River Crossings

Councillor Denise Hyland at the launch of Bridge the Gap
Councillor Denise Hyland at the launch of Bridge the Gap

The debate about new river Thames  crossings for east London has tended to focus on the proposal to construct a new Silvertown tunnel next to the Blackwall Tunnel. Objectors are concerned that increasing tunnel capacity while leaving unchanged  the roads that feed the tunnels, such as the A102 Blackwall Tunnel Approach, will lead to an increase in traffic jams and hence an increase in air pollution.  A No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign has been started and has launched a petition against the tunnel.

However the proposal to replace the Woolwich Free Ferry with a new bridge at Gallions Reach could have an equally harmful effect on traffic and air quality in residential roads in the east of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, and in neighbouring Bexley. The Google Maps snippet below shows roughly where the proposed Gallions Reach crossing would be sited (there’s an official picture in a previous post). How will traffic get to this new crossing? The consultation documents express the view that “any new tunnel or bridge at Gallions Reach would be likely to be used mostly by local traffic” because most A2 traffic would head for the tunnels at Blackwall and Silvertown, but there is no backup for this view. Just looking at the map it seems equally possible that A2 traffic would leave the motorway at the Bexley or Danson exits and cut across to the new crossing – through residential streets, down narrow Knee Hill or through East Wickham and Plumstead. This seems especially likely if for some reason the tunnel route is closed.

Google Maps snippet showing where the Gallions Reach Bridge would be
Google Maps snippet showing where the Gallions Reach Bridge would be

The Royal Borough of Greenwich Council is supporting the proposed new crossings, and prefers the option of a bridge at Gallions Reach rather than a ferry. Their Bridge the Gap campaign with Newham Council was launched today, without any trace of irony, near the 124 year old Woolwich Free Ferry which would be closed if the proposals go through. The council believe that building new river crossings is essential to promote economic growth in the borough and create jobs, and they also believe it will  reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. They are relying on Transport for London however for the detailed backup to the proposals such as a cost/benefit analysis and traffic modelling. At the launch Councillor Denise Hyland expected most traffic to approach a new Gallions Reach bridge via Western Way, and said she would oppose any future threat to Oxleas Wood from demand for additional traffic capacity between the A2 and the new bridge. I’m not so sure that future councillors would necessarily have the same opinion if faced with major congestion on small roads.

Having sat in traffic queues at both the Woolwich Free Ferry and the Blackwall Tunnel I can sympathise with drivers who have to cross the river regularly, but until some more detailed work has been done on the impact of the new crossing on traffic volumes, including the effect on minor roads, it’s not clear that the proposed new crossings will actually solve the problem and may even make it worse because new roads often lead to increased traffic volumes.

Opponents of the proposed crossings also came along to the Bridge the Gap launch, as you can see in the picture below and on the Kidbrooke Kite blog.

Objectors at the launch of the Bridge the Gap campaign
Objectors at the launch of the Bridge the Gap campaign

The Transport for London consultation on the proposals continues until 1st February and we can make any comments on the proposals until then using an online survey with just 14 questions, or by e-mail to rivercrossings@tfl.gov.uk.

Also the London Assembly Transport Committee  has arranged a seminar about TfL’s proposals next Wednesday, 9th January. Their e-mail about the seminar gave the details:

Seminar on River Crossings
We want to get people and organisations with different viewpoints to discus the need for additional river crossings in East London. A consultation, currently running, by Transport for London (TfL) is seeking views on options including a road tunnel between Silvertown and the Greenwich peninsula. It has also posed the idea of tolling the new tunnel and Blackwall Tunnel.
This seminar will provide an opportunity to discuss whether there is a need for new river crossings in London, and to consider what options might be needed to address any need for additional capacity. Expert guests (see below) will be invited to raise some of the key issues that need to be taken into account and there will be an opportunity for members of the public to put forward their views and opinions.
The guests who have been invited to take part are:
• Michèle Dix, Managing Director, Planning, TfL
• German Dector-Vega, London Director, Sustrans
• John Dickie, Director of Strategy and Policy, London First
• Richard Bourn, Traffic and Planning Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport
• David Quarmby, Chairman, RAC Foundation
The seminar will be held from 2-4pm on Wednesday 9 January in the Chamber at City Hall (nearest Tube at London Bridge or Tower Hill). All are welcome to attend. It would be useful if you are able to register your attendance: transportcommittee@london.gov.uk or 020 7983 4206.

One Reply to “River Crossings”

  1. Thanks for the great article focusing on the problems with the proposals to the east of the borough. While I recognise the need for more river crossings between Blackwall and Dartford, the solutions being offered do not stand up to scrutiny.

    Reassurances from Councillor Hyland that Oxleas Wood is safe and most traffic will approach from Western Way are disingenuous to say the least. At the last round of consultations on the borough “masterplans” last Spring it was stated that a medium to long-term aim would be to downgrade the A205 at John Wilson Street and the A206 at Woolwich High Street and Beresford Street in order to reintegrate the parts of Woolwich which are currently divided by major roads.

    If this is the case, how is traffic expected to get to Western Way from the South Circular? The only options I can see are to allow a sizeable increase in traffic along the commons, bulldoze through parts of Woolwich and Plumstead to link the Ha-Ha Road junction with the A206 at Burrage Road or go back to the plans to drive a motorway through ancient woodland. With the ongoing regeneration of Woolwich my money is on the latter and the cynic in me says that building an Equestrian Centre on protected Metropolitan Open Land is the first stage in turning greenfield to brown and making the planning process easier.

    Incidentally, a three-month consultation on the final borough Local Development Plan is due to start within weeks.

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