This truncated road at the end of Barnham Drive would be the approach road to a Gallions Reach crossing. Note the world's worst cycle lane.
This truncated road at the end of Barnham Drive, Thamesmead would form part of the approach to any Gallions Reach crossing. Note the world’s worst cycle lane.

Greenwich Council is demanding the power to build a new road bridge at Thamesmead, according to its response to Transport for London’s consultation into river crossings.

As expected, the council is “strongly supporting” the controversial Silvertown Tunnel, which would branch off the A102 just south of the Blackwall Tunnel, as favoured by mayor Boris Johnson but opposed by local residents and the local Labour party.

There’s also no surprise in the council rejecting the mayor’s other proposal – to build a ferry at Gallions Reach, linking Thamesmead with Beckton, instead – and favouring a bridge instead.

But what is interesting is a demand that Greenwich and Newham councils be given the power to build their own bridge if TfL doesn’t build one.

It says: “The Royal Borough is concerned that a new fixed crossing at Gallions Reach should be constructed at the earliest possible opportunity [and] does not accept that a new fixed crossing at Gallions Reach could not be constructed before 2021.

“If TfL is unable to deliver a fixed crossing sooner than 2021 the Mayor should use the powers provided by the GLA Act 1999 (as amended by the GLA Act 2007) to delegate authority to the Royal Borough of Greenwich and Newham Council so as to facilitate that.”

The chances of Boris Johnson approving a bridge at Gallions Reach, to be built by TfL or anyone else, are remote. His political allies at neighbouring Bexley Council are implacably opposed to the idea, and scrapping a previous proposal – the Thames Gateway Bridge – was one of his pledges prior to his election as mayor in 2008.

That said, though, the mayor clashed with Conservative assembly member and Bexley cabinet member Gareth Bacon on the subject in January, an exchange which is worth reading (“I am not ruling it out. I am ruling out the Thames Gateway Bridge. I have ruled that out.”), while he has also acknowledged that a future mayor may take a different view.

Are the two Labour councils trying to offer Tory Boris a way out by offering to build a bridge themselves? It’s an interesting development.

It also deepens the council’s disagreement with Eltham Labour MP Clive Efford, who fears a Gallions Reach bridge would lead to a revival of long-scrapped plans to drive a motorway through Oxleas Woods. The local ward party in Shooters Hill has rejected the council’s campaign.

Barnham Drive, Thamesmead

While a bridge at Gallions Reach may look more attractive compared with the crazy Silvertown proposal, many of the same issues apply. Air pollution is already poor in the area, underneath the London City Airport flightpath, and housing has already been built either side of the proposed approach at Barnham Drive, west Thamesmead.

There’s the additional complication of attracting more traffic to roads which wouldn’t be able to cope with the traffic – notoriously, the main route to the area from Bexleyheath is a side road, Knee Hill.

That said, those issues would also apply to Boris’s ferry proposal – supported by Bexley – which would replace the Woolwich Ferry, mostly used by HGVs.

Another interesting aspect of Greenwich’s response suggests using both crossings to create some kind of circular public transport link between the Royal Docks and the north of the borough, as well as flagging up its pet “DLR on stilts” proposal.

“An analysis of the opportunity to incorporate provision for a DLR extension to the south of the Royal Borough within the Silvertown Tunnel would be welcomed – alongside an analysis of the prospect of creating a circular public transport arrangement that could connect Thamesmead, Beckton, the University of East London campus, City Airport, ExCel, the O2, Ravensbourne College and North Greenwich station, Charlton Riverside, Woolwich Central and the new Crossrail stations utilising new crossing at Silvertown and Gallions Reach,” it says.

No reference to worries about air quality or increased congestion at either Silvertown or Gallions Reach feature in Greenwich’s submission, which records the curiously round figure of 1,200 signatures in support of its three-month long Bridge The Gap campaign, of which 795 were received online, the rest from pre-printed cards supplied to the public. (The No To Silvertown Tunnel petition got 348 in a month.)

It also supports tolling, yet acknowledges that this could send traffic towards Rotherhithe Tunnel and Tower Bridge: “It is essential that any tolling regime introduced is designed such that the World Heritage Site at Greenwich is not detrimentally affected by a potential shift of vehicle movements westwards to the nearest ‘free’ crossings.”

It says there should be “appropriate local traffic mitigation measures to safeguard the World Heritage Site and other residential areas in the proximity of the proposed Silvertown tunnel”, although it does not suggest what these would be.

Read Greenwich Council’s response and report to cabinet member Denise Hyland.

26 replies on “Greenwich Council: ‘We’ll build our own river crossing’”

  1. What goes around comes around. I was involved with the 1980s protest to protect Oxleas Wood and also the motorway box idea that would have strangled inner London. Oxleas Wood is of exceptional amenity and wildlife habitat importance – and its just appalling to think that it could be put back under threat. I am so depressed at how little interest any politician (except the Greens) currently have about protecting our shredded natural environment. It’s like being back in the 1970s when I went to a meeting with Stanley Clinton-Davis MP, who in reply to Friends of the Earth queries about inner London vehicle pollution said the only thing worse than factory chimneys belting out smoke was factory chimneys not belting out smoke.

  2. They are mad. Why can they not see that the research shows this is just going to bring more traffic and more congestion to the area, and hence more pollution? You only have to look out of the window in central London at the moment to see what traffic pollution is doing to our air quality, not to mention the pollution that we can’t see.

    How a body that is responsible for the health of the public can propose something so detrimental to it is beyond belief.

  3. There is a right of navigation on the river that can only be removed by act of parliament. This includes masted vessels, hence the height of the QE bridge. That right for masts of that height extends to Tower Bridge and this is the fight the river community will take up again just as others will with Oxleas. Planners (oxymoron if ever there was these days) should realise that the future of cargoes at sea may lie with sailing vessels and they will be very different from the rope and canvas of the past.
    That means a very high bridge with impossibly long ramps…….silly people !

  4. “Planners …… should realise that the future of cargoes at sea may lie with sailing vessels.”

  5. Clare,

    “Why can they not see that the research shows this is just going to bring more traffic and more congestion to the area, and hence more pollution?”

    I’m not convinced by this argument.

    Cars stop-starting through heavy congestion produce far more pollution than free-flowing traffic (fuel consumption is far higher in slow traffic, also walk past any traffic jam and take a good breath in!). Even if there was an increase in road use, and there is no guarantee there will be any significant increase, there would still be a reduction in overall emissions.

    It might be far better to get the traffic through Greenwich as quickly as possible, rather than having thousands of vehicles sat there coughing out fumes.

  6. Why am I in moderation?

    If this is a response to my criticism of Labour several days ago, then this blog deserves its low readership.

  7. Jules means cargo ships with sails and masts, Richard, as was abundantly clear in his comment…

  8. NLE – You’re not in moderation, but sometimes the system gets overzealous. It’s clearly creaking under the demand.

  9. Franklin thanks for clearing that up, so this part of London must have inferior river crossings partly so as to ensure a nineteenth century mode of transport can make its way up the Thames to a bunch of non existent docks? I can’t wait to see the wind blowing 15000 TEUs up the river.

  10. @NLE – that is what the research shows though – building new roads brings more traffic. It’s that simple. The tunnel and bridge will not reduce congestion. We can come back to this post in 2021 or whenever it is these will be built and I will be shown to be right. 🙁

  11. We are surely now within 5 years of zero or ultra low emission vehicles being a viable option for ordinary road commuters. Build the infrastructure and limit it to such vehicles and you’ll get uptake far better than any marketing campaign (or environmental pleas) could ever achieve. That’s the true way out of the pollution issue but sadly greens wil always find another way to defeat their own cause…

  12. You’ll still be sailing merrily past them on your bike 😉 It’s plainly obvious that more river crossings are needed east of tower bridge, and central government spending on infrastructure is surely now about to take centre stage in the run up to the 2015 elections given the lacklustre ‘recovery’. These bridges and tunnels are coming one way or another so let’s do something positive with them. anyway most SE London road congestion is more an issue of bottlenecks than lack of capacity. There’s some terrible junctions and interchanges where cars and buses just end up impeding each other that could be fixed easily if we were a little more French in our approach to planning approvals.

  13. Omar, what specifically do you mean by ‘could be fixed easily if we were a little more French in our approach to planning approvals’? Interested to know how you’d ‘fix’ the junctions at Kidbrooke and Woolwich Rd.

  14. Richard –

    I was clarifying Jules’ point, not defending it. That said, there are docks upriver from Gallions Reach and ’19th century’ masted cargo vessels are making a comeback.

  15. I have some sympathy for Omar’s argument. As the current proposal is to toll both the existing Blackwall Tunnel and the proposed Silvertown Tunnel, making both toll-free for zero emissions vehicles would incentivise more people to go electric.

    There are also problems, however, foremost the fact that a significant increase in traffic on the A2/A102 would still exacerbate congestion and thus pollution from the (majority of) petrol/diesel cars stacked up through Bexleyheath and Kidbrooke.

    It would also, in my view, likely lead to a massive increase in traffic through Greenwich and across Blackheath as those (non-EV) drivers seek to avoid the tolls at Blackwall/Silvertown.

  16. Omar is right, by 2020 low or zero emission cars will be the norm, to the point there will be twice as many cars on the road but 75% less pollution than today. Then green argument will be redundant congestion will only effect the users of the cars who choose to sit in a traffic jam every morning. Be careful the pollution arguments has a limited life left, if by 2020 all the cars are non polluting.

  17. ‘2020 low or zero emission cars will be the norm’. I’d be interested to see the research that backs this up. Clearly it’d be nice if it happened, but it seems a little optimistic, given that that’s only 7 years away.

  18. By ‘French’ I mean having the political will to push through compulsory purchase orders and demolish things that are in the way in the interest of the common good. The area near grove park is a prime example (bus stop just before where the majority of buses need to turn across two already dangerously squashed lanes that run up to out of phase lights) as are the houses right by the mess that is woolwich road/a102.

  19. The Council’s Bridge the Gap policy is ill advised and they don’t appear to have learnt from the previous consultation. My fear is that the proposal for the ferry at Gallions Reach will require change in legislation and whilst doing this they can remove the requirement that it is free. The recently published TFL River Action Plan states that a third (2,000 per year) of all river passengers are using the Woolwich Ferry. Many local people will be disadvantaged if they have to pay a toll. If this happens the only free crossing point in East London will be The Rotherhithe. This tunnel barely copes as it is. This is madness. I also agree with Clive Efford the impact of a bridge on Oxleas Woods is unthinkable.

  20. A major bridge crossing by those who brought us the beautifully refurbished Foot Tunnels? More seriously there are arguments about NOT having any more vehicular river crossings when SE London is starved of rail/tube links. It’s a question of where the very limited pot of money is spent.
    And 7% of Greenwich residents die of particulate air pollution. It could be you.

  21. Unless there is also going to be either a DLR crossing, extension of the Crossrail or Jubilee line at the Thamesmead side of the bridge then I don’t want this bridge at the back of my house. Thamesmead desperately needs public transport not more traffic!

    Bojo can do one!

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