A406

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Route of the A406

The grubby, disshevelled, smoggy and congested North Circular Road is what makes driving in north London so different to driving in south London. The urban sprawl of the capital is immense and very badly served by roads, having very few high-capacity arteries linking its various districts to each other and to the wider world. In south London, there is nothing. In north London, there is at least the A406 North Circular Road.

The M25 London Orbital may be congested and unpleasant, but it clings to sanity by running through open countryside and being a purpose-built motorway. The A406 performs the same function but has no such glamour. If the M25 is a pedigree, designed for its work, then the A406 is a mongrel. Nobody wanted it to look like this — it just sort of happened.

The road jostles for space between houses, shops and industrial yards. It squeezes under railway lines and dives into tunnels. Parts have been upgraded and parts haven't. Parts were finished recently and others a long time ago. And, it seems, everyone who has contributed design work to the North Circular has had a slightly different impression of the sort of road that was called for.

At its western end there's a narrow bit that just doesn't qualify for the Motorway Database at all. At various points in the middle it forgets what it's about and narrows down again — sometimes just to pause for some traffic lights, but at the notorious section through Bounds Green, it reduces to one lane and turns a corner at a suburban crossroads.

The saddest thing is that the half-way-finished collection of ideas we currently see is the finished product: all the remaining grade-separation and widening schemes are now shelved, unlikely to be resurrected any time soon. So welcome to the A406: it's not much, but then again, at least it exists at all.

You're not looking at the whole A406

This page only deals with the parts of the A406 that are classed as motorway or that have motorway characteristics. Any other sections of this road won't be featured here and will not count towards the mileage shown below.

Factfile

Start Ealing (A40)
Finish Beckton (A13)
Passes None (but forms North Circular Road around London)
Length 23 miles
Connects to M1, M11, A13