Sunday, 25 September 2011

Mayor's TfL 'stealing from rail budget' for cable car after rejecting walking / cycling bridge

Thames cable car coming here
Let's face it. The cable car planned across the river Thames between the O2 and the Olympics is a something of a gimmick for tourists.

Last week, Tom Edwards of the BBC flagged that not only had the cost zoomed up towards the £60million mark but that the Mayor's Transport for London is funding the project from its rail budget. Get that? TfL is pushing up fares for most people on the trains in order to fund a tourist attraction. It's not just cyclists being stuffed by the Mayor's Transport for London, it seems.

Same cost would have built this instead
It took a canny cyclist from Southwark Cyclists to point out that the Mayor could instead have stuck with plans for something that would have been way more useful to people who live and work in London and actually need to get places. Namely, this. The Sustrans/TfL pedestrian and cycling bridge that was originally planned for a nearby crossing back in 2006.

"The proposed bridge started life as an Olympic Legacy vision, to connect planned greenways south of the Thames to the Olympic Park. However, it was increasingly apparent that an existing need for a north-south crossing to serve Canary Wharf had been identified....A bridge is therefore proposed to link the Rotherhithe Peninsula to the Isle of Dogs at Westferry Circus, providing the opportunity for commuters from south of the river to travel directly to the heart of this important business and financial district. The bridge would be the first Thames crossing to cater specifically to cyclists as well as pedestrians, and as such would make a landmark contribution to the Mayor’s sustainable transport goals."

Sounds amazing doesn't it? Something that could have worked for people north and south of the river, providing easy and quick access for tens of thousands. The Mayor could have gone ahead and built this. But he didn't. Instead, the Mayor is trying to get us excited about a gimmick that will weave a maximum 2,500 people across the river for a fee.

The cycling and walking bridge was estimated at £66 million to build. The gimmick will cost £60 million. So much for the Mayor's "contribution to  sustainable transport goals".

To read more about the scrapped bridge, look at this report by Sustrans, which suggests that over one million people would have used the bridge on foot each year and possibly as many as 1.5million people on bike. Makes the cable car feel like a real waste of money, doesn't it? 


  1. given this was initially intended to be privately funded, i wonder if there is any analysis at all of potential usage or cost/benefit. i suspect not...

    2,500/hr may be the capacity of the cable car - but is there any evidence at all that anyone would actually want to use it?

  2. I actually live in this area and the need for a reliable crossing is really huge. At the moment the options are - DLR (which you have to pay for), Ferry - unreliable, not really nice when you have a pushchair for instance, doesn't start till 11.30 on Sunday and is really kinda scary to use with children on bicycles; foot tunnel - currently closed, probably will reopen before the olimpics - lifts often out of order, bariers along the way to stop people from cycling there, closed evening till morning. The south is cut off from the north and vice versa. A walking/cycling bridge would be very welcome.

  3. ndru - would you use the cable car?

    it seems to me that it's in the wrong place - and that where the sustrans bridge was planned is a much more sensible place for a new river crossing?

  4. @Anon - unlikely - it's in the wrong place, I agree. Also it's highly unlikely that it's going to work 24/7. It's style over substance really and a bridge would serve the regeneration much better than a gimmick.

  5. More might be made of the 108/N108 bus service, (perhaps with a supplemental Greenwich-Canning Town/Westferry route) and a reinstatement of the 395 (but operating a shorter route Jamaica Road-Commercial Road, with a single vehicle, and on-demand additional trips for peak times to connect with existing bus services) to improve cross-river connectivity. These buses should carry bikes as well as prams, and wheelchairs.

    At river level a 'sustainable' cross river ferry powered by the river current and for foot passenger/cycle use can also be fitted in at many points and offers flexibility albeit requiring a 'reaction' cable or track across the river above or below the surface.

  6. @Dave H - The Dlr creates a pretty good connection for people on foot and people with prams. You can get to Woolwich Arenal and Greenwich and then you have the Jubilee line. However none of those allow you to take bicycles on board.
    Any kind of manned service will mean that it won't operate 24/7. A simple bridge on the other hand would allow for easy and straightforward crossing of the Thames.
    The boat traffic on the Thames isn't that big really and a bridge that can be raised would be a perfect solution (again it's a case of prioritising few (boat traffic) and inconveniencing many (people on foot and bicycle).

  7. So what's he done with the £40m he seems to have lifted from the Cycle Superhighways budget?