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: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/new-river-crossings

Roger Lawson

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