Mayor Supports More River Crossings

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has committed to building more Thames River Crossings in a press release on the 4th October. These are to be “greener” and more “public transport focussed” he says.

It includes plans for a new pedestrian and cycle bridge linking Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf but the Silvertown Tunnel to relieve congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel will go ahead and a bus shuttle service for cyclists will be included in that.

He is also proposing to take forward an extension of the Docklands Light Railway from Gallions Reach to Thamesmead but there is no mention of a ferry or bridge for vehicles at that location as previously discussed. He has asked TfL to look at a new ferry between Canary Wharf and North Greenwich but there is also no mention of a replacement for the Woolwich Ferry where the ferries in use are nearing the end of their useful lives.

The new Silvertown Tunnel and the existing Blackwall Tunnel would be charged to pay for the construction of the former. Suggested figure is £2.50 per trip and there is a public inquiry being undertaken into the proposals of course.

Comment: This looks like a typical political compromise where Mr Khan is promoting his green credentials while at least pushing ahead with the urgently required new Silvertown Tunnel. But he has ducked some of the issues about the need for other crossings or a long term road structure plan. As Green Party London Assembly Member Caroline Russell has said, the measures appear to be “tokenistic”, i.e. it’s a political fudge to try and please eveyone.

Roger Lawson

Gallions Reach and Belvedere River Crossings

Transport for London (TfL) have issued a public consultation on new Thames River crossings at Gallions Reach and Belvedere in East London. That’s in addition to the new tunnel at Blackwall which is already being progressed (the Silvertown tunnel). They might replace the Woolwich Ferry although the purchase of new ferry boats is planned so as to enable the ferry to continue into the 2020s. It might, of course, be a number of years before any new bridges or tunnels are actually built and come into use – that’s assuming they get through the complex planning processes on such projects and political support by the Mayor of London continues.

The public consultation gives some more information about the proposed new crossings – both bridges and tunnels are under consideration. They would of course support road vehicles including buses and also possibly cyclists and pedestrians (a token gesture perhaps as it would be a long walk). In addition they might support an extension of the DLR to Thamesmead which would be exceedingly useful for residents of that area as it would give them easy access to Canary Wharf and central London but would add substantially to the cost. Another alternative is a tram but that seems somewhat irrational as there is no tram network in the area and it is not clear why that would be even considered when buses are cheaper and more flexible.

Vehicle users would almost certainly be charged to use the bridges or tunnels. Traffic impacts would be variable depending on the roads concerned with heavier traffic on some local roads and lighter on others. But journey time reductions would be significant, e.g. 40 minutes less from Thamesmead to Barking, and 20 minutes less from Rainham to Erith.

The likely cost of these crossings is given as about £1 billion each, although the consultation web site is remarkably short on detail costings and other information.

However, to give your opinion on the proposals, please go to this web page: as soon as possible.

Roger Lawson

East London River Crossings

Transport for London (TfL) have published the results of their latest consultation on new crossings of the Thames River to the East of London, which have been demanded for many years. They got over 7,000 responses to the consultation, the vast majority from local boroughs such as Greenwich and Bexley. Over 98% of respondents expressed support for new crossings.

The proposals included a new tunnel at Silvertown to relieve the volume of traffic at the Blackwall Tunnel and cope with minor disruptions, a replacement ferry at Woolwich, a new ferry or bridge at Gallions Reach (linking Thamesmead to Beckton) and a crossing at Belvedere.

There was some opposition to a new ferry at Woolwich (although the existing ones are reaching the end of their useful life), with some arguing that more capacity would increase congestion as vehicles queued for the ferry, that ferries are unreliable and that a fixed link might be preferable.

There were similar objections to a ferry at Gallions Reach with most people supporting a bridge instead for the same reasons.

There was also overall support for a bridge at Belvedere although concerns about increased congestion, increased air pollution, the costs and likely timescales for construction were mentioned by objectors. Many people wanted both a bridge at Gallions Reach and Belvedere.

As this writer said in response to the consultation, a number of people made comments that more crossings are needed, and that implementation needs to take place sooner rather than later. Improved crossings have been debated for very many years, with no ultimate action taken. There is surely a general feeling that prompt action is now required because it takes years to construct new bridges and the problems experienced by those in South-East London in particular (as they have difficulty accessing the rest of country let alone north London) will only get worse.

TfL are now to do further work to study the concepts of new bridges at Gallions Reach and Belvedere and will also consider the option of using tunnels rather than bridges. Tunnels might release more land for development. The impact on traffic flows, the environment, possible charging regimes and funding for those schemes will now be developed.

Comment: The outcome of the consultation and TfL’s decisions on which options to pursue are sensible. But there is a grave danger that the projects will get delayed, or ultimately be thwarted by those who oppose an improved road network.

More details on the consultation and responses thereto are available here:

Roger Lawson