Proposals to build two bridges across the Thames to the east of Silvertown have been released by Transport for London.

While it is not yet known whether the two crossings, at Gallions Reach and Belvedere will be tunnels or bridges, the transport authority has released detailed plans for the crossings on December 2.

Here’s everything you need to know about the proposals.

What is it?

The east of Silvertown project consists of early plans for two river crossings – one from Gallions Reach to Thamesmead and the other linking Belvedere with Rainham. While it has not yet been decided whether the crossings will be bridges or tunnels, the plan is to get them open to traffic from 2025. It forms part of the Mayor of London’s idea for 13 extra Thames crossings to be built between Imperial Wharf and Dartford.

The proposed locations for the crossings.

Why is it needed?

Latest estimates have London’s population growing by 1.5million in the next 15 years, with east London already taking on vast new housing developments. Proponents of the scheme believe more road links linking the north and south banks should be built sooner rather than later to accommodate the extra traffic this would bring.

There is also a discrepancy between crossings in the west and east of London – there are 26 Thames crossings between London Bridge and Kew Bridge to the west, while there are only 11 from Tower Bridge to Dartford Crossing in the east.

Pros and cons

The plans will undoubtedly be welcomed by many commuters living in the east, as so few links between north and south of the river lead to clogging of traffic on the current crossings. In consultation documents, Transport for London has included detailed map of where traffic could be alleviated after building new crossings. However, many believe encouraging more car travel will increase pollution in a city which is already struggling to meet its air quality targets.

How traffic is expected to change after the crossings are built.

Bridges or tunnels?

The bridge option is looking more likely for both crossings at this point. TfL said that in previous public consultations there was a big preference for bridges in the area but would keep their options open.

Will pedestrians be able to use the crossings?

The answer is: we don’t know. Early proposals feature several options for varied mixes of pedestrian/rail/road, but a decision has not yet been made.

One of the ideas for how the crossing can be used.

What about the Woolwich Ferry?

TfL said it is planning to purchase new vessels for the service, despite not knowing whether they will still be running after the proposed bridges are completed.

The transport authority said: “We are planning to purchase new boats to replace the current vessels which have been running since 1963. As yet, we have not taken a decision on whether the ferry services would continue beyond the opening of the new crossings.”

What does everyone think of it?

Mayor of London Boris Johnson MP is a big supporter of building more crossings along the river.

He said: “By creating more links between the north and south of the river, we won’t just improve day-to-day travelling across the capital, we’ll unlock areas for development and create thousands of jobs and homes.

“From Fulham in the west to Dartford in the east, this is a vital package of crossings that will drive economic growth and get more people walking, cycling and on to public transport.”

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales has welcomed the idea of the Gallions Reach crossing, but is angry road users will have to wait a decade for it to be built.

He said: “Finally the Mayor of London has listened to our calls that a crossing at Gallions Reach is much needed by our residents and businesses and vital to the regeneration of East London.

“We have been fighting for years for a river crossing for different modes of transport to help tackle congestion and open up the economic growth in this part of London. It is bitterly disappointing that we could have to wait another decade before any crossing is finished.”

But Green Party London Assembly member Darren Johnson believes more roads will encourage more cars, and has called on the next Mayor of London to scrap the plans altogether.

He said: “Road tunnels are a 20th century solution for a 21st century city. London deserves better than toxic roads that will worsen air quality, jam the city up with traffic and distract the Mayor from building decent links for cyclists, rail commuters and people who want to get around by foot.”

How much will it cost?

River crossings don’t come cheap. Each one is expected to cost around £1billion, but this could vary wildly as to the type of crossing built.

TfL said: “The crossings would be partly funded by charging vehicles to use them. This charge would also help to manage the demand for the new crossings.

“We envisage that peak period charges would be comparable to the proposed charge for the Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels and those at the Dartford crossing, although no decisions have yet been made on the exact cost.

“It is too early to determine exactly which financing arrangement we would use to deliver the crossings. We will consider a range of options including TfL or government financing, borrowing or private finance.”

Why is it so difficult to get a bridge built across the Thames?

The main problem lies in the awkward geographical placings of local authorities. As the Thames acts as a boundary between councils, building a bridge across it has to satisfy the wills of not one but two sets of planning chiefs. If one council disagrees with the other, it tends to lead to a lengthy consultation process. They also have to get the funding for it and get the approval of the Mayor of London.

Good luck building 13 of them.

So what next?

Below is an timeline put together by TfL showing what they expect to be done and when by.

  • December 2015-February 2016: Non-statutory consultation
  • March 2016: Report to outcome of consultation
  • 2017: Agreement to funding. Decision to proceed
  • 2017/18: Statutory consultation
  • 2018: Submit application for the powers needed to build the scheme
  • 2021: Contract award
  • 2025: Estimated completion

Can I have my say?

Of course you can. The public consultation runs until February 2016.