Tunnelling the A205 South Circ through Forest Hill

In the longer term, the best use of this space would be as the starting point of tunnelling the A205 (South Circular) through Forest Hill - liberating the area from heavy traffic. Benefits would be huge - including a pedestrianised town centre/high street, joining up the Horniman Gardens and Triangle etc.etc.


That is a fantastic idea, but the road would still exist - otherwise we couldn’t get into Forest Hill!

Sadly the Bakerloo extention decided it was too expensive - despite the fact FH is one of the most overcrowded stations in the UK. Zero chance a road would get a tunnel

All part of the plan for improving the South Circular back in the mid-80’s. About the only part of the plan which had any merit - only problem is where does the tunnel exit the other end?

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The South Circular Assessment Study finally bit the dust in 1989

Are the current elected representatives even aware of the previous work on this proposal?

The question of how long the tunnel should be and where the other entrance/s should be is not a reason to cancel the project. Some options might be: 1) a short tunnel could have an entrance near Railway Telegraph / Topps Tiles (Stanstead Road/ Waldram Park) or Malham Industrial Estate; 2) longer (or additional section) tunnel to Catford; 3) further possibilities (and costs!) out to the junction of A205 with A2 / A20.

The short tunnel option would be a relatively small project compared to recent tunnelling operations e.g. channel tunnel (including the new railway line into Stratford and onwards to St Pancras), Thameslink, Crossrail, the new road tunnel in Silvertown.

Was this connected to the demise of the Greater London Council?

BTW It’s great to have your recollections of this.

I’ve always thought the strech of the south circ from Grove Tavern :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: to Catford was the worst bit (the Putney bit is the other contender) so pulling it out at Malham Industrial Estate would only slightly ease the issue.
Better trains is usually the answer because if you build more roads peope use them and they become full


The South Circular Assessment Study lasted over a number of years and involved the whole of South London.
It was a very expensive exercise carried out by Travers Perkins, funded by the Department of Transport. I’ve just looked at the summer 1985 Sydenham Society News letter
It involved cut and cover tunnels to get the traffic below ground. Protests about the plans came in from every quarter throughout South London.


Quite right too. In any case, as John Wilson says, building roads to encourage more people to drive cars is yesterday’s agenda.

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Indeed. Better to take measures to discourage car use.

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A cycle tunnel would still be cool, for those that don’t love the hill! Or perhaps two tunnels, one for each direction and each with ventilation providing a guaranteed tail wind too. And no pot holes!


Thanks for the interesting insight @pattrembath. I never realised this study existed, and I’m going to read up on it.

Interesting to see the progress on tunnelling projects in America. As Elon Musk writes:

Problems that come with population density will continue to worsen in London due to housebuilding (madness), so a more efficient network for vehicles is required. We all rely on vehicles, whether directly or indirectly. We need novel solutions, as opposed to zero-sum thinking.

If roads can be squirreled away underground and dedicated to vehicles, it might address some of the arguments raised by the anti-motorist lobby.

It’s a pity non-drivers seem unable to peacefully share the overground road network, but sadly territorial and tribal behaviour is human nature, and this seems to get uglier as population density increases.

I kinda agree - build the tunnels, but also work on the traffic/pollution problems at the same time. Once you have a fast route, you can upgrade what runs through it, be it horses becoming cars through the Blackwall tunnel (that’s allegedly why it has some of those funny tight turns in it - to prevent horses bolting when they saw daylight), or Steam locomotives being replaced with electric locos on the District line (some history here: https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2019/03/23/steam-trains-to-return-to-the-london-underground-2/). Subterranean cycle super-highways sound like a lot of fun, though perhaps we could also accommodate something like the Segway Hoverchair idea for the less able-bodied.

I think Elon is going to have to work very hard to bring the cost per km of tunnels down enough for us to see them appear in London boroughs any time soon!

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Umm sorry? State of that comment.

The relationship between drivers and pedestrians is not an equal one, so when sharing space that has to be considered - usually favour of the pedestrian. Driving involves pushing a lot of negative externalities - noise, pollution, danger of being hit on to pedestrians.


Anyway the expereince of sixties urban planning shows confining one form of traffic under ground or in highwalks does not make for a good area.


It’s already considered in the design of the road network. Pedestrians have pavements and vehicles have roads. Is that really so controversial?

Yes, I agree pollution needs to be addressed, which is why I drive a zero emission vehicle and urge others to do similar. Rather than creating a tribal “them vs us” mentality against motorists, we need to solve the problems of congestion and pollution together in a positive way.

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Have you seen modern examples like the High Line in NYC?


Unfortunately, Chris, when you cut and cover in London people are living in houses on narrow roads and are inconvenienced - just think of Stanstead Road leading from FH to Catford. The tunnel under Hornman Gardens was a great idea. Unfortunately when it hits the other end, it confronts families living in the houses. SCAS is quite a tome and mind-boggling with dual carriage ways up Southend Lane and Sydenham Road - and that was just immediately Sydenham’s local problem with the plans. Still it kept a lot of traffic engineers well paid for a number of years!

Improved public transport, and car sharing is probably the way to go for quite a lot of us.

Re FH - my great hope back in 2001 was to make the shopping area the Perry Vale side of the station, which has a decent sized car park - could have had flats (could still have) flats built over - lot of wasted space not being used. My wonderful new shopping area, which could even have been pedestrianised, was built over by flats. Nobody stands back and looks at spaces or listens when such suggestions are put forward.



I’m no civil engineer but I do know that tunnelling through clay creates more vibrations than when tunnelling through more unstable strata. These vibrations would almost certainly lead to numerous claims for compensation from homeowners whose buildings’ foundations have been compromised by industrial tunnelling. Can’t see a tunnel being bored through Forest Hill in my lifetime.

Technology is improving and I think this is one of the areas Elon’s ‘Boring Company’ is trying to address - making boring machines cheaper than cut n cover, and also minimising surface impact. Surface disruption is mentioned in a couple of places in their FAQ: https://www.boringcompany.com/faq

Of course that’s just the marketing. And it also says it is aiming for $10 million per mile :open_mouth:

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Wasn’t most of the cost of Crossrail working out where to put stuff? Dodging around all those other inconvenient things like buildings and tube lines. Of course we don’t have those issues in SE London - no tube lines! You could put the fares up by £2 a journey and the tunnel would be paid off in a year