Bridge plan for Thames alarms the green lobby

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The Independent Online
CHRISTIAN WOLMAR

Transport Correspondent

Plans to build a new road crossing for the Thames in east London are being revived in a move certain to provoke the kind of environmental objections which led to the idea being shelved three years ago.

The Government Office for London, along with the London Docklands Development Corporation and Thamesmead Town, are studying plans for a new bridge along the same route as the crossing that was scrapped because of controversy over its destruction of a historic woodland. The proposed bridge is called Gallion's Reach to differentiate it from its controversial predecessor.

Although the scheme is likely to be less controversial than its predecessor, campaigners are already gearing up to oppose it. John Stewart, of Alarm, the anti-roads group, said: "They are trying to push this through quickly but we need more public consultation. The crossing will simply generate more traffic."

A consultants' report commissioned by the LDDC on the feasibility of the scheme is due to be finalised this month and it is expected to be endorsed by the Government when it publishes its integrated transport strategy for London in the summer.

The new plan, which is for a four-lane road, possibly with a rail bridge as well, is a simpler design without the accompanying road widening and therefore would not cause as much environmental damage. It would link Thamesmead, south of the river, with Beckton on the north. Planners see it as mainly serving local traffic, rather than as a major strategic road.

One option is to make it a toll bridge which would make it easier to finance it with private investment. It would be the only road crossing between the Blackwall Tunnel and the Queen Elizabeth II bridge/ Dartford Tunnel and would be relatively easy to finance privately because the flow would be predictable.

The scheme has been given a boost by the decision to hold the Millennium festival in Greenwich but there are doubts whether a scheme such as this could be completed in time for the exhibition which is due to start on 31 December 1999.

The LDDC sees the bridge as a vital catalyst for development in the Royal Docks area which has so far failed to attract any significant investment.

While a final decision has not been made, transport ministers are believed to support the idea, but the matter is likely to be referred to a cabinet committee for final approval.

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