mangled wrecks on display in the forecourt to try and dissuade people from confusingt it with Brooklands race track and approaching traffic lights at 85 hoping they would stay green....In the end the whole road was grade separated largely for safety reasons. The 50 limit was much later, within the last 10 years or so.
Martin is amazed:
I am amazed there are not traffic lights on the Ace of Spades roundabout, but then I spent years working in tourism explaining to baffled overseas visitors why we put traffic lights on roundabouts... Madness!
Nick gets caught out:
I live in Kingston and would make agree with pretty much all of this - what is not metioned here is that there is also no access to the A3 Southbound from the A243 - this catches me out time after time. Its ridiculous that the main Southbound route out of Kingston & Surbiton does not then connect Southbound with the main Southbound route out of South West London! And every time you forget this and turn right the roundabout you end up flying off down the A309 to Claygate & Esher and having to crawl past Sandown Park and thru Esher to get back on the A3 at the next junction!
Would also concur about the local access road - I use it frequently when coming in from A3 northbound and it involves cutting accross merging traffic, braking hard and then performing a very tight turn at slow speed. Dangerous! Its still better than the alternative of staying on the A3 for another mile then crawling thru Tolworth.
Matt is disappointed by the details:
The sliproads on this junction are a work of comedy. The London-bound A3 onramp, as others have commented, has local roads (most notably Fullers Way) branching off it at right angles and acting as an auxilliary route for Kingston-bound traffic that can't get off the A3 any other way. It also has a zebra crossing going across it right immediately after the roundabout exit, and a petrol station access at the same point. The southbound offramp from the A3 has peoples' driveways opening directly onto it for goodness' sake!
With thanks to Dave Ryan for information on this page.