Greenwich in roadbuilders’ sights as Mayor Johnson revives long-dead Ringway scheme

Two years ago, this website reported on vague Transport for London plans to revive Ringway 1, a controversial 1960s road scheme that would have demolished great chunks of inner London.

Here’s a video about the Ringways. The Blackwall Tunnel approaches are among the few parts of Ringway 1 that were built. The rest of it would have obliterated Brockley, built a huge junction at Lewisham, and carved through Blackheath. (And that’s before we get to Ringway 2, which would have gone through Oxleas Wood.)

Today, those plans to revive the Ringways have been firmed up a little. And Greenwich is in the roadbuilders’ sights. So I thought I’d put something together very quickly…

Johnson’s plan is for a northern tunnel from the A40 at Park Royal to the A12 at Hackney Wick (in other words, the Blackwall Tunnel northern approach), and a southern tunnel from the A4 at Chiswick to the A13 at Beckton.

Unfortunately, all we have to go on at the moment is this tiny map, nicked from the Evening Standard’s story, and ITV London’s assertion that the scheme involves two tunnels under the Thames.

TfL map of new roads

It’s interesting how TfL’s map de-emphasises the River Thames. I’ve blown it up, and it looks like it’s ploughing straight from a junction on the Old Kent Road through Deptford and the bottom of Greenwich Park. It certainly looks like it’s aiming for an interchange with the A102 at the Woolwich Road flyover, before heading towards City Airport and Beckton.

The Silvertown Tunnel was always going to be toe in the water to test the acceptance of new road schemes, and although the most recent consultation revealed massively increased opposition to the scheme, local politicians’ collaboration with the roadbuilders has helped give them the confidence to come up with schemes like this.

I wonder if Greenwich Council leader Denise Hyland, regeneration cabinet member Danny Thorpe and ex-leader Chris Roberts ever realised their unconditional support for the Silvertown Tunnel would lead to the Greenwich world heritage site sitting under a roadbuilders’ map?

My guess is that perhaps what the plan’s actually for is to build across the Isle of Dogs to meet Bugsby’s Way, a plan which appeared occasionally in the 1970s and 1980s as the Docklands Southern Relief Road, and in the 1990s in aborted ideas for a Greenwich by-pass. Although this would make four tunnels under the Thames, not two.

But who knows? TfL used today’s announcement to hide news that it’s formally applying for permission to build the Silvertown Tunnel, leaving it down to the next mayor to cancel the scheme. What we do know is that via the Silvertown Tunnel, the roadbuilders are back. Do we have the the politicians who can stop them?

11 comments

  1. lucyneville2013

    Reminds me of the campaigns that had to be built up from nowhere to protect London against flyovers and motorways, depoting of the Eurostar trains in Peckham, and more river crossings in the 1980s. There was a massive campaign to reject proposals when people realised the full implications (things don’t get built on this scale without “collateral” damage) – and politicians only got on board when they realised the electorate was furious and frightened, but not before. Any campaigns up and running yet?

  2. Walt

    All depends how and if this would be implemented. Would be fantastic to see the A206 disappear under ground. Imagine being able to freely walk from market and naval college to the park..

  3. Alan Burkitt-Gray (@alanburkittgray)

    @Walt “Would be fantastic to see the A206 disappear under ground. Imagine being able to freely walk from market and naval college to the park.” Yes, you close it. Drivers get used to not being able to drive anywhere. They lobby for better public transport and safer options.
    Build a tunnel through Greenwich and suddenly all those drivers will come out of the woodwork and fill it up — roads are one example where ‘build it and they will come’ actually works. And remember, a tunnel is not just a blue line on a map.
    And it’s unlikely to be just a, what, 12-13-mile tunnel from end to end without any entrances and exits. It will have junctions all along, and they take space. And huge junctions at each end.
    Then the road lobby will say that they need to extend the tunnels at each end.
    It will generate diesel fumes and carbon monoxide, and they will have to be pumped out of the tunnel into the open air — where we are.
    Don’t forget that car use is actually falling in London, while public transport use is going up. We need more schemes to continue that trend, not reverse it.

  4. Stephen Brain

    Hi Darryl, Saw this at lunch-time. Boris flying kites for his Tory Leadership challenge, great claims that tunnels release land for greening. My comments: space left by redundant roads would be built on by ‘wealth developers’ not greened tunnelling on this scale will destroy homes and damage buildings (and require wholesale demolition generally) trying to leave a poisoned chalice for both Sadiq and Goldsmith (Boris’ green credentials not that strong despite the bike initiative) Comments my own not those of RBG or its Whip! Yours sincerely, Stephen Brain Cllr Peninsula ward Council Chief Whip mobile 07747 391707 #Brain1Brain Stephen Brain about.me/stephen.brain brainlab.2014

  5. lucyneville2013

    Just like the environmentally disastrous plans for his Thames estuary airport, and his wild nodding through of inappropriate developments that are ruining London’s varied cityscape, green spaces and whatever else he couldn’t care a fig for. It’s all so ancient Rome isn’t it?

  6. Derek Small

    I think everyone’s covered my feelings already with all the relevant points against the hair brained scheme being made, lets get ready for some confrontation then and lobbying of the mayoral hopefuls (not that Senor Goldsmith likely to object to road building i guess anyway unless it went through Richmond locale) (pleased you raised the credit to Ken too Mary! (how are you by the way, well i hope!). thanks for raising this so quickly Darryl.

  7. Julian Wells

    We should be very worried about this revival of the Ringways plans of the 1960s.

    There are good Wikipedia pages on these (a general page and pages on each of Ringways 1 to 4)

    One rather sinister point comes from the relevant part of the wonderful Pathetic Motorways site:

    from http://pathetic.org.uk/features/ringways/ringway_1/

    The South Cross Route is the most mysterious side of Ringway 1, and didn’t get a single part built. **The engineering diagrams and reports that should be available (and are for the other three sides) have disappeared and no trace has yet been found.** Despite this, research has turned up the route in reasonable detail, though in fragments at a time!

    From the southern end of the A102(M) Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach, the route would have headed west through Blackheath, then had a short spur to New Cross and followed the South London Railway through Brixton to Clapham Junction, would head across the Thames to meet up once again with the West Cross Route.

    ** emphasis added

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