Olympic rowers hope to sink 30m Uber Boats jetty at Putney

·3-min read
The Boat Race is a classic British sporting event - but the route could be compromised if Uber gets its way, rowers fear  (Action Images via Reuters)
The Boat Race is a classic British sporting event - but the route could be compromised if Uber gets its way, rowers fear (Action Images via Reuters)

Uber Boats has come under fire from Olympic rowers who say the company’s plan for a new Thames jetty in south west London will ruin the Boat Race course.

Thames Clippers, the company that runs the river boat service, wants to build a 30x10m replacement pier next to Putney Bridge to expand on its current offering of tourist transport along the river.

The boats currently serve 24 piers from Barking to Putney with around 10,000 daily passengers.

Planning application documents submitted to Wandsworth Council have said the current outlet at Putney is ‘unsuitable’ - and can only operate on weekday mornings and evenings.

Putney Bridge, viewed from a boat. (Google Maps)
Putney Bridge, viewed from a boat. (Google Maps)

Uber Boat by Thames Clippers said building a new pier would bring the potential for more frequent stop offs at the point, and the possibility of off peak and weekend services.

It said all historic races in the Tideway would be able to go ahead under the plans and there would be no services running during the events. The company said a risk assessment had been carried out and the new pier 'poses no greater risk', adding access for clubs would not be restricted.

“Uber Boat by Thames Clippers has serviced Putney Pier for more than nine years providing a fast, affordable route into London for leisure travellers and commuters,” a statement read.

“Earlier this year, we made a planning application to construct a new pier that would be positioned 55m downstream from the existing pier.

“A new pier would allow us to futureproof the Putney river bus route, providing more frequent off peak and weekend sailings. This will help more Londoners enjoy fast, convenient commutes and day trip journeys by river.”

It is understood the current pier would be removed to build the replacement one to a greater length, if plans are approved by Wandsworth Council.

But Guy Pooley, who rowed for Britain at the 1992 Olympics, and Erin Kennedy, a Paralympic champion, are among those voicing opposition to what they feel could disrupt a popular spot for training and racing. They both wrote to the council to make their feelings known.

Mr Pooley, who is now a rowing coach at Eton school, wrote: “The position of this new pier and the consequent activity around it will adversely affect the ability of the local rowing clubs to operate safely in that area.

“Many nationally significant events such as the Boat Race and the many head of the river races use this area as the finish of the race and crews pass through Putney Bridge and return to Putney embankment. The position of the proposed pier will interfere enormously with this.”

Ms Kennedy, who won gold at the Tokyo 2020 games, wrote: “It would seriously impact all social rowing on the Tideway, including the boat races and all domestic regattas. It cannot be allowed to proceed.”

The stretch is one of the country’s best rowing stretches and hosts the annual Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge university teams. It also houses 150-year-old boathouses including those run by Westminster, King’s College School Wimbledon and Dulwich schools.

Wandsworth Council is yet to make its decision.