The layout of this road, the A12 East Cross Route (formerly A102(M)), has been haunting me for a long time. There is an unexplained kink and a strange gap in the carriageway near where it says ‘Eastway’ below. I always felt awkward about it, following the line of the road, it didn’t quite make sense. Especially considering the lack of access to the A12 from the road north out of Stratford, meaning that coach services stopping at Stratford have to go around Bow roundabout and along the A118, and then return back again.
Then after innocently reading about the beautifully named ‘Sun in the Sands‘ junction the other side of the Blackwall tunnel (I suppose concrete is made from sand isn’t it?) I found this map of proposed motorways in the area under the London Ringways plan and suddenly it makes sense:
I should have guessed – spot the same kink in the road that was built! Amazing how a highly future-proofed design survives as a funny anomaly in a time when that future plan has been long forgotten! The kink in the road today is not so much a future-proofed junction as two connector roads within a free-flowing interchange of two motorways.
A whole area of wild industrial marshland, surrounded on three sides by a motorway (though no longer technically a motorway after TfL took responsibility for the road from the Highways Authority), was unsurprisingly never considered for much commercial redevelopment, until in the late 2010s when the road conveniently began to look like a bypass around the Olympic Park! (Note the labelling error at the far right of the above map though, M11 goes north-east while the A12 heads east.)
Back to the unbuilt junction, I’m wondering how the area between the A12 carriageways has been used since scrapping the plans for another motorway. Well there’s a road access to the A12 southbound, which is unusual/slightly dangerous because it of course joins the main carriageway on the off-side, becoming the fast-lane:
It also turns out that there is now a rather bleak and introspective cul-de-sac housing estate, built some time after 1990:
Eerily, behind the gardens of the houses in this photo, there is evidence that the ground-level of the above photo was planned, even brought to its present level, in order to have cars driving along at 70mph — behind the back-gardens of the houses in the photo there is a small section of carriageway built for the planned motorway in the form of two overgrown bridges over the existing A12:
After looking at some historic maps it seems more likely that these bridges carried railway sidings to a depot, though it appears to have closed soon after the road was built.
Coincidently, it appears that deep below Buxhall Crescent (panopticon playground cul-de-sac), and slightly to the north, now runs High Speed 1, the Channel Tunnel Rail link, linking St Pancras to the nearby Stratford International, Kent and the continent. This isolated estate is literally surrounded by high-speed linear transport infrastructure on all sides, at different levels. As an awkward product of a resigned futuristic optimism, this uninspired contemporary development indicates the maturity of the present road-layout, now an ingrained, quirky figure on the landscape, like a meandering river.
There are other future-proofed motorway junctions that were part of the London Ringways plan, such as in Beckton for an unbuilt bridge over the Thames and in Surrey for an extension of the M23. A whole estate was planned in Brixton not only for people to live in but to also to act as a sound barrier for the planned motorway next to it.