Government backs new London bridge

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The Independent Online

The London mayor Ken Livingstone, who was readmitted to the Labour Party this week, has won government backing for a £450m bridge across the Thames.

The structure will form the biggest crossing of the river in greater London and provide a link between the south-eastern and north-eastern parts of the capital. The 700-metre long bridge will take traffic from Beckton on the north side to Thamesmead at Gallions Reach on the south bank and is expected to create about 25,000 jobs in the region.

The announcement yesterday follows a decision on Tuesday by senior Labour figures to allow Mr Livingstone back into the party. It was known that the Labour high command was anxious to have him back to avoid the possibility of the official Labour candidate coming fourth in the London mayoral elections this summer. More cynical labour movement insiders believe part of the deal was that the Government would look more favourably on transport projects in the capital.

The cost of the bridge would be met jointly through Mr Livingstone's Transport for London organisation (TfL), a toll on cars and commercial vehicles and a minimum £200m from the Government. The link, if given permission by a planning inquiry, would be operated by a private company in partnership with TfL.

The structure, which will be between 50 and 70 metres high, will have two lanes in either direction for private and commercial vehicles together with separate lanes for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists. It is hoped the bridge will be built in time for the Olympics in 2012, for which London is bidding.

Mr Livingstone said the bridge was vital to regenerate the area. "East Londoners have given overwhelming support for the bridge and I am delighted the Government has offered its backing to this essential project."

A spokeswoman for London First, which represents large companies in the capital, welcomed the development. She said: "This bridge will ensure greater accessibility, more jobs and more housing in an area desperate for regeneration."