Ruth Brandon: London doesn't need this bridge

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

The Olympics - don'cha love them?

Possibly not. But even if the prospect of the Dome x 1,000,000 in terms of time, money and aggravation reduces you to tears, you have to admit the one positive consequence of that monumental misadventure: the extension of the Jubilee Line.

In the same way, the Olympics will at least be good for transport. However, if we aren't careful there is a real danger that transport policy will become subservient to Olympic fever. The Thames Gateway Bridge is a case in point.

The rationale of London's Olympic bid was the regeneration of the depressed south-eastern part of the city, and one of the many vast projects supposed to effect this is the Thames Gateway Bridge between Beckton and Thamesmead. This would be a multi-use bridge over the Thames - the first to be built since London Bridge - with a segregated public transport lane and pedestrian and cycle paths. But that's by the way: the real point is road access. It is estimated that the bridge would carry 60,000 cars an hour - 20 million a year.

Transport for London, which supports the project ("Thames Gateway - Time for Action!" screams its website) says the bridge "would improve accessibility to and from the Thames Gateway and support the regeneration of East London" and will "ease congestion".

Big roads don't regenerate communities; they divide and blight them, as anyone can see who drives the Los Angeles freeway system, and then gets off it and looks at what goes on underneath. And they do not relieve congestion. On the contrary, as every traffic engineer knows, new roads create more traffic.

New roads may for a little while relieve congestion on existing highways. But quite soon these fill up again. (TfL's own projection is that the Blackwall Tunnel will remain as full as ever.)

The M25 is a case in point. I happened to come upon it about two days after it opened, and it was a fast, clear road from Heathrow to anywhere. For about three minutes. Six months later it was full, wall-to-wall cars.

And what happens when all those cars come off the bridge? They have to go somewhere - presumably on to the streets of Beckton and Thamesmead, which will see "significant increases in traffic volumes". Which means pollution.

But east London is already polluted. And what about noise? TfL estimates that more than 7,000 properties near the bridge would experience "a long-term increase in traffic noise". But most people, it airily proclaims, will soon get used to it, though some may need to sleep with their windows closed.

This litany of projected woes is precisely the reason why the Government's stated policy (though not, apparently, its actual policy) is to coax us on to public transport. (Don't let's even think about climate change and ever-increasing demands for fast-diminishing oil supplies.) Seen in these terms, the Thames Gateway Bridge is outdated before it's off the page. It's a dinosaur, a rerun of everything we know doesn't work. It should be scrapped before we waste another penny upon it.

motoring@independent.co.uk

Search for used cars

Comments