Blackhorse Lane Bridge

Meeting: 
MQT on 2018-10-19
Session date: 
October 19, 2018
Reference: 
2018/2673
Question By: 
Steve O'Connell
Organisation: 
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Should my constituents be satisfied that repairs to Blackhorse Lane Bridge will not be completed until 2022?

Note of clarification: the date above should read 2020.

Answer

Answer for Blackhorse Lane Bridge

Answer for Blackhorse Lane Bridge

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Thank you, Mr Chairman.  It is essential that the Blackhorse Lane Bridge and the neighbouring Croydon Council-owned Addiscombe Railway Park Bridge are replaced.  These bridges are over 100 years old and were inherited by Transport for London (TfL) from Network Rail in 2013.  TfL has since done all it can to make sure these bridges were maintained.  However, these bridges are nearly 130 years old and at the end of their design life.  Replacing them is the only option.  TfL is working closely with Croydon Council and Sarah Jones MP [Member of Parliament for Croydon Central] to coordinate this vital safety work as quickly as possible to ensure that the bridges can safely accommodate tram and road traffic not just for the immediate future but for the next 100 plus years.  Options to strengthen the existing bridges were considered but this would still have caused significant disruption and would not be cost efficient as they would still need to be replaced later on.

 

The improvements will include widening one of the bridges to include a cycle path, in line with the Healthy Streets approach.  The two bridges are being replaced in one joint project to save public money and to reduce disruption.  It had been hoped that the bridges would be open by January 2019.  It is disappointing that works are taking longer than expected which means local residents are inconvenienced while the bridges are closed but safety must take priority.  This is a highly complex civil engineering project.  During the initial investigations and enabling works a number of unforeseen issues were encountered, for example, the team working on the Addiscombe Railway Park Bridge discovered a Victorian sewer system which was not detailed on any plans for the area.  This has led to delays in the design phase of the project while new engineering solutions were drawn up by the contractor.

 

Replacing the two bridges in one project is the right approach for TfL, the borough and, most importantly, local people.  There are still some site trials taking place whilst the final design is going through approval.  It is important TfL and Croydon Council get this right as the bridges are expected to last 120 years.

 

Over the last two weeks TfL has been working closely with colleagues from the London Borough of Croydon to review and challenge the latest programme of works received from the main contractor.  The local Member of Parliament (MP), Sarah Jones, has also raised concerns.  The team’s focus now is to find ways to significantly reduce the planned construction period to as short a time as possible, making sure that safety remains the overriding priority.

 

TfL and Croydon Council are working hard to complete the review as soon as possible and to be able to announce the planned reopening dates for the bridges later this year.  We are expecting the main works to commence before the end of the year and we are seeking to ensure that they complete as early as possible in 2020.  Activity will increase in the coming weeks as key construction works commence.  I have asked TfL to make sure that Assembly Member O’Connell, the local MP Sarah Jones, and local residents are kept updated.

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  I think you are reading from the same briefing I got from Croydon Council as well so thank you for that.  I cannot overstate the disruption.  This might sound a local matter but the disruption to residents and businesses since 2016 has been significant.  This bridge closed in 2016 and, at the present timings, it will be closed pretty much the whole entirety of your Mayoralty.  Can I ask you personally -- that was a TfL response, quite rightly, and I am echoing Croydon Council’s concerns around this, you will understand that.  Can I ask you what you can do personally to intervene because this has taken so long and I believe TfL has dragged its heels on this?  Would you be able to personally intervene and to urge a speedier conclusion, if possible?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Mr Chairman, can I answer the Assembly Member in the affirmative and tell him we were also contacted not just by him but by the local MP.  We were told that the high level indicative programme estimates a completion date of around two years from now.  It is not good enough.  I have personally intervened in that and we are working with TfL to see what we can do to interrogate that indicative timeline to speed that up and I will make sure he is kept updated of any progress we make.  Because he is right; we cannot, in City Hall, dismiss this as a local project because local businesses have really been affected.  I have read reports of one business, for example, closing down and that worries me hugely.  I can give that undertaking, Mr Chairman, to personally keep an interest in this.

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  I appreciate that.  Thank you.

 

Len Duvall AM:  I think you are right in terms of the approach, Mr Mayor, you are taking but I think you should point out to Assembly Member O’Connell the background that TfL has been working in.  It has had to cut millions out of its budget, enforced by a Conservative government.  We have had the legacy of the Conservative Mayor negotiating millions away and not receiving anything at all.  Later on this agenda we are going to talk about the Garden Bridge.  That all could have actually helped in terms of speeding up some of this process.

 

But you are right to be concerned about business and you are right to be concerned about the safety of residents and the issues of taking this project forward but people need to understand the consequences that actually these projects are not done in isolation.  It is against a background and against a background of government cuts.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Mr Chairman, I think it is worth the Assembly Member, and particularly students from California, being aware of some of the waste that has taken place with the previous Mayor.  £37 million has been spent so far on the Garden Bridge.

 

What Assembly Member Duvall is alluding to is we, in TfL, are losing, on average, £700 million from the operating grant we receive.  We are the only public transport system in the western world not subsidised by central Government.  Additionally, the salt in the wound is the Vehicle Excise Duty Londoners pay is going to be spent on roads outside of London.  We get none of this money back in London.  Public transport fare payers will be paying to improve the roads, including bridges, in London.  Clearly not acceptable and that is why I continue to make savings in TfL whilst lobbying the Government for a decent settlement.

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  Mr Mayor, if I can just reconfirm.  Assembly Member Duvall’s interruption kind of disrupted the rather collegiate way we were approaching this issue so can I confirm that you will work with myself, Croydon Council, MP Sarah Jones to try to bring a fast resolution to this matter?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Can I, Chairman, echo I can do that but also it is important that the Assembly Member is kept updated so he can also cascade the information down to the most important people here, who are the constituents.

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  Thank you.