South Circular Road, London
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Brownhill Road in Catford
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| Woolwich Ferry
The South Circular Road (formally the A205) is a road in south London, running from the Woolwich Ferry in the east to the Chiswick Flyover in the west. Together with the North Circular Road and Woolwich Ferry, it makes a complete ring-road of Central London. The South Circular is largely a sequence of urban streets joined together, requiring several at-grade turns and is frequently congested.
The South Circular was originally a proposed new build route across South London in the 1920s, and a small section of the road near Eltham was built. Despite various improvement plans since then, little has changed and the road is still regularly criticised for being continually congested and unfit for purpose.
The route goes south, climbing up John Wilson Street, a section of dual carriageway, until it meets Grand Depot Road when it becomes a single carriageway and travels south west along Woolwich Common and Academy Road past the former Royal Military Academy. After crossing over the A207/Shooters Hill Road, the route goes along Well Hall Road until the roundabout junction with Rochester Way, when it turns slightly more west onto Westhorne Avenue and becomes dual carriageway again. It passes under the A2 at a grade separated junction, one of only two on the route, and continues south westerly as a dual carriageway, crossing Eltham Road (A210 road) and Sidcup Road (A20 road), until the junction with Burnt Ash Hill when it becomes single carriageway again – which it will remain for most of the route.
The first section of the single carriageway is Saint Mildreds Road; then, shortly after passing under the railway line, it is Brownhill Road due west all the way to the Catford gyratory system which crosses the A21 to follow Catford Road past the now closed Catford Stadium, and then Stanstead Road, where it does a totso along Sunderland Road, Waldram Park Road, Waldram Crescent and Dartmouth Road, before turning slightly north at the start of the A2216 road at Forest Hill to follow London Road past the Horniman Museum. At the junction with Wood Vale the route turns north west along Lordship Lane before it does a "totso" (turn off to stay on) west onto Dulwich Common, passing Dulwich College. The route then goes along Thurlow Park Road, crossing the River Effra, before coming to the Tulse Hill gyratory, which is a junction with the A215 and A204 roads, as well as the point where the postcode changes from SE to SW.
The route climbs slightly on Christchurch Road, crossing the A23 on Brixton Hill to become dual carriageway for the two hundred yards of Streatham Place, before returning to single carriageway on Atkins Road where there is a totso onto Poynders Road. At the junction with Cavendish Road the route turns north before curving to the north-west to arrive at the southern corner of Clapham Common where the A24 is crossed for the route to travel along The Avenue on the west side of the common.
The A205 now meets and merges with the A3 London to Portsmouth road for two miles, travelling along Battersea Rise, North Side Wandsworth Common (the second grade separation junction, over Trinity Road), Huguenot Place, East Hill, Wandsworth High Street (passing the old Ram Brewery), and West Hill where the routes diverge; the A205 going north-west along Upper Richmond Road, past the south end of Barnes Common and the home ground of Rosslyn Park F.C., then along Upper Richmond Road West, before doing a totso at East Sheen onto Clifford Avenue. The A205 then crosses the A316, goes along Mortlake Road, across Kew Green, and over Kew Bridge. It does a totso onto Chiswick High Road at Kew Bridge Station, before ending at Chiswick Roundabout, which is the junction for the M4 and the A406 North Circular Road.
The South Circular Road was first proposed by the Ministry of Transport in the early 20th century as part of a general programme of traffic improvements across London. The first section near Woolwich was under construction by 1921, but plans for the remainder of the route had not yet been decided and there were delays due to compulsory purchasing of properties. A short section from Well Hall Road to Eltham Road had been completed by 1930, aside from a bridge underneath the Hither Green – Dartford railway, and the road had been built as far west as Burnt Ash Hill by the middle of the decade. Sir Charles Bressey's Highway Development Survey (also known as the Bressey Report), published in 1937, showed a 15 miles (24 km)-long South Circular that would have a new-build section near Wandsworth Bridge (then being rebuilt) but otherwise be a series of online improvements to existing roads.
Sir Patrick Abercrombie was frustrated by the lack of progress, and in 1933 said "There is not a single complete Ring Road in the County or Region of London". Plans for an improved South Circular were revisited as part of Abercrombie's County of London Plan of 1943, as the southern half of one of several ring roads around the capital. Abercrombie designated it as the "C Ring" (the third ring out from the city centre); however, the plan for a high-quality road was not realised and the semi-circular route was assigned to existing roads through the southern suburbs; these roads retain their historic names. The current recognised route of the South Circular was created by local motoring organisations putting up strategically placed signposts to direct traffic. Sir Richard Sharples, then MP for Sutton and Cheam felt this was inadequate, and complained that "I do not think that the South Circular Road could be said to exist at all."
In the 1960s, Abercrombie's plans were revived by the Greater London Council (GLC) as the London Ringways Plan which proposed the construction of a series of motorways in and around London to control traffic congestion. The existing A205 route was recognised as being unsuitable for upgrading and a new motorway, Ringway 2, was planned for construction further south. Due to the destruction required and cost involved in the proposed plans the majority of the Ringway Plans had been cancelled by 1973. However, local MPs, including Toby Jessel, MP for Twickenham, complained the cancellation should not be indefinite, as the existing South Circular was completely unacceptable to traffic. The route remains mainly single carriageway and the chances of any upgrades to the road are considered small at best.
The South Circular Road has long been the target of criticism over its poor capacity and lack of improvement schemes. Members of Parliament have dismissed the road as "a collection of signposts". and "not so much a coherent through route". In 1971, Jessel reported it could take over an hour to travel the route end to end, a little over 20 miles.
The majority of the road is single carriageway, one lane each way, aside from a small section of dual carriageway near the Woolwich ferry. Some of the wider sections of the road as it travels through Brixton and Clapham, which formerly were single carriageway, albeit with two lanes each way, have had the outside lanes turned into bus lanes. This has an adverse effect on the traffic flow, and has increased congestion and journey times in many areas. However it is the policy of Transport for London (TFL) to encourage the use of public transport, and reduce car journeys within the capital.
In July 2013, a task force set up by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson reported back proposing that large stretches of the South Circular (as well as the North Circular), be put underground in road tunnels, freeing up space on the surface to provide public space, extensive cycle routes, and better link existing communities currently severed by the busy road. Caroline Pidgeon, deputy chair of the London Assembly's Transport Committee responded, "It doesn't make sense and it won't add up – [there's a] £30bn estimate, but I'm sure it'll cost at least double that, and the reality is we'll lose homes around these roads and so on."
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