Building the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road

23 April 2012 at 20:00 | Posted in Docklands past, Docklands present, Maps and plans | 1 Comment
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The Blackwall Tunnel may be the bane of many east and south east London residents’ journeys, but imagine trying to get around the area by car without it. It’s actually been there for much longer than you may imagine, the first (now northbound) tunnel opening way back in 1897, with the second (now southbound) tunnel following in 1967. But for many years, it was a pretty local crossing, accessed by narrow approach roads and without much of a strategic function.

But when the second tunnel opened, it was part of a much larger plan for a series of urban motorways, or ringways, around London; this link was to form the eastern part of Ringway 1, or the Motorway Box.

The section approaching the Blackwall Tunnel in the south needed to be upgraded to allow the tunnel to play a larger role in the road network, and in 1968 the GLC (Greater London Council) published a leaflet setting out how this would be achieved; essentially, by ploughing an urban motorway through the Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath borders.

The road was duly built as planned, although you’ll have noticed that the motorway box was never completed; the public tide turned against major road building in the capital in the 1970s, and the motorway box was dropped, leaving a few short sections – including the Blackwall tunnel approaches – as marooned motorways. These sections – then the A102(M) – didn’t even join up with the roads out to the edge of London, with the section through Eltham completed in the mid-80s, and the section through Leyton even later.

The roads ceased to be classed as motorways in 1999/2000, although this message hasn’t entirely got through to the designer of this newish sign I recently spotted on the A2, just before the M25 (picture from Google Streetview), which sports the road’s old A102(M) number.

The leaflet makes an interesting read, going into a surprising amount of detail, and offers a glimpse into the recent past.

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  1. I think the Greenwich Heritage Centre has an archive of photographs of he building work being done


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