Fresh warning over cash threat to key Thames bridge and tunnel

·2-min read
Insulate Britain climate activists on Vauxhall Bridge this month  (PA)
Insulate Britain climate activists on Vauxhall Bridge this month (PA)

The London Assembly has warned there is “serious concern” over the potential closure of Rotherhithe Tunnel and Vauxhall Bridge due to Transport for London’s current financial dilemma.

Both the tunnel and bridge are in need of “urgent” repairs but TfL has warned they could face closure if funding is not secured to carry out the work.

Earlier this month, the London Assembly transport committee published a report detailing the “bleak” outlook for London’s bridges and tunnels and stressed the need for the Government to work with TfL and London boroughs to oversee the maintenance of the capital’s river crossings.

With TfL now facing a £1.2 billion funding gap and negotiations under way with the Department for Transport, committee chairwoman Caroline Pidgeon said: “Thames river crossings are crucial to the resilience of London’s road network and they must stay open to keep our city moving.”

At a meeting of the committee in July, TfL’s managing director for surface transport Gareth Powell said Rotherhithe Tunnel and Vauxhall Bridge had been identified as needing “interventions” to secure their safe operation — totalling £170 million.

Mr Powell explained that the systems within Rotherhithe Tunnel needed an “urgent upgrade” while Vauxhall Bridge required further waterproofing work. He said: “We don’t want to do this, but if we don’t think the asset is safe then we’ll need to close it.”

Before closures are considered, TfL may introduce restrictions on river crossings including tougher speed limits and caps on the number of vehicles allowed to use bridges and tunnels.

The committee began its inquiry into river crossings in July after the partial reopening of Hammersmith Bridge, which had been closed to pedestrians and cyclists since August last year due to safety concerns. The closure of the bridge, and the failure to reach a funding agreement for its repairs, was described by Ms Pidgeon as an “international embarrassment”.

The report found there is a £241 million backlog of maintenance work for river crossings but no central pot of cash from which to fund the work.

Following Mr Powell’s comments, a DfT spokesman said: “TfL are responsible for the maintenance of its assets, including Rotherhithe Tunnel and Vauxhall Bridge. This Government has repeatedly shown its commitment to transport in London throughout the pandemic, including with the most recent extraordinary funding agreement worth £1.08 billion.”

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