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The "Cambridge Radial" by any other name, this and the M1 are the only two in the range of Northern Radial proposals to have materialised. Its size - and indeed its existence - are largely thanks to Stansted Airport. While the motorway terminates at Cambridge, giving the university town something of an ego boost, London's third airport is the driving factor. Without it, the M11 could have gone the way of other radial routes - particularly the M12. The M11 we see today, though, is not to the GLC's taste.

Outline map

Map image Continues towards Stansted Airport and Cambridge
Map image Probable connections to R4 North Orbital Road
Map image R3 Northern Section
Map image Local connections to Loughton & Chigwell
Map image M12 and R2 North Circular Road (M15) (Woodford Interchange)
Map image A12 and R2 Eastern Section (Redbridge Roundabout)
Map image Link to A12 Eastern Avenue
Map image Leyton Tunnel (cut-and-cover)
Map image Link to A12 Eastern Avenue
Map image R1 North Cross Route & East Cross Route (Hackney Wick Interchange)
Map image Possible local connections to Bethnal Green & Shoreditch
Map image A501 Pentonville Road (Angel)

The route

By July 1969, the M11 line between central London and Stansted had been fixed to the route that the road follows today. It approaches London from the east of Harlow, crossing Ringway 4 near North Weald airfield. There would probably have been an interchange here - though there is an element of doubt. If a junction was planned, Ringway 4 could have been used for traffic between the Dartford Tunnel and Stansted, but the junction of M11 and Ringway 3 included sliproads to allow this turning movement too. If it was possible to cut the corner then they would never be used, leading to the theory that Ringway 4 would perhaps not have interchanged with the M11. It's impossible to say without more evidence.

Woodford Interchange. Click to enlargeSouth of there, the M11 encounters the M16 - Ringway 3 - at the site of the current M25 interchange, though initially its layout was different, not permitting turns between the south and east arms (a diagram is on the R3 Northern Section page). Traffic making that turn would be expected to use the M12. At Woodford Interchange (present-day junction 4), the terminus of the M11, it would have been joined by the M12 from the east, and within the same junction complex, interchanged with Ringway 2, which at this point would have been designated M15; today it's the A406 North Circular Road. Click the image to the left to see a diagram of this junction.

The mainline of the motorway through this interchange connected the M11 towards Central London and the M12, leaving the M11 northwards as an exit from the mainline, even though the route number was to be continuous. This proposal was probably a relic of the GLC's original plans, detailed below.

Hackney Wick was to be one of the most complicated interchanges in the Ringway plan

The route south-west of here to central London was never built, and no information has yet emerged to suggest which of three slightly varying proposals it would have taken to reach Leyton. None of the proposals match the current A12 line through Wanstead. The most likely of the three routes (which is to say, the least destructive of them) carried the M11 south, parallel to the M15 (now A406 Barking Relief Road), curving west through parkland and cutting through a small residential area at Davies Lane. Here it interchanged with the A12 Eastern Avenue, allowing traffic to travel eastbound from M11 to A12 and westbound from A12 to M11. The Leyton Tunnel would be a double-deck arrangement, with the M11 running below ground in a cut-and-cover tunnel with the A12 Eastern Avenue dual-carriageway reinstated on the top.

Emerging to run side-by-side at Leyton station, the two routes would then run across open land to Hackney Wick interchange and Ringway 1. A complex arrangement of sliproads and link roads would connect the A12 and M11 to each other, Ringway 1, local roads and a new dual carriageway link to Stratford across what is now the Olympic park. The whole thing was to be one of the most complicated interchanges in the Ringway plan.

Hackney Wick interchange. Click to enlarge
Diagram showing what is thought to be the proposed final layout for Hackney Wick. Click to enlarge

From Hackney Wick, it is thought that the M11 was to continue in to London, but in fact the layout of Hackney Wick interchange would cause the main line of the route from central London to be an exit from the M11. The road is usually referred to as the 'Eastern Avenue Extension' or 'Eastway' and it might have been planned to take the A12 number. Either way, the route would run across the northern edge of Victoria Park, then either run on top of a filled-in Grand Union Canal or take a new line through Shoreditch to Old Street station. Both branches would terminate the route at Angel with a flyover junction, closely mirroring the A40(M) Westway at the opposite end of the A501.


M11 Lea Valley Route. Click to enlargeThe M11 was just one of many places where the GLC and Ministry of Transport failed to see eye-to-eye. The line described above, most of which was eventually built, was the preference of the Ministry. In 1966, the GLC's preferred route was quite different. It was to begin on the Ringway 1 North Cross Route in Dalston, at the point where the North London Line railway is in a tunnel. The consultants' report for the North Cross Route provides an interchange with the A10 here, but one option for this is a free-flowing junction, perhaps hinting at the GLC's proposal to terminate the M11 here.

The route would head north-east to join the railway towards Walthamstow for about two kilometres, before branching off to head north up the Lee Valley, interchanging with the A503 and then meeting Ringway 2 at the current junction between the A406 North Circular Road and the A112. After crossing Ringway 3 (today the M25), it would then head north-east again, probably joining the current M11 line north of Harlow. The diagram to the right shows this line - click it to see a larger version.

The GLC seem to have been reluctant to make room for the Ministry plan, and did not show the line on their plans. They agreed that a motorway should run from Hackney Wick to Leyton and Woodford, but they intended this to be the M12. The line of the route from Hackney Wick, out along the M12, had been a proposal of the LCC and Abercrombie, who referred to the whole thing as 'Radial Route 7'. The final proposal for Woodford interchange, described above, is a relic of this plan, making the M12 flow directly into the London-bound urban motorway, despite it being designated M11.


The M11's intended continuation to Hackney Wick never really happened, but the traffic demand along that corridor was great enough for an urban dual carriageway to be pushed through Leyton and Leytonstone, linking Hackney Wick interchange to Redbridge Roundabout on the North Circular Road, in the 1990s. It is not on any of the lines proposed for the M11 or M12, but it performs much the same function. Today it is part of the A12.