Westway was not built by English drunkards or for Roman legions, but for the motor car. It had to pass through a congested district so the route was carefully planned to go over parks, open spaces, and railway land. where it had to cross built up areas, it was lifted above the ground. In 1970, when Westway was built, the elevated stretch 2.4 miles long, from the City to Paddington, was the longest elevated motorway in any European capital.

There is no straight road here. Firstly, it would have been impossible to build a straight road without demolishing swathes of houses. Secondly, a straight motoring road is dangerous because drivers can be lulled to sleep by the monotony and so crash. The modern road is still a 'rolling road', but anyone who tries to drive straight on it is breathalyed.

Today the Edgware Road junction is a sophisticated attempt to deal with road traffic. How then did it reach this level of confusion? In an earlier version of this book I suggested that, since this was a Roman road, perhaps this junction was an entrance to Hades. Literal-minded people objected, saying that the readers might think I was serious, and in any case, it was not necessary to be conducted down to Hell by Virgil or Dante here, because at this point in Edgware Road, Hell is at ground level

 

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Confusion in Piccadilly.

Illustrated London News 17 December, 1864

 

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