May 27, 2011 17:09:13
Posted By Robert. Stephenson
The Great Victorian Way was an unbuilt infrastructure project presented to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Metropolitan Communications by Joseph Paxton. in June 1855. It would have consisted of a ten mile covered loop around much of central and west London, integrating road and rail routes with commercial and domestic premises. Three river crossings — two on the main loop and one on a branch — would have continued the arcade, creating inhabited bridges. The proposal was sympathetically received by the committee, but ultimately rejected on grounds of cost It prefigured the less ambitious Circle Line.
Paxton pointed out that it took longer to travel between the mainline termini at Paddington and London Bridge than it did to travel between London Bridge and Brighton, His solution to this, and the problems of travelling between the City and the West End was to build a " boulevard or railway girdle" linking the termini, which were mostly built outside the central area of London.
A branch from the South Western Railway’s Waterloo station on the south side of the Thames would cross the river to a terminus near Regent Circus. The “girdle” would be about ten miles long, and the branch one mile. There was no need to go further east as, Paxton told the select committee, “towards Whitechapel there are people who do not go about so much.”
The structure was modelled on Paxton‘s own Crystal Palace. A glass-roofed arcade 72 feet wide and 108 feet high would cover a central roadway. From the City to Regent‘s Street it would have been lined with shops, with private residences in Brompton and other areas of west London. Behind the shops and residences, there would be two levels of narrow gauge atmospheric railway tracks on each side, one for fast trains and one for slow trains. Atmospheric railways had failed in the past, but Robert Stephenson, usually sceptical about the system, had assured Paxton that they would be practical in these more controlled conditions. A double wall would insulate the residences from the noise of the trains. Existing streets would cross the roadway on the level, with the railways running uninterrupted above.” People, I find”, Paxton said “will never go much above the ground, and they will never go under ground”. It would be dry, well-ventilated and easy to maintain -- being under cover the road would never become muddy. The same basic cross-section would have been used for the river crossings as for the parts across land creating inhabited bridges — Victorian equivalents of Old London Bridge.
The walls of the arcade would be faced in ceramic tiles. Its glass roof would to keep out the polluted atmosphere of London, and promote a healthy circulation of air. In the section across Kensington Gardens there would be no shops or houses, and the arcade would provide a place to exercise in bad weather.
The road would have been open to all kinds of vehicles until nine in the morning, to allow for delivery of coal and merchandise, but only to omnibuses and passenger carriages after that time, At night the railway would carry goods between the various mainline railway termini. They would, however, have no direct link to any existing track.
Paxton estimated the total cost at 34 million pounds. Income would have been generated from the rental from the shops and houses, and from the railway, with no tolls being charged for pedestrians or vehicle passengers. He estimated that the railway would carry about 105,000 passengers each day