By Joe Talora, local democracy reporter
Two of South London’s main thoroughfares need a total of £180 million spent on them to make them safe for future years.
The Rotherhithe Tunnel and Vauxhall Bridge need “urgent” upgrades in the next five years and may be forced to close if TfL’s financial situation does not improve, according to a senior TfL figure.
Gareth Powell, TfL’s managing director for surface transport, told members of the London Assembly on Monday the two river crossings had been identified as needing “interventions” to ensure they can continue to operate safely.
But Mr Powell warned TfL’s financial situation is “difficult”, and the work may not be undertaken without a long-term funding settlement from the Government, leading to potential “short-term restrictions”, even closure if the crossings are deemed unsafe.
The revelation comes just days after Hammersmith Bridge partially reopened to pedestrians and cyclists having been closed since August. An agreement was finally reached last month between TfL, the borough council and central Government over sharing the cost of repairs.
But unlike Hammersmith Bridge, TfL is solely responsible for the maintenance of Rotherhithe Tunnel and Vauxhall Bridge.
At City Hall on Monday, Mr Powell said the estimated cost of carrying out upgrades on Rotherhithe Tunnel is around £120 million. The Vauxhall Bridge upgrades are estimated to cost between £30 million and £50 million.
He said: “At the moment, the situation for TfL’s funding is very difficult. We only have very short-term funding from the Government in order to maintain the essential services that TfL provides. Those essential services are the public transport services, but they also include the highways for which TfL has responsibility and indeed the structures for those highways like bridges.
“What’s really needed is to have a long-term funding settlement that recognises the nature and the state and the importance of the assets of London’s transport system… So that all these interventions can be co-ordinated, so they can happen at the right time which will reduce the overall whole life cost of maintaining and improving those assets.”
According to Mr Powell, the systems within Rotherhithe Tunnel are in need of an “urgent upgrade” and are the reason for current restrictions on the tunnel, while Vauxhall Bridge requires further waterproofing work.
Although TfL is developing “a very advanced plan” for carrying out the work, Mr Powell said short-term restrictions on vehicle weight and speed may have to be imposed if the funding cannot be obtained to carry out the work.
He added: “Ultimately, we don’t want to do this, but if we don’t think the asset is safe then we’ll need to close it. That’s the ultimate restriction, that’s really inconvenient for everybody who uses that.”
Last month, the Government agreed a £1.08 billion emergency funding deal with TfL to provide financial support through to December.
As part of the deal, TfL is required to make £300 million worth of savings by 2022 and identify new or increased sources of revenue of between £0.5 billion and £1 billion by 2023.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said at the time of the deal being agreed support packages “must be fair to taxpayers across the UK” and TfL must take action to achieve “long-term financial sustainability”.
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