Sink the South Circular!

The Evening Standard reports that the Mayor of London's transport advisers are recommending that the South Circular should be driven underground, to free up more space on the surface and make the areas it travels through more pleasant to live and breathe in.

The plan is part of a series of recommendations, budgeted at £30bn, to improve road transport while tackling problems like air pollution and making better use of London's limited space. The Standard says:

The bold proposal is greater in ambition than the current £15 billion Crossrail project under the capital and is the most eye-catching plan from the influential Roads Taskforce.

It is the first strategic review for decades of London’s roads which Boris Johnson believes have been overlooked even though they account for 80 per cent of passenger trips. Sources stress the tunnelling is not designed to make way for more cars but to improve the space at ground level for pedestrians, cyclists and parks while improving the environment by cutting vehicle emissions.

They insist a radical solution is needed. Central London has lost 30 per cent of its capacity for motor vehicles in a decade to schemes such as cycle lanes and pedestrianisation. The task is made urgent because London’s population is forecast to grow by 1.25 million by 2031, adding 14 per cent to road congestion.

Much though the good folk of Forest Hill bridle at any suggestion that the South Circular spoils their home, the leaden scar it carves through this part of London is a big problem and the respiratory problems caused by car pollution alone demand a radical approach. The £30bn cost of the project could be significantly offset by using the reclaimed land for residential and commercial purposes.

TfL is now due to look at the proposals.

15 comments:

reservoir dog said...

ahahahahhahahah

tunnelling London??? Just look at those ridicoulus and arcaic "urban intestines" of blackwall tunnel and Rotherhithe....those need an urgent upgrade!!!

Brockley Nick said...

Two old tunnels are old. I'm not sure why that says anything about our ability to tunnel (although there is a tunneling skills shortage in the UK because until recently, we did relatively little of it http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8a061648-3b15-11e2-b111-00144feabdc0.html)

AdamBienkov said...

Even if there were £30 billion lying around, which there isn't, it would be far better to spend it on new public transport links rather than on moving existing roads underground. New roads attract new traffic, just as new train lines attract new passengers. Putting them underground wouldn't change that. All connecting roads would still see a big rise in traffic.

jm said...

More pie in the sky rubbish. The solution is simple: make cycling & walking the default modes of transport for the 60% of car journeys that are under 2 miles in greater London.

michael_fh said...

It seems incredibly unlikely that the government will spend £30bn on this project. It would be a terrible tunnel to be stuck in a traffic jam and difficult to keep the carbon monoxide levels down. The number of entrance and exit ramps would make merging traffic difficult to manage and liable to jams.

The tunnel would be at least 15 miles long and if the average speed was 30mph (a record speed for London) then it would take a minimum of 30 minutes to travel. That is a lot of time to be stuck in a tunnel with few means of escape.

And what I would prefer to see (but not through my house) is an extension of the M23, M3, M20, M2 to join up with the south circular, just like the M1, M11, M4 do in North London. In fact if you are building a tunnel let's take the M23 to the M1 with junctions at Croydon, Clapham, Euston Road, and Brent Cross. That way Londoners would be able to get out of London in less than the 30 minutes it currently takes to get from any part of South London to the M25.

Michael Harris said...

Because the Boston Big Dig project worked out so well....

anon said...

It'd be cut and cover. This is an old idea from the late 60s. The motorway box it was called then.

Tim said...

Hilarious. We make really hard work out of building a bridge or an overground railway line across the countryside. An underground road tunnel through the whole of South London? Never gonna happen!

Brockley Nick said...

That might be the solution, but it sure ain't simple.

rationalplan said...

Ah, it's not as if the South Circular plan will ever happen, that's just sacrificial vapourware to tempt people in.


What they really want to do is knock down the Hammersmith Flyover and instead of building a small tunnel, they want to bury the A4 from the Hogarth roundabout to Earls Court. That might actually add up, as it would a strip of land six lanes wide for lots of redevelopment, as well as reconnecting the riverside to Hammersmith town centre and improving the whole urban fabric of West London.


The South circular is no such urban beast, it's mostly a traffic choked single carriageway, there is no land to be released or grassed over as it's still needed for local access. Also there are not many large urban roads for it to connect to between the A20 and A3.


Too expensive and too many political problems, burying the A4 on the other hand, is much more straight forward.

terrencetrentderby said...

As you said NIMBYs like you will never allow your final paragraph to happen.

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, I can totally understand why the A4 would be the much greater priority. And quite right. The flyover ruins a large swathe of west London. I don't see why the need for all the smoke and mirrors you suggest. The case for the A4 is quite reasonable / obvious without lumping in the A4.


My guess is that the South Circular will get some kind of love. Perhaps a cut and cover stretch at one or two nasty points, both to expand and bury it.

rationalplan said...

Not so much bait and switch, as offer a grand vision and then scale back to reality.

Chipper said...

No clue if this is sensible but have to ask.....any comparison between cost of going over (15 mile flyover on top of existing South Circular) rather than under (15 mile tunnel)?

Headhunter said...

There was a plan to bring all motorways into central London back in the 60s and 70s (Google "motorway box London"). The government had in fact begun to buy up swathes of land and homes ready for demolition. Fortunately local opposition forced the plans to be derailed and it was never realised but at the time the government was more than ready to disregard the many people whose lives and homes would have been blighted by 6 lane motorways ploughing through residential areas and it took forceful legal action by people at the time to stop the project. Thankfully we're entering an era in which car travel is being increasingly seen for what it is - highly antisocial and incredibly bad for our health...

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