With much attention focused on Greenwich Council and Transport for London's desire for two new bores at North Greenwich to form a new Silvertown Tunnel you could be forgiven for not knowing about plans for the east of our borough.
After intensive lobbying from Labour-controlled Greenwichand Newham councils through their 2012-13 "Bridge the Gap" campaign, TfL are set to launch a new consultation on options for a replacement of the Woolwich Ferry with a fixed-link crossing between Thamesmead and Gallions Reach at the top of the list.
This isn't the first time that such a plan has been put forward. TheThames Gateway Bridge was discussed for nearly a decade before Boris Johnson cancelled the project in 2008 and the East London River Crossing was the subject of intense debate and protest in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Even before this, over 75 years ago, the 1937 Highway Development Survey and the County of London Plans of the 1940s first proposed a crossing for this area.
Newham Council have commissioned an Economic Impact study of the Gallions Reach bridge and there is some startling information in their report:-
- "Berkeley [Homes] needs to double the number of homes being sold ... a bridge ... is likely to have an impact on the ability to sell houses in Woolwich"
- "Flows over the bridge [would be] similar to but higher than those forecast for the Silvertown Tunnel"
- Capacity would be 1800 cars per hour in both directions, or 86,460 a day.
So much for Greenwich Labour's promises of a local bridge for local people!
Newham's report also highlights the routes that vehicles are expected to take to and from the new bridge. The map below shows forecast journeys northwards in 2021 during the morning peak and serves to highlight the "more local impact on the southern side ... due to the local nature of the road network" and explain comments about "positive impacts [being] offset by some small increases in local journey times as a result of traffic increases".
Many of the local roads highlighted in the study are single-lane, residential roads which already suffer from congestion during peak hours. Forcing tens of thousands of new journeys onto these roads will only lead to increased pollution and congestion.
Greenwich Council's own pollution monitoring already says that the area around the Pettman Crescent roundabout north of Plumstead Station to be the worst polluted part of the borough. NO2 readings average almost double the legal maximum of 40ug/m3 at the moment - just imagine what they'll be like with even more, slower-moving traffic.
Of course, we needn't worry - TfL already have a phase two in mind. Buried deep in their Assessment of Options report from early last year we can see that there is a long-term plan in place:
"...[these roads] are low capacity single carriageways, and often residential. This scenario is likely to result in widespread congestion in the area, not dissimilar to the congestion which can occur today when Blackwall closes but with a centre of gravity further to the east than at present.
"In the longer term, any fixed link provides the potential for the highway connections to be amended or improved over time ... connections to the strategic network could be improved in the long term, such as through the provision of a direct link to the North Circular together with a tunnel south to the A2.
"This could potentially address the local concerns about traffic on residential roads in Bexley by providing an effective by-pass, while delivering large journey time benefits to the wider area by providing a more easterly strategic orbital route. In time this could replace the Blackwall corridor as the main strategic route."
All of which brings us back full circle to the plan from over 75 years ago - the orbital Ringway plan for London and either way, Plumstead and Shooters Hill are going to suffer. Areas such as Wickham Lane have only recently recovered from the compulsory purchases for ELRC and the thought of a bridge going ahead can only depress the area once more - whether through fear of the loss of our green spaces or ofcongestion and pollution.
To solve our 21st century transport problems we have to look for a 21st century solution and not return to the lazy thinking behind a plan from a previous century. We need better and greater public transport infrastructure, and a rethink of local planning, to get our area moving. That means:-
Investment in more frequent, greener buses.
Promotion of a rail spur from Plumstead through to Thamesmead which could link with Dagenham across the river and/or the Greenwich or Blackheath lines into London - capacity will be available after Crossrail launches
Creating business investment in our area to ensure a diverse selection of local jobs which will mitigate against the need for cross-city travel
With the projected growth in housing and investment in infrastructure across our area we have a chance to create a local, sustainable future - these current plans don't do that.