|From:||Marylebone, London (TQ270816)|
|Via:||Amersham, High Wycombe|
|Distance:||43.4 miles (69.8 km)|
|Meets:||A5, A501, A4206, B411, A4207, B414, B450, B451, A4000, A219, A407, A406, A479, A4089, A4005, A4088, A4127, A409, A4006, A312, A4090, A410, B466, B472, A4125, B469, A4180, A4145, A412, M25, B4442, A4154, A355, A413, B474, A40, M40, A4010, A4155, A308, A4130, A404(M), A4|
|Former Number(s):||A410, A4090, A416, A415|
|Old route now:||A4154|
|Route outline (key)|
The A404 is one of those "What were they thinking of?" roads, running in the shape of an inverted U between west London and east Berkshire. In fairness, when originally classified the road followed the much more sensible route from London to Amersham and did not reach Maidenhead until 1935.
Marylebone - Stonebridge Park
The road starts on Marylebone Road (A501) as a primary dual carriageway. It then crosses over the Edgware Road (A5) on the Marylebone Flyover and at grade as the slips. It then TOTSOs and spawns the Westway (A40) - the major western radial of London. As basically slip roads under the Westway, the Harrow Road continues the A404 route through Paddington. Opposite is the end of the Marylebone Road and overhead is the Marylebone Road flyover, or should it be the Edgware Road flyover (as this is what is being crossed) or the Harrow Road flyover seeing as that at the western end is a sign that says Harrow Road W2.
Traffic on the A40 has momentarily come down to earth before being launched skywards on the erstwhile A40(M) Westway flyover (this is of course just the A40 now, but it's still A40(M) in our hearts) and we arrive at a large roundabout. On the left is Bishop's Road and Paddington Station on the right is Warwick Avenue and Little Venice. We go straight ahead following a sign that says Kensal Green A404. Now we are under the Westway flyover on a dual carriageway the other side of which runs alongside the flyover, we get a good view of the railway lines coming out of Paddington, and the about-to-be-developed Paddington goods shed site. We dive into an underpass below the Eastbourne Terrace slip roads and emerge at a traffic light junction. Here traffic for the A40 can turn left past Royal Oak station and a nice little tour round the Georgian terraces, meanwhile we veer of to the right, rejoin the eastbound traffic and make our way over the Regents Canal past some tower blocks and on into Kensal Green.
On the right we have shops and rows of Victorian terraces; on the left, the canal and low-rise flats. We pass the B414 and the B450 and catch a glimpse of Trellick Tower, onetime eyesore and now grade 2-listed building, the tallest tower block in the country. We pass along by the final destination of many Londoners - Kensal Green Cemetery, hidden on the left by a high wall. We pass Kensal Green station on the right, meet the end of the A219, cross the West Coast Main Line, pass Willesden Junction station and arrive in Harlesden and its one-way system. We go round the houses and shops, pass the start of the A407 and we catch sight of the first of many inter-war semis on the right. A forest of traffic lights heralds the crossing of the A406 at a diamond junction which was built in the early 1990s.
Stonebridge Park - Chorleywood
Onwards and westward we go approaching wonderful Wembley, mock Tudor semis very much in evidence. We go up a hill and approach a road junction: Empire Way peels off to the right. Built for the British Empire Exhibition of 1924, this road leads to the stadium, arena and conference centre complex. A rather nice art deco clock tower stands on a traffic island as we wend our way down Wembley High Street, multiplexing with the A4089 past a large variety of burger bars and high street chain stores. We leave Wembley and turn right at a roundabout where we meet the A4005. We then pass Barham park on the right to pass under a girder railway bridge and into Sudbury. The A4005 disappears to the left and we are now in Watford Road heading almost due north. We pass the end of the A4088 and after the A4127 roundabout comes a large expanse of open land, Northwick Park, and with it the first stretch of 40 mph limit. On the right we see the large concrete buildings of Northwick Park Hospital, while on the left we see the old village of Harrow on the Hill, with its distinctive church spire. Our 40 limit ends at a roundabout where we meet the A409 and say hello to the Metropolitan line which will keep us company all the way to Amersham. We turn left at this roundabout and head west along Kenton Road, skirting the foot of Harrow Hill on the left and Harrow town centre on the right, the buildings round here are a mix of Victorian semis and mirror glass sided office blocks.
We meet the A312 off on its journey to Hampton - a sort of west-London orbital route - at a mini roundabout where we turn right and make the first of four (used to be six before the A404 was rerouted) crossings of the Metropolitan Line. before turning immediately left at a second mini roundabout into Pinner Road past more Victorian houses and shops as we pass through North Harrow. The A4090 disappears left under a girder bridge past North Harrow Station. The roadside properties change to large semi detached houses with little parades of shops at various road junctions as we enter Metroland, areas of land speculatively developed as housing estates by the Metropolitan railway during the 1920s and 1930s to encourage the middle classes to leave central London and live in an idyllic, semi-rural setting conveniently close to a railway station.
Pinner Road disappears off to the left: the A404 used to go along it and through Pinner village but was re routed during the early 1980s to go along King George V Avenue, through Pinner park, another 40 mph limit and the only significant bit of dual carriageway on this stretch. George V becomes St Thomas Avenue which leads to a mini-roundabout T-junction with the A410 Uxbridge Road. We turn left and take over the former A410 route. The houses around here have become very large and detached some have been rebuilt as flats. The B466 comes in on the left and we swing round to the right and rejoin the original route. The B472 Joel Street, Northwood Hills' high street, branches off left and we continue along Northwood Road and our second encounter with the Metropolitan Line which crosses us on a huge skew truss bridge, by far the biggest railway bridge on the route. Northwood High Street, the A4125, wanders off towards Bushey just before.
At the top of the hill we pass into a 40 mph limit. The houses start getting further apart. The Good Life TV series was filmed somewhere around here (although set in Surbiton, some distance away). The B469 turns off to the right followed by the A4180 to the left, we breast another hill and pass the rambling site of Mount Vernon hospital whose frontage hasn't changed since I went there for an operation in the mid 1960s. At last we cross into Hertfordshire and the pretty little village of Batchworth Heath with its distinctive church and cross roads: on the left a lane down to Harefield and its world-famous heart hospital and to the right a road to the exclusive Moor Park village and golf course. We go straight on into open country, the fabled green belt and our first stretch of NSL, unfortunately all-to brief as we come to Batchworth village and a 30 limit and signs saying downhill 12% gradient - the steepest on the A404. At the bottom of the hill we meet the A4145 at a roundabout, go straight over, cross the River Colne and the Grand Union Canal and meet the Rickmansworth ring road.
After the junction with the A4145 in Batchworth, the A404 becomes D2 to cross the Colne and Grand Union Canal. It used to go staight through Rickmansworth but now it skirts the Aquadrome (as S2) to reach the A412, which it briefly multiplexes with as D2 bypassing the centre of the town. It goes under the railway and at the massive Station Roundabout it joins its original course. It remains D2 for a short while (200m) going up a hill. It passes the Royal Masonic School and goes along the southern side of the top of the Chess valley (and the north of Rickmansworth). It reaches the M25 at junction 18 having climbed 30m since it left the A412. The junction is a signal-controlled half diamond, half parclo and only really exists because the M25 here is upgraded A405.
Chorleywood - Handy Cross
After crossing the M25 we pass around the north of Chorleywood before another rural section leads us to Little Chalfont, essentially a suburb of Amersham, where we go under the Metropolitan Line for the last time. We then continue adjacent to the line to reach a mini-roundabout where the A4154 (at one time a spur of the A404) heads off under the line in the direction of the town centre. Just afterwards we bear left and descend to a roundabout on the A413.
There is a short multiplex west along the A413, which bypasses Amersham Old Town, until the A404 reappears at a roundabout by Amersham Hospital. Initially the road continues westwards, passing through a wood near the village of Penn Street, before bearing more southerly and entering High Wycombe. The road descends the steep Amersham Hill, signed as 10% and with a rare urban escape lane. This crosses the railway line and levels out in a one-way loop. A404 traffic is forced left then bears right to reach the A40 at traffic lights, where it turns right to run along a D2 as far as the Magic Roundabout, where it rejoins the northbound route of the road.
Handy Cross - Maidenhead Thicket
This trunk dual carriageway starts off by bypassing Marlow, having a junction with the A4155 and crossing the Thames and into Berkshire on Longridge Bridge. At Bisham Roundabout, we come to a stop at the only centre-line break between the M40 and the M4 and meet the A308 and the original route of the A404. We hit the lowest quality part of this section - there's side turns for Temple and Hurley Bottom on the northbound carriageway, as it's just an online upgrade rather than a bypass or new build. We turn off the original route, which headed through Burchett's Green to the A4 and join a bit of new build from the 1990s that grade-separates the Burchett's Green and The Thicket Roundabouts, bypassing the old section of A423 in between. At The Thicket Roundabout, we meet the A4 at a roundabout interchange and gain blue signs.
see main article A404(M)
Originally part of the A4(M), a bypass of Maidenhead along the east-west axis, the route became part of the M4, which was then diverted, leaving (with some modifications around the M4 junction) a rump bit of motorway - the A423(M). Priorities changed and it's now the A404(M), forming a bypass of Maidenhead on the north-south axis.
In the 1922 Road Lists, the A404 ran from the A5 at Paddington to the A413 at Amersham. In 1935 the A404 took over the A4090 in Amersham, as a spur (this has since been renumbered A4154), and the A416 from Amersham to the A4 at Knowl Hill as an extension of the mainline.
In the early 1990s, a new link near Maidenhead was built, grade separating the Burchetts Green and The Thicket roundabouts, making a dualled and mostly grade-separated link between the M40 and M4. The A423 and A423(M), which was the main route before was renumbered as A4130 and A404(M) at the same time. The A404/A404(M) route was trunked at this time and the old A404 route through Burchett's Green was declassified.
Handy Cross Interchange was upgraded with a cut through in 2008.