EXCLUSIVE: Ferry crossing at Rotherhithe is shelved amid TfL cash crisis

A petition has been launched to restore a river crossing after it was axed by a ferry firm and transport chiefs shelved plans to introduce another one.

A planned River Thames crossing has been shelved amid the huge cash black hole sparked by lockdown.

And residents want a boat route to be restored in the area.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a massive increase in cycling – but this scheme has been paused by TfL because of its cash shortfall, caused by a £2billion drop in income.

The postponement is outlined in budget papers published by Transport for London. South London town hall chiefs are now set to meet London’s deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander.

Transport for London announced in 2017 it was considering a new link between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf for walkers and cyclists. But a year ago, the bridge was put on hold by London’s transport Deputy Mayor Heidi Alexander. Instead, TfL drew up plans for a ferry service.

The former Lewisham MP said the sheer scale and complexity of the engineering for a bridge meant it would cost £450million and was even then unaffordable.

It was just one of a number of suggested river crossings in a bid to hit the Mayor’s target for 80 per cent of Londoners’ trips to be on foot, by bike or public transport by 2041.

Southwark town hall chiefs have already reacted with resigned disappointment to the shelving of the ferry crossing.

Cllrs Johnson Situ, cabinet member for growth and Richard Livingstone, cabinet member for the environment and transport said in a combined statement: ‘The decision to pause work on the Rotherhithe to Canada Water crossing is deeply frustrating.

“Transport for London is facing a huge and unprecedented financial challenge in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic and it’s clear difficult decisions will have to made.

“However, the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf crossing would provide a vital new route over the Thames in an under-served part of London and would mean more people can choose walking and cycling. The crossing would also support new homes and jobs in the area.

“The proposal is particularly disappointing given that the crossing had already been downgraded from the original commitment for a walking and cycling bridge.

“We feel that schemes such as these should be prioritised not paused. We were disappointed not to have the opportunity to discuss the revised proposals before they were published, particularly given the assurances that were previously given about the scheme’s viability. We thank the Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander for her agreement to meet next week.”

Ruth Stone, who started the petition about Thames Clippers axing their Hilton Docklands to Canary Wharf service said: “We are horrified at the decision which poses an immediate risk to public health and delivers a further blow to the prospects for economic recovery in East and Southeast London. If unchallenged and not quickly redressed, it will invariably undermine future faith in London’s public transport operator.

“This decision will increase congestion and the risk of Covid19 spreading on the bus and tube networks when passengers unable to use the ferry service are forced back onto the network at Canada Water from September. The elimination of cross-river capacity at the Rotherhithe pinch point contravenes efforts to allow social distancing.”

“This cost-effective and environmentally friendly cross-river solution is the ideal option for connecting Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf,” MBNA Thames Clipper CEO and co-founder Sean Collins said a year ago.

Thames Clippers claims its RB4 from service Hilton Docklands to Canary Wharf is a subsidised contracted service by the DoubleTree London Docklands hotel – so not a TfL contracted service. A spokeswoman for Thames Clippers said: “The hotel is closed and without its support the demand from the surrounding area is not sufficient to keep this operation viable. However, the service will recommence when the hotel reopens or if support was to be provided by an alternative means.”

The Rotherhithe crossing ferry proposal that TfL have been looking at is a separate project.

A TfL spokesperson said: “We remain committed to improving river crossings in east London, particularly for sustainable modes. However, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our finances, particularly passenger income, means that our revised budget inevitably involves very difficult choices having to be made.

“While we are doing what we can to continue the vital capital investment which will help London recover from the pandemic, in the current climate some projects will have to be paused, including the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf crossing, as we seek a long term sustainable funding settlement with Government.”

More than 150 people have signed the petition demanding a crossing: http://chng.it/MSpyfkhw



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