Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge

Meeting: 
MQT on 2018-11-22
Session date: 
November 22, 2018
Reference: 
2018/2976
Question By: 
Caroline Pidgeon
Organisation: 
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

When will the proposed Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge open?

Answer

Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge

Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Chairman, I begin by congratulating Caroline [Pidgeon MBE AM] on topping the Liberal Democrat Assembly list for the 2020 [London Assembly] election.  Well done.

 

The Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf crossing is an important and unique part of my vision for Healthy Streets.  It will be London’s first-ever cycling-and-walking bridge of its kind and amongst one of the longest bridges that are open for vessel crossings in the world.  It is an ambitious project in this rapidly growing part of London that will not only help more Londoners walk and cycle but will also provide vital connections to existing and planned cycle routes on both sides of the river.  A new bridge at this location has been proposed for over a decade but it is only now that it is getting the focus and expertise needed to make it a reality.

 

The key next steps we are pushing forward are further public consultation and engagement to develop detailed proposals before applying for a Transport and Works Act order (TWAO).  The timescales involved in the TWAO process are at the discretion of the Secretary of State for Transport, but TfL expects a decision within 12 to 24 months following an application in 2019.  This would include a potential public inquiry, completion of a report by the appointed planning inspector and a decision by the Secretary of State for Transport.  This will then give TfL the powers to acquire land and build and operate the crossing.  As I have said, we expect an application to be made to the Department for Transport (DfT) next year.

 

Subject to the outcome of this process, we anticipate that it will take three to four years to construct the bridge and to carry out testing of the operational procedures.  TfL is rightly ensuring that it has undertaken a thorough options assessment and worked through the key issues with the relevant stakeholders such as the Port of London Authority.  This will ensure a solution is developed that best meets the needs of future crossing users, river users and the local communities either side of the river.  New crossings on the river take time to get right.

 

To put our process in context, the Mersey Gateway Bridge that opened last October [2017] took more than 17 years from when detailed planning started to completion.  Although the Mersey Gateway is a road bridge, it does not have to open for large river vessels, whereas the proposed Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge has to have this function.

 

I would like this new crossing built as soon as possible.  The current estimated opening date for the bridge is during 2024, which is an ambitious timescale.  There is no doubt there is still a lot of work to do to achieve the opening date in 2024, but this is a high-priority project for London and we have a strong TfL team in place.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Thank you very much for that answer.  As you know, I am a longstanding supporter of the pedestrian-and-cycling crossing between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf.  In fact, it was my first question to you back in May 2016.

 

It is great to hear that there is progress on this, but why was there no mention of the crossing in yesterday’s TfL Board papers, all 286 pages?  There was not even a passing mention in the Commissioner’s report or in any of the papers presented.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It may have been discussed at the Programmes and Investment Committee, Chairman.  We do not go through at a Board meeting all the details.  Can I go away and come back and write to you?

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  It just seems that if it is such a key project, one of your ambitious projects, it should be mentioned at every meeting and what the progress is.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  To be fair, Chairman, there are lots of important projects for TfL and at a Board meeting you would not expect all the priorities to be mentioned.  You will be aware - I am sure the Assembly Member is - of some of the things we did discuss yesterday that are equally important.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  You have said it is going to, hopefully, open in around 2024.  Does that mean you expect construction work to start before May 2020?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I hope so.  I deliberately set out when we are going to applied for a TWAO application.  The reason why building work may not start in 2020 is that it depends when we get the response back from the Secretary of State [for Transport].  There is no deadline by which he or she responds.  The only way construction could begin before May 2020 is if we had back the response as soon as possible but, even when we get a response, there is further work that, as I set out, we have to do.  I can set that out: developing a construction methodology, extensive site clearance, diverting utility services, building access jetties, building foundations, large concrete pours, lifting parts of the bridge decking and ramps, and not disrupting stuff.  As soon as the DfT were to give us the green light - forgive the pun - we could get going and there is no reason why we would not subject to the usual procurement needs.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  It would be great if at some point we could put out when the next consultation is going to be as well on this.

 

What I am concerned about is that TfL is almost trying to avoid another Garden Bridge - quite rightly - and has almost gone to the other extreme and has effectively blocked an existing design from entering the tendering process; yet at the same time they have allowed a competitor, who advised on the procurement, to then bid for the work.

 

I was wondering.  Would you ask your auditors to review this to ensure that TfL has acted properly?  I have raised this several times and not felt TfL is really understanding this.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chairman, it is a good example of being damned if you do and damned if you do not.  On the one hand, we have had lots of discussion about corners being cut and Mayors having personal preferences in relation to design and that leading to decisions being made that are not sensible.  On the other hand, we have due processes being followed and a procurement process being followed but the original designer of the original model not being happy with the outcome.

 

I am happy to ask my Deputy Mayor [for Transport] Heidi Alexander to look into the concerns you have raised.  I am not sure if an audit is necessary, but subject to what the Deputy Mayor [for Transport] concludes, of course I would be happy to have TfL looked into.  I am reassured from the conversations I have had with the Commissioner and others that there are no rules broken, but I will ask the Deputy Mayor of Transport to look into the very serious concern that the Assembly Member has.  What I would not want to do is set off on a bad foot, obviously.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  I would like auditors to look at this because something does not quite smell right.  Thank you, Mr Mayor.

 

[Evacuation alarm]

 

Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Meeting adjourned.

 

(Adjournment)

 

Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  We are still with Assembly Member Pidgeon [MBE] and the bridge.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Yes.  Really, I want to say to the Mayor that something does not smell right to me with this procurement.  I really would like you to get your auditors to review this to make sure TfL has acted properly and to make sure we have time, learn from the mistakes and get this bridge delivered.

 

Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  That was it, really.  You are going to agree with that, are you not?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  No, Chairman.  What I am willing to do is to ask the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Heidi Alexander, to meet with Assembly Member Pidgeon [MBE] to discuss her very serious concerns.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Thank you very much.