Transport for London (TfL) backs proposals to dig a road tunnel between Greenwich Peninsula and Silvertown, and to create a new car ferry crossing between Thamesmead and Beckton, which they claim is crucial since the existing Woolwich Ferry is reaching the end of its working life.
So far more than 4,000 people have responded to a consultation launched by TfL, more than 90 per cent of whom have been in favour.
TfL estimates that the tunnel will cost £600 million and could be built by 2021. The ferry crossing would cost around £150 million, and could be open by 2017. Money could be raised by tolls of about £2 per car on both crossings.
However, Sir Terry Farrell, who advises Mayor Boris Johnson on major design projects and has drawn up a 40-year vision for the regeneration of the Thames Gateway, has serious concerns.
He agrees that south-east London needs more Thames crossings. “But I really think that the time has come for low-level bridges which people can walk and cycle across. A tunnel is not spontaneous enough. You could build half a dozen low-level bridges, like Waterloo Bridge, for the cost of a tunnel, and the river would not be such a Grand Canyon,” said Farrell.
He believes the reason TfL prefers the tunnel option is because of the fear low bridges will halt river traffic. “There is an illusion that the river is full of big ships but the docks are all empty,” he said, suggesting the bridges could be designed to open to allow river traffic to pass like Tower Bridge.
Councillor Chris Roberts, leader of Greenwich Council, said: “New river crossings are vital for this part of London. For far too long we have put up with congestion, pollution and this barrier to growth.
“We badly need these long-term solutions to ease the pressure on the Blackwall Tunnel and the Woolwich Ferry. The people of south-east London have been short-changed for too long.
“This isn’t just about making our immediate area better. London is expanding east, we need to manage that growth and ensure the right infrastructure is in place to make the most of south-east London’s potential,” explained Roberts.
Mayor Boris Johnson supports TfL's proposals saying they have the “potential to provide huge support for jobs and growth in east and south London.”