Councils join forces to push for bridge in east London

By Rob Virtue on January 4, 2013 4:35 PM |

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Greenwich and Newham councils have announced they are teaming up to push for a road bridge between Thamesmead and Beckton.

The initiative, launched at a press conference on Friday morning, comes on the back of a Transport for London consultation on the issue.

TfL has said it was looking into constructing a tunnel between Silvertown and the Greenwich Peninsula - a proposal backed by the councils - but has played down a fixed link at Gallions Reach to replace the Woolwich Ferry.

Instead, TfL want to replace the ferry service with another two miles downstream, drawing criticism from businesses and politicians.

Greenwich and Newham administrations are adamant a bridge has to be built. They claim it would improve accessibility to more than 40 important sites either side of the river and estimate around 20,000 jobs will be created by it.

Newham's executive member for regeneration and strategic planning, Councillor Conor McAuley, said: "This bridge isn't about cars getting across the river - it's about white vans crossing. There's been a lot of investment in the DLR to help transport passengers but we need business road links.

"This will also allow buses to get people across the river."

Greenwich's cabinet member for regeneration, enterprise and skills, Councillor Denise Hyland, said the crossings were key to regeneration.

"The Mayor (Boris Johnson) talks about convergence - in getting the east as financially well off as west London - but we won't get that convergence unless we have the transport links."

However, not all back a bridge at Gallions Reach. Jenny Bates was one of the Friends of the Earth members who attended Friday's event to protest against more roads.

"It's a fact that when you build more road space, traffic goes up," she said. "It was only recently that Professor Frank Kelly of King's College London said we need to cut road traffic by 20-30 per cent to meet EU limits."

Cllr McAuley denied the crossings would be detrimental to air quality and said it would reduce pollution by stopping vehicles from queuing for long periods.

"On a cold Tuesday morning in November we have lorries queuing up to Gallions Reach for the Woolwich Ferry, often with their engines on - which they shouldn't," he said. "And we regularly have just a single ferry trying to get them across the river. This wouldn't happen with a bridge.

"A bridge here would also reduce congestion at Blackwall which can often be gridlocked."

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The previous planned crossing for the area, the Thames Gateway Bridge, was scrapped by Mayor Boris Johnson in 2008.

Go to newham.gov.uk/bridgethegap or royalgreenwich.gov.uk/bridgethegap to back the campaign.

Or go to consultations.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings/consultation to see the consultation which is running until February 1.

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