Report recommends four new Thames crossings to "unlock a wave of regeneration"

Out-Law News | 14 Oct 2014 | 4:45 pm | 2 min. read

A report from think-tank the Centre for London (CfL) has recommended the development of four new crossings along the river Thames that it says could "unlock a wave of regeneration" including the construction of up to 45,000 new homes in east London, Essex and Kent by 2031.

CfL published its Linking London report (74-page / 1.6 MB PDF) yesterday, summarising the findings of the Commission on East Thames Crossings. The Commission was set up by CfL earlier this year in order to "develop a set of politically and financially robust proposals to deliver a step change in crossing capacity on the East Thames", after the think-tank concluded that growth was being held back by a lack of crossings. There are currently only three road crossings in the 20 miles of the Thames to the east of Tower Bridge, compared with 16 to the west, the report said.

The report estimated that a package of four new crossings could "catalyse the development of up to 45,000 homes to 2031", help provide up to 60,000 new jobs, and improve the productivity of local businesses "by over £55 million a year". The report recommended that "a special purpose company, along the lines of Crossrail" be set up by early 2015 in order to oversee the development of several new crossings, which it said could be funded by a combination of tolling and public grants.

The Commission said that Transport for London's (TfL) existing plans to build a tunnel at Silvertown, to the south of London's Royal Docks, ought to be "brought forward as soon as possible", in order to relieve congestion in the neighbouring Blackwall Tunnel and improve cross-river access to jobs, customers and suppliers. The UK department of transport's plans for a Lower Thames road crossing near Dartford in Kent ought also to be finalised "no later than summer 2015", the report said, noting that "all that has been achieved [since the department of transport announced three options for the crossing in 2009] is to rule out one of the three options".

The Commission predicted that a new crossing at Gallions Reach, to the east of the Royal Docks, would "transform the local area by linking major new centres of employment in the Royal Docks and Stratford to the large (and potentially much larger) residential communities on the south bank". However, the report recommended that TfL abandoned plans for a bridge crossing in favour of building an immersed tunnel, with a segregated section for pedestrians and cyclists, by 2024.

While costing an estimated £175 million less than a tunnel, the report said a bridge at Gallions Reach would "sterilise" land that could otherwise be used for office and residential development, by protruding 700 m inland either side of the river. A bridge would need to be 50 m high in order to accommodate shipping traffic on the Thames and air traffic from City Airport, the report said, with the result that approach ramps would be unsuitable for cyclists and closures might be necessary in extreme weather.

A fourth crossing was recommended between Belvedere and Rainham, on the eastern outskirts of London, to "unleash the significant potential for industrial development on the large derelict area around Bronze Age Way". However, the Commission noted that the estimated costs of a Belvedere crossing were significantly higher than those at Gallions Reach, and said that development ought to wait until the "expected housing and population growth from the Silvertown, Gallions and Crossrail investments have materialised".