|Location Map ( geo)|
|From:||St. George's Circus (TQ305808)|
|To:||Strand Underpass (TQ316794)|
|Distance:||1.2 miles (1.9 km)|
|Meets:||A3202, A3200, A4, A4200|
|Route outline (key)|
In South London, it seems that all roads lead to the Elephant, and the A301 is no exception. In fact, this one actually starts at St George's Circus, a couple of hundred yards away, but it is part of the same one-way complex. St George's Circus is marked by an obelisk, and from it six roads radiate out. Heading in a north westerly direction is the A301, but the complexity of the one way system means that unless you are driving a bus access is only permitted from the west.
This is a good place to have an accident because shortly, on the left, we pass the headquarters of the London Ambulance Service. Opposite is the Old Vic theatre, at the corner of The Cut. Beyond is Waterloo Station - the main station (for services to the south west) on the left, and Waterloo East (for services to Kent) on the right. A curious double-deck bridge crosses the road between them - the lower deck originally carried a single track railway line connecting the two railways - it was rarely used although H G Wells refers to it in "The War of the Worlds", when the army was bringing munitions up from the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich to defend Woking from the Martians. The railway line was closed when Waterloo was rebuilt in the 1920s, and the bridge was used as a pedestrian link between the two stations. It was replaced by the upper bridge in the 1980s, allowing people to transfer between the stations without having to run the gauntlet of the traffic on the cab road at platform level.
The appearance of Waterloo at street level has changed in the last ten years as a result of the construction of the vast Jubilee Line ticket hall - this was previously a bus station; bus passengers now have to wait in the rain at the IMAX roundabout ahead, which we now reach after passing under the railway line leading to Charing Cross, the viaduct of which obscures the best views of the architecture of Waterloo station.
Before the IMAX cinema was built, the pedestrian walkways under this roundabout were previously well-known as a "cardboard city" - a haunt of the homeless.
We now come to the bridge which gives the station its name. Originally to be known as the Strand Bridge, it was opened in 1817, on the second anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, and was instead named in honour of that battle. A new bridge was completed in 1944. Because of the curve of the river here, one of the best panoramic views of London can be seen from the bridge, stretching on the north bank from the Houses of Parliament to St Paul's. On the south bank the modern edifices of the National Theatre, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Hayward Gallery (with its light sculpture which flashes in response to the wind speed), and the new footbridges attached to the Hungerford Railway Bridge draw the eye, with the London Eye prominent beyond them.
At the north end of the bridge we pass Somerset House on the right - now no longer the keeper of records of births, marriages and deaths, but open to the public. The road now narrows to a single lane - the right hand lane dives down into a subway to join the line of the tunnel that, until 1952, carried trams from the Victoria Embankment (which passes under the bridge here) through to Southampton Row (A4200); it's now been rebuilt to carry cars. There are plans to route trams this way again, but sadly they will not use the tunnel, but cross the Strand on the level - and that's where traffic from the left-hand lane ends up, at traffic lights on the A4 Strand. The A301 goes no further.
Original Author(s): Tim Lidbetter