Plans for a series of new and improved river crossings have been outlined, as the Silvertown Tunnel plans go out to public consultation.
Plans for a pedestrian bridge linking Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf are to be accelerated. While a decision on whether the bridge will lift or swing aside for river traffic has yet to be taken, the hope is that the bridge will be designed, built and open by 2020.
In addition, further train crossings are being planned. The Docklands Light Railway will be extended from Gallions Reach across the river to Thamesmead, to support new housing developments. And an additional train route is being assessed, potentially crossing the London Overground from Barking Riverside to Abbey Wood.
A new ferry service is also being scoped out, with the potential to link North Greenwich and the Isle of Dogs. This would support developments on the Greenwich Peninsula as well as the Isle of Dogs.
“It’s no secret that London has long needed more river crossings in the east,” said Khan. “With new homes and economic growth across East London, it becomes even more important that we deliver new greener transport links that allow Londoners to cross the river quickly and more easily.”
The plans have been widely welcomed. David Leam, infrastructure director at London First, said: “Better river crossings will help unlock the economic potential of East and South East London and connect thousands of new homes in Newham, Barking, Greenwich and elsewhere.”
“We’re delighted the Mayor has sped up these plans, aiming to deliver new ways of getting across the river within the next five to ten years.”
And local MP south of the river, Teresa Pearce, commented: “Today’s proposals will encourage growth, reduce travel times and will expand opportunities. Bringing the DLR to Thamesmead is a game-changer and fulfils the promises made when Thamesmead was built over 50 years ago.”
The aim is for all these additions to be paid for through third party developer contributions, and via funds collected under the Community Infrastructure Levy.
Changes have been made to the Silvertown tunnel, ahead of its public examination period over the next six months. The tunnel should be open by 2023, easing congestion on the Blackwall tunnel route, though it will carry a toll. There is a clear aim that Transport for London will devise new bus routes that use the tunnel, while the new piece of traffic infrastructure will also be a low emission zone from the outset.
There are also plans to give bus concessions to local residents, and for the provision of a vehicle to carry cyclists through the tunnel, on a turn up and go basis. During construction, more than half of materials will be shipped by river, while trucks working on the project will need to adhere to the latest Euro6 emissions standards, and comply with the latest Direct Vision standard that aims to reduce collisions with cyclists.
“We don’t want these to have a damaging impact on our environment, and that’s why I’ve reviewed and improved plans for Silvertown Tunnel and why I’m pushing forward with crossings that encourage public transport, walking and cycling,” said Khan. “As we continue to unlock the massive economic potential of East London, we must secure the very best transport infrastructure that improves the quality of life for everyone living and working in the area.”
The potential extension of the DLR would be the seventh in the network’s history. And, according to landlord Peabody, which is investing heavily in the Thamesmead area, it could have a major impact. Peabody’s John Lewis commented: announcement of a DLR extension to Thamesmead will enable Peabody and our partners to deliver 11,500 more new homes within a new affordable riverside community at North Thamesmead. It will provide fantastic transport links for the existing community, attract new businesses to the area, create a vibrant town centre and drive the economy in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way. As London’s ‘New Town’, Thamesmead is an area of outstanding potential and with a DLR station will become one of London’s most desirable areas to live, work and visit.”
LPA Perspective: These plans could transform connectivity within the City in the East region. And, as the local MP remarks, by finally giving Thamesmead a half decent public transport link with central London, that area could finally start to achieve its potential as another major area for the expansion of the capital.
The Silvertown tunnel appears now to have the momentum that means it will actually be delivered. However, as other tolled infrastructure projects elsewhere have shown, there can be a reluctance among the public to pay, when there is a free alternative. Quite why train tunnels can be publicly funded, when road tunnels cannot, is perplexing.
The pedestrian bridge at Rotherhithe has the potential to be an exciting engineering project, as well as being relatively inexpensive to deliver. Its progress will undoubtedly be compared with that of the rather more grand Garden Bridge a little upstream.
The ideas for extending train services are a sensible way to increase the attractiveness of new City in the East locations as commuter locations, serving central London. The connectivity is good, however would it be sensible to consider, too, how the destinations with that improved connectivity could also be promoted as employment hubs?
However, grand plans have a nasty habit of being derailed; and tunnels under the Thames have a nasty habit of becoming more expensive than expected, and taking longer to build than expected.
And while some plans are being “accelerated”, there was no update on some of the other projects announced in the Connecting the Capital report, launched at the end of 2015 by Khan’s predecessor. These included road crossings of the river at Gallions Reach and Belvedere, on which consultation was promised.