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Boris moots five underground road schemes

Boris Johnson has announced five possible locations in the capital for underground roads.

London mayor Boris Johnson has announced five possible locations for new road tunnel projects in the capital.

He said Transport for London (TfL) was carrying out more feasibility work on the projects.

He made the announcement last week on a visit to the Big Dig tunnel in Boston, United States where an eight-lane highway has been built under the city.

Johnson said five London locations could all benefit from tunnels, fly-unders or decking (see box).

Such schemes - potentially funded by tolls, or by taxes on subsequent above-ground development - could benefit the environment, local residents and businesses, as well as road users.

The latest step comes after the mayor and TfL considered more than 70 locations across the capital where underground construction could meet the aims of his 2050 Infrastructure Plan and the recommendations of his Roads Task Force.

“Rebuilding some of our complex and ageing road network underneath our city would not only provide additional capacity for traffic, it would unlock surface space and reduce the impact of noise and pollution,” said Johnson.

“I am inspired by what the ambitious people of Boston have achieved at the Big Dig, both in terms of reducing congestion and how they have dramatically improved the quality of life on the surface.”

TfL will now work with local London boroughs to push forward the five proposed schemes.

Further analysis - including more detailed costs and possible funding options, as well as an indicative delivery programme - will be presented to the mayor in May.

London’s proposed underground road schemes:

  • A mini tunnel at the A13 in Barking Riverside – A huge amount of land could potentially be opened up for future development while reconnecting the Borough of Barking with the new Barking Riverside development, which is the location for almost 11,000 homes
  • Decking of the A3 in Tolworth - Access would be improved, and the area adjacent to the proposed Crossrail 2 station would be connected with the rest of the Borough, providing additional land for new homes
  • A fly-under at the A316 at Chalkers Corner - Again, access would be improved, as would facilities for cyclists and pedestrians, A major pinch point for traffic along the A316 woudl be removed
  • A fly-under at the A4 in Hammersmith - By replacing the existing viaduct with a new tunnel, the town centre would be reconnected with the River Thames, creating new opportunities for development and open space
  • Decking or a mini-tunnel at the A406 in New Southgate - By building over this junction on the North Circular, land would be unlocked for new homes and to connect the area around the proposed Crossrail 2 station

For an idea of how some of the schemes would look, see NCE’s image gallery.



Readers' comments (3)

  • The drawings illustrating these ideas could have been more ambitious and shown buildings actually over the highway making use of common foundations

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  • One problem with underground roads and car parks is the removal of spoil which is now very expensive. However if an area is to be redeveloped it should be possible to develop several levels below the apparent ground level but above the existing ground level. These layers could contain underground car parks, roads and service ducts without the problem of disturbing existing underground services. Of course such clear cut redevelopment is a rare opportunity.


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  • One such was a suggestion by Peter Campbell of pedestrianisation of Parliament Square by running the embankment road in a cut and cover tunnel on the river side of the Houses of Parliament. The top of the tunnel would form a riverside terrace.


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