|From:||Elephant & Castle (TQ317791)|
|To:||Hyde Park Corner (TQ282797)|
|Distance:||2.2 miles (3.5 km)|
|Meets:||A3, A201, A3203, A3202, A23, A3036, A3200, A3211, A3212, A3214, A202, A3217, A3214, A4, A4202|
|Route outline (key)|
The A302, like many roads in Central London, does not have its number displayed on most signs. It does, however, form part of the London Inner Ring Road (from Victoria northwards). Most of the route, however, is inside the Ring Road, and Congestion Charge zone. It also passes several well known landmarks on the way.
The A302 is a red route (under the control of TfL) for three separate sections: St George's Road, Westminster Bridge and the inner ring road.
Elephant & Castle - Westminster
The road starts at the Elephant & Castle junction on the A3. Some rather forbidding-looking cooling towers rise out of the centre of the roundabout. Adjacent is Alexander Fleming House, former headquarters of the Department of Health. Westbound traffic runs along St George's Road, with the Imperial War Museum to the left and St George's Cathedral to the right - eastbound traffic is diverted around St George's Circus, just to the north - and technically follows the A3202 and A201. The two directions of traffic join up in Westminster Bridge Road.
At Lambeth North tube station we join the A23 for a so-called "useless multiplex": the next section of road is numbered as the A23, but doesn't progress beyond the end of the multiplex. Often there are good reasons for such a numbering arrangement but there doesn't seem to be one here - it doesn't aid navigation since the numbers aren't displayed on signs, and it's not a matter of numbering neatness since the multiplex ends at a junction with two four-digit roads. We pass beneath part of the new Waterloo International station which was for a time departure point of the Eurostar, and on to a junction which used to be a roundabout but has now had one side closed off, so that traffic progresses both ways round it.
This is the end of the A23, the other roads at the junction being the A3200 (York Road) and A3036 (Lambeth Palace Road). The latter is notable for having borne the number A303 in the original 1922 classification, until it was decided to swap it with a number from Somerset in order to give a more memorable number to the new Basingstoke-Honiton route. It's hard to imagine that back in its original location now, so familiar has the number become.
Resuming along the A302, we pass the former County Hall building on our right, which has now been converted into the London Aquarium and various other tourist attractions - sacrilege for those of us who remember Ken Livingstone's glory days at the GLC. We're now passing over Westminster Bridge, two lanes each way with fine views both up and down the river. It's worth pointing out that Westminster Bridge runs east-west; the Thames does a 90-degree turn between here and Blackfriars Bridge, which is north-south. As we arrive on the opposite bank we see the Houses of Parliament on our left. To the right is the Victoria Embankment (A3211), which is perhaps the closest London gets to the motorway that runs along the Seine in Paris - not that it's anywhere near being a motorway! On the corner is Westminster tube station, now expanded to cope with the Jubilee Line extension, and Portcullis House, the new office building for MPs that caused some controversy when it opened a few years ago.
Westminster - Hyde Park Corner
We arrive at the corner of Parliament Square, with Parliament Street (A3212, leading into Whitehall) on our right. All traffic except buses has to turn left here, which is why traffic for Trafalgar Square is diverted along Victoria Embankment and Northumberland Avenue. Parliament Square itself functions as a roundabout, and we proceed clockwise round it, passing St Margaret's Church on our left. This is Westminster's parish church and often overlooked by visitors to the adjacent Abbey, but it's well worth a visit.
We turn into Victoria Street, passing the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey and the Sanctuary just outside, entrance to Dean's Yard. On the right is the new Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, contrasting with Methodist Central Hall just behind it, itself a popular venue for conferences. At the traffic lights Great Smith Street comes off to our left, and then we see the offices of the Department for Trade and Industry. There are several government buildings along this stretch, along with New Scotland Yard, headquarters of the Metropolitan Police.
After the next set of lights we pass the Army & Navy, which despite its name is an upmarket department store, and then the Government department which should be best known to SABRE members - the Department for Transport (DfT). Set slightly back from the road is the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral - a red-brick affair which is an interesting contrast (indeed deliberately designed in a contrasting architectural style) to its Anglican counterpart at the other end of the street. Then we're into Victoria's one-way system. We progress past the entrances to Victoria mainline station, underground station and bus station, then turn up Grosvenor Gardens into Grosvenor Place.
This section of the route is part of London's inner ring road, and so we now have the familiar green signs at last, though with the A302 number no longer displayed - merely "Ring Road (N)" as appears to be the case with most of the ring road now. On the right-hand side for the entire length of this stretch is the security wall surrounding Buckingham Palace Gardens - not an attractive sight! The A302 ends at a roundabout junction with the A4, better known as Hyde Park Corner, from which the ring road continues ahead as the A4202 along Park Lane.