There is a curious stub of motorway that runs off from an early Westbound junction on the Westway and plows down to the Holland Park roundabout by Shepherd’s Bush Green. Curious because it’s an anomaly: there are no other similar branches off the east-west route. It’s out of place. The road is at ground level so this little part of the city is torn completely in two: Shepherd’s Bush and White City to the west, Holland Park/North Kensington to the east. Nesting within its junction with the elevated Westway is a caravan park, perhaps the worst place to live in Britain - the carriageways crowd around and over the temporary(?) homes, making them look like victims of a bizarre and terrifying bureaucratic oversight.
The unexplained nature of that settlement aside, the way the road divides the cityscape is brutal, even more so than the hated Westway that at least had the decency to be born on stilts. A quick bit of wiki-research is a glimpse into a disastrous path not taken for London. The Shepherd’s Bush stub was part of a wider road network project called the London Motorway Box, or Ringway 1. It was one of the only sections of the network to ever be constructed, the other major part being the East Cross Route that blights East London.
Ringway 1 was born alongside the Westway. It was a dramatic project to create an inner London motorway network, to encircle the inner city with fast routes, thereby reducing congestion. The list of neighborhoods through which the dual carriageways were planned to run is startling. The Western Cross route, which is what the stub is still known as, was originally a far longer road, planned to continue southwards from Holland Park through West Kensington, Earls Court, Chelsea and Battersea.
As a North Londoner (temporarily detained in the West) I was most interested in how the plans would’ve affected that part of the world. Here’s a description of the planned route:
The NCR would have entered a cut-and-cover tunnel heading south-west through the western part of Belsize Park before returning into open air south of Eton Avenue and then crossing over Adelaide Road to follow the Euston mainline the short distance to Chalk Farm then crossing above a British Rail goods yard there and heading east along the railway to central Camden Town…
Here the route met with “the planned Camden Town by-pass”. This route description of the by-pass shows it would’ve run through Camden and Mornington Crescent, down to Euston, in a submerged but open trench.
…East of Camden Town, the NCR would have continued to follow the north side of the North London Line to Caledonian Road (A5203), where another junction would have been provided, then through Highbury and Canonbury to Dalston where the NCR would have passed over Kingsland High Street (A10) and along Ridley Road Market before a further junction would have been built to connect to the High Street and Dalston Lane. The final section of the NCR would have crossed through Hackney town centre parallel with the railway viaduct, passing south of 16th century Sutton House, East London’s oldest house, and on through Homerton and Hackney Wick
And one final dash of tarmac:
a motorway heading south-west towards The Angel, Islington.
So that’s potentially Belsize Park, Chalk Farm, Towns Camden and Kentish, North Kings Cross, Barnsbury, Highbury, Canonbury (most of Islington), Dalston and Homerton ruined; the fabric of the city permanently torn apart by wide trenches, and overshadowed by elevated concrete, all for the sake of car users.
Fortunately for us - and London - the cost and controversy associated with the project won it few friends in central government, and led to its death.