The provision of more river crossings in east London has been hampered by a short-term approach, according to MPs.

A package of new river crossings in east London, possibly including the Silvertown Tunnel and Gallions Bridge, was welcome but “long overdue”, according to a report released today by the House of Commons transport select committee.

The report concluded that many estuary areas in the UK had been left with poor transport links and connectivity while existing crossings had failed to meet growing traffic.

Launching the report Louise Ellman MP, chairwoman of the transport committee said: “Time and time again a clear need for new river crossings has been identified in east London, but a lack of political leadership has seen plans shelved repeatedly.

“Without new crossings congestion will continue to get worse and the area will never realise its full potential.

“To solve that problem, the Government and GLA must work together as a matter of priority to establish a special purpose company with the sole objective to deliver a package of crossings east of Tower Bridge.”

“Crossings have the potential to generate economic growth by linking workers to jobs and consumers to retailers so we call upon the Government to take a far more long-term approach when planning new bridges and tunnels.”

MPs said that east London had the potential to absorb a large percentage of the expected population growth over the next decade – but not without river crossings to improve connectivity.

The report says: “There has been local opposition to the proposals, particularly the Silvertown Tunnel. [Campaign group] No To Silvertown Tunnel is concerned that the new tunnel will increase traffic in the area, exacerbate already poor air quality and will fail to bring the economic benefits promised.

Louise Ellman, Labour Co-operative MP for Liverpool Riverside and chairwoman of the transport select committee
Louise Ellman, Labour Co-operative MP for Liverpool Riverside and chairwoman of the transport select committee

“It is our view that a package of new river crossings in east London is long overdue. Without new crossings, the congestion on the Blackwall Tunnel will only get worse and the area’s development potential will never be realised.

“However, the Silvertown Tunnel must not be built in isolation. Instead it must be part of a package of river crossings. That will ensure that the benefits new crossings bring, such as increased connectivity, access to jobs and greater resilience on the road network, are spread across east London. At the same time, the negative impacts of larger traffic flows will be limited as they are shared across a greater area.”

The committee called on the Government to work with the GLA to establish a special purpose company with a high-profile chief executive to deliver the crossings.

AA president Edmund King said: "Talk of an east London river crossing has been stagnating for years. There is no doubt that the Thames is an obstacle to economic development and mobility to the east of the capital.

"In Paris there are almost twice as many crossings on the Seine than we have across the Thames. We need a new river crossing urgently."

Caroline Pidgeon AM, Liberal Democrat London Assembly transport spokeswoman said: “Far from being forward looking this report is based on ideas dating back to the 1970s.

“It is bitterly disappointing that the report totally overlooks the need for improved public transport links across the Thames, such as extending the London Overground across the Thames beyond Barking Riverside.

“The committee has also overlooked the need for new pedestrian and cycle links east of Tower Bridge. A pedestrian and cycle bridge linking Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf would have immense benefits, yet the idea does not even get a mention in this report.”

The Queen Elizabeth II bridge at Dartford
The Queen Elizabeth II bridge at Dartford

Lower Thames Crossing

The committee also called on the Government to push ahead with another crossing on the Lower Thames to take the pressure off Dartford.

Mrs Ellman said: “The Dartford Crossing is the least reliable section of the Strategic Road Network. The DfT’s own figures show that the congestion delays at this pinch point cost the economy £15million every year.

“Yet ministers have done little over the past five years to build the kind of consensus between local authorities that is required in order to reconcile national transport objectives and respect local concerns. Worse, they have now said no final decision will be taken until as late as 2016.”

The committee also calls on DfT to investigate how to make “free-flow technology”, such as that used on the Dartford Crossing, interoperable with other river crossings and road charging schemes.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said a new Lower Thames crossing would be in place by 2025. He said: “We are committed to a new Lower Thames Crossing which will be a crucial part of this country’s road network. It will bring huge economic benefits not only to Essex and Kent but the south east as a whole.”

• Is the transport select committee right? Or are more bridges and tunnels going to create an environmental disaster? Leave your comments below.