Western radials

Diagram showing the western radials within the overall Ringways plan

Some of London's busiest roads head for points west. The Western Radials of the Ringway plan would have been expanded versions of those roads, though not all the upgrades and additions were what you'd expect.

Linking London's four concentric ring roads would have been a spider's web of radial routes, carrying traffic in and out of Central London. The following pages describe the four Western Radials, which are the A41(M), the M40/A40, the M4/A4, and the M3/A316.

Building the ring roads would have been difficult, but this group proves that building the radials would have been just as tough: more often than not, planners were dealing with roads that already existed. Widening and upgrading them meant difficult and controversial work, often just to achieve a fairly middling compromise.

The A4 at Chiswick, approaching the Hogarth Roundabout, seen in 1966. Upgrading a road like this would be difficult and costly. Click to enlarge
The A4 at Chiswick, approaching the Hogarth Roundabout, seen in 1966. Upgrading a road like this would be difficult and costly. Click to enlarge

The routes are described in order from north to south, telling the stories of a failed motorway project, stalled upgrades, bodged engineering, flights of fancy, a town centre saved from the wrecking ball and a road project mired in impossible politics.

Unlike the Northern Radials and Southern Radials, where entirely new routes and vast new capacity was planned, the Western Radials are notably less ambitious. The A41(M) would have transferred its traffic onto the M1 for journeys into London; the A4 was throttled by the relatively narrow width of the M4 through Brentford; and the M3 was held outside the city, forever to die out at Sunbury.

Difficult politics in West London meant that upgrade work remained uncertain and planners remained cautious right up until the cancellation of the Ringways, and the relatively decent standard of the A40, A4 and A316 in the 1960s meant they were not prioritised for upgrade work. But there's still an interesting story to be told about each of them.

Western Radials Introduction

Picture credits

  • Artist's impression of Western Circus flyover scheme is extracted from MT 118/212.
  • Photograph of A4 Great West Road Chiswick taken in 1966 is extracted from MT 118/251.

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About this page

Published16 November 2021

Last updated16 November 2021