How did you get around London before the M25 opened?

How did you traverse London in the days before the M25?

  • Drove through Central London

    Votes: 25 29.1%
  • Drove through the outskirts of London

    Votes: 17 19.8%
  • Drove via existing roads close to the alignment of the M25

    Votes: 17 19.8%
  • Drove via roads nowhere near London (A34, A27 etc)

    Votes: 6 7.0%
  • Used public transport

    Votes: 15 17.4%
  • Didn’t make such journeys at all

    Votes: 5 5.8%
  • Not applicable as I wasn’t born then

    Votes: 32 37.2%

  • Total voters
    86

PTR 444

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Last month marked 35 years since the M25 was completed, and it’s hard to believe how so many people rely on it to get from one end of the country to the other, not to mention the numerous amount of local traffic hopping between commuter towns. Younger members will have no recollection of long-distance driving through London, or even hopping between discontinuous sections of the M25 throughout the decade it was constructed.

I thought I’d set up a poll to find out how journeys made via the M25 today would have been done 40+ years ago. Of course each option varies for the type of journey so you are welcome to select more than one option on the poll.
 
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eastwestdivide

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When I was a kid in Kent, family holidays to Norfolk were Dartford Tunnel then across to the A12 etc, and hols to the West Country were A25/Reigate/Hog's Back (A31)...A303, so both more or less close to the M25 alignment. Sometimes he'd drive overnight to avoid the daytime traffic.
University was Leicester, always by train, including cross-London on a bike with panniers stuffed with textbooks via Charing Cross/Seven Dials/St Pancras.
 

randyrippley

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The Icknield Way for getting from the southwest to East or northeast

Hogs Back for circling South of London
 

PeterC

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Would depend on time of day and the journey. To get from the Dartford Crossing to Surrey it would be down to Sevenoaks and then the A25 towards Dorking. To visit my aunt in Wales we would simply get up early and drive through the centre at around 6AM. Traffic was more concentrated around working hours in those days, I wouldn't normally expect serious delays between 7pm and 7am.
 

Taunton

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Or you didn't go ...

Shortly after the last bit of the M25 opened I was in Slough after lunch, and got a call from someone near Chelmsford. I was with them in a little over an hour, and concluded things within office hours. Previously, road or rail, that would have been impossible.
 

PTR 444

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Or you didn't go ...

Shortly after the last bit of the M25 opened I was in Slough after lunch, and got a call from someone near Chelmsford. I was with them in a little over an hour, and concluded things within office hours. Previously, road or rail, that would have been impossible.
And probably impossible again now with it being practically a car park for most of the day.
 

Horizon22

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Too young! Parents also lived nowhere near London and rarely travelled here before the 80s. Dad went to university in London but used the tube most of the time and when heading home on the occasional time he had a car used the North Circular and M1/M6
 

PeterY

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And probably impossible again now with it being practically a car park for most of the day.
One reason I avoid the M25. Although it's 4 lanes, it's mostly lanes 3 & 4 that are being used.
 

Falcon1200

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In the 70s we used to visit friends in Essex, from Oxford, using the North Circular Road. It was slow but at least had some railway interest; It was sometimes possible to get a couple of AC electric loco numbers at Wembley, and the route also passed Silver Street and Gants Hill stations.
 

John Webb

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After moving to St Albans (1977) visits to family in SE London were made either by driving straight through the centre of London (particularly on Sundays or the return trip on Saturday evenings) or via the North Circular and Blackwall Tunnel, or on Saturdays the North Circular all the way round to the Woolwich Free Ferry. (Prior to 'Thameslink', so train journeys were long and needed two changes with a need to drive at one end to get to the station and catch a bus at the other - also expensive; one reason I moved from my parents to be nearer my job in Borehamwood!)
 

Gloster

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From Surrey we used the A3 to the Scilly Isles and then round west
London to The Great North Road. More than I cannot remember as a) I was quite young, and b) it was always a very early start and I was dozing in the back (breakfast, albeit a second one, was taken at Clumber Park near Worksop).
 

Bald Rick

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And probably impossible again now with it being practically a car park for most of the day.

It really isn’t! Peak times, in some places, yes. But otherwise it generally flows freely.


For me, trips from Surrey to Hertfordshire were via Ascot, Windsor, Slough, Denham, Maple Cross, the Ricky bypass (which subsequently became the M25) and the North Orbital. As the M25 opened in stages, we started using that, with some weird and wonderful routes between the unopened sections.
 

30907

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Living, and still having family and friends, in Bromley and Sydenham, the M25 still isn't the best route (except for the M11/A1 - and even then the M11 extension and Blackwall Tunnel is as easy - and free). I have been driven through the City up to the M1, but more commonly use the route through Kensington (not particularly nice!) to the Westway/M40, or the South Circular (dire in places too) to the M4.

I lived and worked in Buckhurst Hill just as that quadrant of the M25 was opening, and it did make a considerable difference going North or West (though there still isn't a North-facing exit at Loughton....).
 

david1212

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From the West / South Midlands while I can't recall exactly as almost 40 years ago to get to East Sussex we travelled further out from London. Vaguely Henley-on-Thames, Bracknell, Guildford, Horsham, Haywards Heath then e.g. Uckfield, Eastbourne. It took a long time.

With the M25 and also once open right through M40 initially much quicker but gradually slower each time.

Both 2015 or 2016 and this year M40 <> M23 slow going each time in both directions e.g.
- This year from Rottingdean to M40 which is ~70 miles took 2 hours.
- In 2015/6 a horse box broke down as I recall between Jn 9 & 8 ACW and the horse got out ..... Arrival in Hove was an hour later than planned, which included some contingency.
 

AM9

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In the 70s we used to visit friends in Essex, from Oxford, using the North Circular Road. It was slow but at least had some railway interest; It was sometimes possible to get a couple of AC electric loco numbers at Wembley, and the route also passed Silver Street and Gants Hill stations.
In the late '70s and early '80s, lived in Fareham, travelled to family in Ilford via A32, A31, A3 to Putney then across the river, along Embankment to Blackfriars, Bank, then pick up A11 to Gants Hill etc.. Usually up on a Friday, back on a Sunday. On business to Stanmore, usually A32 through Alton then to M3, then off at Lightwater, cut through Ascot to Windsor, Slough then Denham, in to Swakeleys junction, round to West Ruislip, then round the A412 to Stanmore.
 

Bishopstone

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We lived in Upminster. For the west country and Wales, Dad preferred to drive through central London rather than use the North Circular.

Onto the old A13 alignment at Dovers Corner, Rainham, and up to Tower Hill. Then by the Thames to Charing Cross; Trafalgar Square; Piccadilly and Hyde Park Corner. Cromwell Road and Talgarth Road, to pick-up the M4. Usually at 7am on a Saturday morning, and a smooth run.

I remember one year, Mum needed the loo rather urgently in Zone 1. Dad wasn’t amused she couldn’t ‘cross her legs’ until Heston. We found an early incarnation of a Portaloo at Hyde Park Corner, my parents no doubt cursing the cost of the ’visit’, but at least there were no Red Route concerns in 1982.

Central London runs always seemed good fun and part of the holiday, whereas the A406 I recall as a wretched road in the early 80s: the same Grand Theft Auto driving standards as the Ilford/Barking stretch today, but many more roundabouts and single carriageway stretches.
 

AM9

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... Central London runs always seemed good fun and part of the holiday, whereas the A406 I recall as a wretched road in the early 80s: the same Grand Theft Auto driving standards as the Ilford/Barking stretch today, but many more roundabouts and single carriageway stretches.
Ah yes, Maybank Road at South Woodford was a particular pinch point sprint where the luxury of Woodford Avenue abruptly ended at Charlie Browns. There was a sprint to go under the Central Line bridge, up the hill and be first at the lights at Gates Corner, then Waterworks Corner and down to Wadham Road for a place in the queue for the Crooked Billet (lights in those days). A bonkers road, and to think that between the ages of 11 & 14 I used to cycle that road for pleasure!
 

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Back in 1979 I was driving from Chatham to Liverpool every weekend for 6 months,, normally leaving about 15.00.
I found the easiest route on Friday afternoons was to take the A2 straight into London, pick up the inner circular.
Then take the A501 , A1 through Archway to the M1.
 

nlogax

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As a kid I remember seeing a lot of the North Circular when there were family trips from east London to the west country. Sometimes as a treat we'd go through the centre of London, I say 'treat'.. the route would take us right past the original Billingsgate fish market before it relocated to the Isle of Dogs. Not joyful for the nostrils.
 

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From Bury, Lancs: Coach down the M6 and M1 Inc the two lane section south of Watford, off at junction 2 via the old underpass on to the A1 then A41 and down Park Lane at 0400 then A2 to Ramsgate for the Hoverlloyd crossing to Calais. Then French coach to Paris. Train then to Angouleme, the twin town. Quite a journey.
 

MarlowDonkey

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In the 1960s for a route which today is M40, M25, North Orbital, we would go Beaconsfiield, Amersham, Chesham, Bovingdon Green, Hemel Hempstead, M10 and then North orbital,

crossing London, to or from the west, either the A40 and North Circular, the A40 followed by Euston Road and connections or the M4, A4 and the Embankment. Then as now, the south Circular was best avoided if possible. For Gatwick or Brighton, there was a reasonable route via the A308, Hampton Court, A3, A240 and A217 and then through Reigate. The M23 predated the completion of the M25 so could be used in later years. When the M26 opened, that was another route to Kent instead of Central London and the A2 or A20.
 

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When we lived in Cornwall in the 1970s we generally used the train to visit my grandmother in Woodford as it was a long old drive up the mostly pre dual carriageway A30 and A303.

By the time we’d moved to Exeter a few years later we’d drive though as it was quite a bit closer and as the 1980s progressed the roads improved substantially.
I remember us skirting the top of London and picking up various bits of isolated motorway that would eventually be joined up though.

We were in the AA and used to receive their little door pocket sized road atlas every year that had simplified diagrams of the various motorways around the country.
Each year the map of the M25 got more and more complete and I found it fascinating following the maps and then seeing out of the window the new bits disappearing into the distance as we left a completed section and hit the normal roads again.
 

Jimini

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We were in the AA and used to receive their little door pocket sized road atlas every year that had simplified diagrams of the various motorways around the country.
Each year the map of the M25 got more and more complete and I found it fascinating following the maps and then seeing out of the window the new bits disappearing into the distance as we left a completed section and hit the normal roads again.

My Grandfather was an AA member, and used to keep all his copies of those excellent A5(?) road atlases. I used to love as a child comparing and contrasting them as the years went on and the M25 etc. were built! I was probably the easiest grandchild to keep happy / occupied in the late '80s / early '90s :D Might have a look on eBay now you've reminded me of them, see if there are any copies still out there!
 

Cowley

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My Grandfather was an AA member, and used to keep all his copies of those excellent A5(?) road atlases. I used to love as a child comparing and contrasting them as the years went on and the M25 etc. were built! I was probably the easiest grandchild to keep happy / occupied in the late '80s / early '90s :D Might have a look on eBay now you've reminded me of them, see if there are any copies still out there!

Yes @Jimini. A fellow fan!
I’ve got one here and I just dug it out (I think I found it in a charity shop). Someone has ripped out the diagram of the M25 though. Unbelievably bad luck.
It’s a 1986/87 version (about four years before I started driving) though and the main map area shows a couple of the northern bits of the M25 still under construction.

I think I might be hitting eBay too. Don’t outbid me… ;)
 

Jimini

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Yes @Jimini. A fellow fan!
I’ve got one here and I just dug it out (I think I found it in a charity shop). Someone has ripped out the diagram of the M25 though. Unbelievably bad luck.
It’s a 1986/87 version (about four years before I started driving) though and the main map area shows a couple of the northern bits of the M25 still under construction.

I think I might be hitting eBay too. Don’t outbid me… ;)

They were amazing in their time weren't they! :smile: A cursory search on eBay doesn't throw much up though, boo. Next time I speak to the old man, might ask him if he squirreled them away somewhere after pops kicked the bucket. You never know eh!
 

Spamcan81

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It really isn’t! Peak times, in some places, yes. But otherwise it generally flows freely.


For me, trips from Surrey to Hertfordshire were via Ascot, Windsor, Slough, Denham, Maple Cross, the Ricky bypass (which subsequently became the M25) and the North Orbital. As the M25 opened in stages, we started using that, with some weird and wonderful routes between the unopened sections.
Used that route as part of journeys to and from Chichester to visit family.

Early visits to the Bluebell Railway would be straight through the middle of London. For Kent it was Hertford, Cheshunt, Loughton, Romford, Dartford Tunnel and A2. Queues for the Dartford Tunnel when it was single bore could be horrendous at times.
 
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AM9

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Used that route as part of journeys to and from Chichester to visit family.

Early visits to the Bluebell Railway would be straight through the middle of London. For Kent it was Hertford, Cheshunt, Loughton, Romford, Dartford Tunnel and A2. Queues for the Dartford Tunnel when it was single bore could be horrendous at times.
You were lucky. Before that it was the A406 to Leytonstone and pick up a road to North Woolwich for the ferry. The A406 fizzled out at Gants Hill, leaving East Ham High St. as the only real route to the ferry. In those days the ferry was the steam driven type, Will Crooks, John Benn and The Squire. Great as a passenger to walk through the main deck passage past the engine room with the massive brass crankshaft Webs, - rubbish for vehicles with a square deck and side access. One short (by modern standards) artic. and the rest of the space was useless.
Of course there was the hell hole of Blackwall Tunnel, (single bore), traffic lights at the two sharp corners!
I have mixed feelings about the emancipation of hydrocarbon-fuelled private transport, we are beginning to feel the real damage that it brings with it.
 

Nippy

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It really isn’t! Peak times, in some places, yes. But otherwise it generally flows freely.


For me, trips from Surrey to Hertfordshire were via Ascot, Windsor, Slough, Denham, Maple Cross, the Ricky bypass (which subsequently became the M25) and the North Orbital. As the M25 opened in stages, we started using that, with some weird and wonderful routes between the unopened sections.
Indeed, non peak times it generally flows well. If I’m coming round the M25 and it’s getting bad, I will often dive off at Heathrow and follow that route you used as I’d rather keep moving.
 

Ediswan

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Queues for the Dartford Tunnel when it was single bore could be horrendous at times.
It was fairly horrendous in the single bore when busy. If I recall correctly, there was a pollution detection system, which would stop the traffic if levels got too high.
 

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