‘Lack of funding’ for proposed new Thames ferry crossings says Khan

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Greenwich Pier facing Canary Wharf. Pic: Maraam Nusair

Proposals for Thames ferry crossings in East London to improve transport links between the south and north of the river has been rejected by the Mayor of London due to a “lack of funding”.

The Port of London Authority (PLA), along with the Thames Estuary Growth Board (TEGB) commissioned a study which proposed three ferry crossing routes on a ‘turn up and go’ basis in areas where north-south connectivity is severely lacking, in hopes of improving transport links and boost the economy in East London.

However the Mayor’s office says there is no prospect of the crossings going ahead because of a lack of long term finance.

In a written reponse to a question by Tory assembly member Nick Rogers, the mayor’s office said: “TFL regularly reviews new river crossing proposals for London. However, there remains significant uncertainty around TFL’s long-term capital funding.”

The ferry routes were drawn up to link North Greenwich to Isle of Dogs, Silvertown to Charlton and Barking Riverside to Thamesmead.

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Proposed routes for electric ferry crossings, drawn in December 2023. Pic: Ove Arup & Partners Ltd.

Originally, the electric ferry routes were to be completed by 2026 and would transport pedestrians and cyclists from the south of the river to the north and vice versa, for a set fare of just £1. This would provide commuters a short cycle ride over the crossing, in hopes of providing affordable, quick and easy access to job and education opportunities.

Each of the southern piers for the ferry routes was estimated to be within a 15-minute bike ride for over 107,000 people. The report also estimated that with a lifespan of 30 years, the investment for each ferry would be between £120 million and £132 million – a third of the cost of the proposed Rotherhithe Bridge in 2019, which was estimated at £460 million and subsequently paused.

Robin Mortimer, Port of London Authority Chief Executive, said: “Based upon the experience of Auckland and Amsterdam, this report shows that the river can help create an affordable, low-carbon way of tacking transport inequity in east London.”

Currently, the quickest and only way to travel from North Greenwich to Canary Wharf by crossing the river is through the Uber Boat service by Thames Clippers, which runs on a limited schedule and costs £12.50 for an adult return journey.

Cyclists looking to cross the river in east London currently have the cable car option or can walk their bike through the Greenwich foot tunnels, which suffer frequent lift closures, meaning bikes have to be carried up and down steps.

While the projected outcome for these crossings would support Sadiq Khan’s goal for 80% of all trips within the city to be taken on foot, cycle or using public transport by 2041, the mayor has knocked back these plans.

Rogers criticised Khan’s rejection of the new crossing, saying that he was choosing to “fund his pet projects” instead to “further his own political interests.”

He told the Standard: “In the past few weeks, Sadiq Khan has found £177m for desperate pre-election giveaways – £30m to stave off Tube strikes, £123m to freeze TfL fares for one year and £24m to fund a temporary three-day weekend on the Tube by pausing peak fares on Fridays. Nobody believes Sadiq Khan anymore when he says there’s no money.”

Siân Foster, Director of Corporate Affairs at Port of London Authority told EastLondonLines: “While we understand that current economic pressures may mean that alternative funding models should be considered, we believe the connectivity that these new crossings could provide is worth pursuing.”

The Mayor’s office has not responded to a request for comment

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