MT 106/460

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Highways projects: M23 London to Crawley (West Sussex) motorway: planning of the northern terminal; minutes and correspondence

Date range1971-1974
LocationNational Archives (see all files stored here)
CatalogueSee entry
File baseSeries MT, subseries MT 106


This is the oh god how do we terminate the M23 now the GLC's road plans are in tatters file.

It contains some correspondence but the majority of this file's bulk is, unfortunately, made up of the same report and diagrams appearing over and over again. The report is concerned with how to finish the M23 when its considerable traffic load would have to be distributed into South London's network of low-capacity urban streets. No firm conclusions were reached in the report, nor was any final answer ever found, as evidenced by the fact that the road was never built.

Because the M23 was always phased for construction earlier than Ringway 2, the Ministry struck a deal whereby a small part of R2 would be built as part of the M23 scheme, as a trunk road, and later transferred to the GLC when the connecting sections of motorway were built. The powers for this bit of road were duly transferred to the Ministry, and that is the stage that was reached when the cataclysmic shift in power happened at County Hall that saw the GLC throw all its motorway plans on a bonfire. The DoE (as it had become) was thus left with its major new southern artery terminating on two stub-ends of dual four-lane motorway that would never be tied in to a wider road plan and, on their own, were a fairly hopeless method of distributing the M23's traffic.

No longer part of Ringway 2, this problematic bit of east-west motorway and the triangular junction with the M23 itself became known as the "Delta" (either because it formed a triangle or because it was a bit like a river delta) and this file is mostly concerned with what should be done with it. For a time the DoE continued to protect the line, simply because it didn't have any other alternative plans.

The only other serious proposal that the DoE boffins could come up with was to continue the M23 a bit further up the railway to Streatham station, from which a new £4m "St Leonards Bypass" would run just to the east of the congested part of Streatham High Road, rejoining the dual three-lane road further north by the Odeon. No line was fixed for this notional road scheme but it would very likely have passed through the room from which this page is being written, which would have made it a bit noisy in here and might well have prevented me getting to the bathroom very easily.

The most telling lesson to be learned here is that, by 1974, the DoE was already of the view that it was continuing to protect the line from Hooley to Streatham in the absence of any better ideas, and that if a real alternative actually existed then it would stop immediately. That seems to have been the status quo until about 1995, when it was clear that the M23 would never happen and the protection was lifted.

Links to related files

MT 106/219 London radial motorways: linking with London road system; London-Crawley Motorway (M23) (1963-1969)
GLC/DG/PUB/01/362 Thames Tunnel publication [contains a misfiled report on the M23 northern terminal]

People with camera copies

None known.