Rotherhithe tunnel could face further closures – and repair costs rocket

By Alexandra Warren

The Rotherhithe Tunnel could face further closures after the cost of repairs was revealed to be much higher than originally thought.

Sadiq Khan announced at Mayor’s Questions that the overhaul could be as much as £178m, up from a previous estimate of £120m.

Transport for London (TfL) will not be able to pay for the project without central government funding.

Mr Khan said: “The renewal of the Rotherhithe Tunnel is currently progressing through concept design.

“At this early stage in project development, TfL estimates that costs will be in the range of £116m to £178m, subject to funding being available.

“TfL plans to complete the concept design work later in 2020. An updated estimate will then be produced, prior to the appointment of a contractor in 2021 to progress detailed design.

“In addition to the project activities, TfL will continue regular maintenance and progress any short-term minor renewal work to ensure the tunnel remains safe and operable.

“I can assure you that the impact of any long-term closures of the Rotherhithe Tunnel on local residents and businesses will be a key consideration in the further development of this work.”

TfL received a £1.9b bailout in May after losing 90 per cent of its passengers due to the lockdown, but the money will run out this month.

The Rotherhithe Tunnel project was named among those that would not be able to go ahead unless a funding agreement is reached with Westminster.

A revised budget in July put aside £12m for highway infrastructure, but will only be spent on design work and not renovations.

The tunnel is already subject to restrictions due to safety reasons, with vehicles more than 2m high, 2m wide or more than two tonnes banned from entering.

The regulations were put in place in December 2019 and drivers face up to a £130 fine for breaking the rules.

In 2018 A TfL committee named Rotherhithe Tunnel the second most urgent renewal project after Vauxhall Bridge.

The report warned: “The deferral of these projects increases the risk of asset restrictions, and potentially closures, in the next five years in order to maintain a safe network.

“For example, further deterioration of bridge components may require load restrictions to be imposed, or increasing faults on ageing tunnel equipment may necessitate short term closures for repairs or restrictions to reduce traffic volumes.”

Plans for a ferry crossing between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf have also been put on hold due to a lack of finances.

Mr Khan added: “The work on developing proposals for a Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf ferry service is currently paused until we have greater clarity over Transport for London’s long-term funding position.”

A pedestrian and cycle bridge was initially planned for the area but was scrapped after it was estimated to cost £600m.

Pictured top: The Rotherhithe tunnel

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