Between the M3 and M1, Ringway 3 had to thread its way through outer London suburbia. A line was set for this road in the 1940s, but the question of where it would run could seemingly never be settled.
Like all of Ringway 3, this section of motorway was descended from one of Abercrombie's plans for post-war London, the "D" Ring Road. West of London, his line was protected from development and ready to use, but between the A40 and M1, it was accidentally lost.
By the early 1960s the official route followed existing suburban roads through Harrow and Pinner, a situation that made the locals very unhappy and frustrated the Ministry of Transport. A firm of consulting engineers, Brandt and O'Dell, were brought in to recommend a new route for the road, and they drew a simple line around the outside of the suburbs.
Not everyone was happy with this - in fact, almost nobody was happy with it - and before long everyone with any interest in this corner of semi-detached suburbia had drawn up their own proposals, most of them complete with a hefty report to explain why theirs was the best. The Department of the Environment (successors to the Ministry) were having serious doubts. They engaged another firm of engineers, Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners, to come up with yet another new route.
In 1973, before they could finish their work, Ringway 3 was consigned to history. No new route was ever produced. As a result, the official route of Ringway 3, at the time it was cancelled, was a dead man walking.
What's presented here, then, is the Brandt and O'Dell route, which remained the safeguarded alignment for Ringway 3 right up to the road's cancellation, even though it's clear that it was meant to be replaced. It's here as the final, official line because there is no later or more official one. We also include details of some of the alternative ideas, and there is a map that compares all of them towards the end of the page.
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This description begins at the south end of the route and travels north.
Sunbury to Yeading
The route of Ringway 3 north from Sunbury was a clear run on a protected corridor in the late 1960s, but has since been built over in many places. Continuing from the Ringway 3 Southern Section, the motorway would cross the M3 just east of the A244 Windmill Road, at an interchange that provided no access to or from London on the M3.
From there it would run north, through what was then sparsely developed land, crossing to the west side of the A244 at Lower Feltham. A long straight run north would bring it to an interchange with the A315 Staines Road, and it would then turn north-east to join the line of the A312 Causeway. All of this length, from the M3 to A312, was considered for construction as part of the M3 project, and was for a time referred to as the "Faggs Road Spur".
The existing A312 would then be upgraded through Cranford to M4 junction 3, where an underpass would dive below the roundabout. Sliproads would connect to North Hyde Road. Ringway 3 would then run across the Great Western Main Line railway on a long viaduct to reach the A4020 Uxbridge Road. This length - from the M4 to A4020 - reached the stage of having legal orders published and came close to construction as a length of M16, and has since been built in watered-down form as part of the A312.
All the length described up to this point followed a line protected in the Middlesex County Development Plan, which remained unchanged from the 1940s. But from this point onwards, many routes were proposed at various times. What follows is a description of the Brandt and O'Dell route, which was the official line when Ringway 3 was cancelled in 1973.
Yeading to Bushey
A curve to the north-west would bring the motorway into a natural gap between houses on the line of Yeading Brook. It would then pass through open ground to meet the A40 Western Avenue just east of Hillingdon Circus, where a major interchange would connect the motorway to the A40 and to local roads.
Turning north, Ringway 3 would skirt the edge of Ickenham. On the east side, open fields at Ruislip Gardens were earmarked by the GLC for a major new national exhibition centre - handily located near the A40, the Central Line and their new motorway ring road. It was never built.
The motorway would turn north-west again to squeeze through Ruislip, crossing the B466 Ickenham Road just next to West Ruislip station. It would then pass out into the countryside, crossing Newyears Green and meeting the Denham Spur near Bourne Farm. The spur would run almost directly north from the A40 Western Avenue at Denham Interchange to reach this point, and was expected to siphon off a significant proportion of Ringway 3's traffic heading for the Ringway 4 South Orbital Road, M40, M4 and M3.
Turning gradually to the north-east, Ringway 3 would interchange with the A404 Rickmansworth Road at Batchworth Heath, next to Mount Vernon Hospital, before travelling east through what was, in the 1960s, a gap in the upmarket suburb of Moor Park. Crossing the Metropolitan Line railway adjacent to Westbury Road, it would then run east through Sandy Lodge golf course, staying just to the north of residential areas in South Oxhey.
Another railway crossing, this time for the West Coast Main Line, would bring Ringway 3 to its next junction with the A4008 Oxhey Lane, the main access from the motorway to Watford. A long curve through Merry Hill would lead back to the Middlesex County Development Plan line, which preserved a clear path through the middle of Bushey. Passing through this vacant corridor, since built on, between Wren Crescent and The Comyns, the motorway would cross the A411 Sparrows Herne and run through what is now Albany Close.
Say Harrow, wave goodbye
In the years following the war, when Abercrombie's ambitious vision was supposed to be realised, the "D" Ring was the responsibility of Middlesex County Council. They fixed a slightly amended line for the ring road in their County Development Plan.
Middlesex didn't get far, though, and the only part they built was near Feltham, a diversion to make way for the eastern perimeter of the brand-new Heathrow Airport. The Ministry of Civil Aviation kindly paid for it and agreed to a design that suited the future ring road. It's still there today, the section of A312 called "The Parkway" between the A30 and North Hyde Road.
By 1957, the Ministry of Transport had taken responsibility for the "D" Ring Road, but soon learned that the Ministry of Housing were building a new estate in Northolt right on the protected line. Nobody had noticed until half the houses were already finished. The Minister, Harold Watkinson, had little choice but to re-route the "D" Ring around the problem, using existing roads through Northolt and Harrow, and instantly blighting anyone who lived along Alexandra Avenue, Imperial Drive and George V Avenue.
This deeply unsatisfactory situation was made worse by the formation of some fearsome residents' groups, who noisily complained about the imposition of the ring road upon pleasant suburbia. They even proposed a different route, making use of a natural gap through the suburbs formed by Yeading Brook, in 1961.
In an era when people rarely objected to new roads at all, the Ministry were rattled. Rejecting the Yeading Brook idea, they enlisted consulting engineers Brandt and O'Dell to find a motorway-standard line for the "D" Ring between the A40 and M1. Their proposal, published in July 1966, sent the road around the west of Ruislip and north of Harrow, passing mostly through countryside far beyond the suburbs - the line described above.
That should have settled the matter, but it didn't.
A question of accessibility
Harrow's residents celebrated, but the GLC were deeply unhappy. They considered Ringway 3 an integral part of the city's Primary Road Network, and it was supposed to relieve urban congestion. Moving the road to the countryside meant it wouldn't pull enough traffic off local roads in north west London. It was not, they complained, sufficiently "accessible" from the suburbs.
The MOT was persuaded to let them carry out their own study, alongside Brandt and O'Dell, and just five months later they published their own alignment for Ringway 3 between the A40 and M1. This urban alternative would have been highly accessible to residents of Northolt, Harrow and Stanmore since the GLC proposed to conveniently locate it in their back gardens.
Diverging from the official line at Yeading, the GLC suggested two alternative routes through to Harrow-on-the-Hill, one through what is now Northala Fields and the other along the Chiltern Main Line railway. The motorway would then curve around the south-east of Harrow town centre, carving up most of Northwick Park, and running alongside the West Coast Main Line railway for a short length before joining the line of a disused railway parallel to Kenmore Avenue.
It would then cut a new and destructive path through the houses of Canons Park before turning north along the Jubilee Line to find open countryside north of Stanmore. A turn to the east brought it to M1 junction 3, where it would follow the existing A1 up to South Mimms and the next section of Ringway 3.
The report that accompanied the GLC route forcibly made the case for this brand new alignment. It rejected all of the other existing possibilities, including Brandt and O'Dell's line. The Ministry - eyes rolling - thanked the GLC for their efforts and promised to put this route out to consultation with local authorities.
The five Boroughs through which the route passed (Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Harrow and Hillingdon) were not entirely sold on this destructive plan, and commissioned Colin Buchanan to evaluate it. Buchanan was an expert on urban planning whose thinking had strongly informed the Ringways plan as a whole. His company examined the GLC's line and compared it to Brandt and O'Dell, the 1961 Yeading Brook line, and several other ideas including something called the "Courtenay Avenue Route", and came down decisively in favour of the GLC's idea.
That was not remotely what the Boroughs had been expecting or hoping for, but Buchanan was very clear that the GLC's plan offered the best relief to urban traffic congestion, the best return on investment and the greatest environmental benefits. The only argument against it, which he rather skimmed over, was the huge amount of demolition.
The report was quietly handed to the Ministry, along with a series of embarrassed coughing noises and the suggestion that the road should be smaller in scale.
Restless in Ruislip
The five Boroughs need not have worried. The Minister, Richard Marsh, shared their distaste for the concept of a new motorway pushing its way through the suburbs. On 14 November 1968 the GLC line was formally and officially rejected, and the Brandt and O'Dell line became the new, safeguarded alignment for Ringway 3. It could be built sooner and more cheaply, the Ministry said, freeing up resources to improve the secondary road network around Stanmore and Harrow.
Finally, with a route chosen, progress could be made. September 1970 saw a whole slew of new schemes added to the trunk road preparation pool, meaning that civil servants were going through the legal steps necessary to prepare them for construction. Included was the whole northern half of Ringway 3, including the Brandt and O'Dell line. That should, again, have settled the matter - but, again, it didn't.
It joined the preparation pool two months after the start of the GLDP Inquiry, at which all of London's motorway plans would be evaluated. None of them went down well with the objectors at the inquiry, but of all the individual motorway schemes defended by the DoE, Ringway 3's north western section was one of the most contentious.
Witnessing the controversy, and seeing an opportunity, Frank Graham - a consulting engineer formerly of Brandt and O'Dell, who had recently set up his own company - wrote to the DoE in April 1971 with his own proposal. He suggested a new route that would bring the motorway closer in to the suburbs, a compromise between the desire to avoid urban roadbuilding and the GLC's demand for accessibility. The DoE politely declined.
Hertfordshire County Council were also unhappy. Ringway 3 was being pushed over to their side of the county boundary to avoid upsetting people in Greater London, something they considered rather unfair. When Frank Graham sent them his proposal, they were all ears.
Improved accessibility was of no interest, of course: Hertfordshire simply wanted to put the road back on the GLC side of the dotted line. Frank Graham's route passed through ancient woodland, required an expensive tunnel under the houses at Pinnerwood and bridged Ruislip Lido - it was, in other words, rather an outside hope - but it served its purpose, which was ejecting a London motorway from Hertfordshire, and the county council lobbied hard, much to the irritation of the DoE. Their extensive report on the proposal was published in October 1971.
By this point the map of north west London was disappearing entirely under all the marker pen ink. In a state of understandable despair, the DoE took the remarkable step of pulling the Brandt and O'Dell length of motorway out of the preparation pool, and brought in Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners, another firm of consultants, to come up with another plan.
Gibb and Partners decided that the best thing to do was create even more new routes. They invented two of their own - "Pinnerwood", which was a variation on Frank Graham's route, and "Colne", an entirely new one that lay even further outside London, scraping the edge of Watford town centre.
Mercifully, the end of the GLDP Inquiry was followed by the publication of the Layfield Report, which recommended scrapping the west flank of Ringway 3. On 18 May 1973, Fred Best, Director of the Eastern Road Construction Unit, wrote to Gibb and Partners, terminating the consultants' still-unfinished work.
No new route had been chosen, and - perhaps to the relief of the DoE's weary civil servants - none would ever now be required.
- Route map and summary of possible routes contain OS data © Crown copyright and database rights (2017) used under the terms of the Open Government Licence.
- Plan of Brandt & O'Dell route extracted from MT 106/290.
- Photograph of A312 Pett's Hill taken from an original by N Chadwick and used under this Creative Commons licence.
- Photograph of A312 in 1992 adapted from an original by Pete Chapman and used under this Creative Commons licence.
- Elevation plan of proposed exhibition centre kindly provided by LCC Municipal and extracted from GLC report EP643/SP232 for the Environmental Planning Committee and Strategic Planning Committee 7 June 1971.
- Aerial photograph of The Parkway taken from an original by N Chadwick and used under this Creative Commons licence.
- GLC plan of houses on Fort Road extracted from MT 106/291.
- Photograph of Ruislip Lido taken from an original by Chris Wood and used under this Creative Commons licence.
- Line of Abercrombie "D" Ring: Abercrombie, Patrick (1944). Greater London Plan. London: University of London Press.
- Middlesex County Development Plan line Sunbury-Yeading and safeguarded route Sunbury-M4: MT 106/287.
- Route M4-A4020; publication of legal orders for this length: line orders and plans at GLC/RA/D2G/03/083.
- Middlesex County Development Plan line Yeading-Bushey GLC/DG/AR/6/094.
- Brandt and O'Dell route and interchanges: MT 106/290, MT 106/221.
- Transfer of "D" Ring to MOT, loss of line to housing estate in Northolt; residents' groups submit Yeading Brook proposal: MT 106/118.
- Realignment through Harrow and protests from residents: MT 106/117, plus endless correspondence from residents at MT 106/57, MT 106/118, MT 106/292.
- GLC objection, study launched with Brandt and O'Dell; GLC alignment and report: MT 106/289.
- Buchanan report commissioned by five Boroughs: HLG 159/321.
- GLC line rejected; R3 M3-A13 added to trunk road preparation pool; Frank Graham submits proposal directly to DoE; Gibb and Partners study with "Pinnerwood" and "Colne" alignments; termination of study: MT 120/284/1.
- Hertfordshire County Council adopt Frank Graham's proposal and publish report: MT 120/284/2.
- Brandt and O'Dell line pulled from trunk road programme: MT 106/221.