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'London mayor must build new bridges across Thames'

Business campaign group London First is pressing for design competitions for the three new river bridges it wants built to open up and regenenerate the vast Thames Gateway area at a cost of around £500 million.

Mem Baybars, a consultant with the body and previously transport manager of the London Docklands Development Corporation, said that plans for road bridges - the Thames Gateway Bridge at Gallions Reach, Silvertown between Greenwich peninsula and the Royal Docks at Blackwall - and the Woolwich Rail Crossing need to be 'landmark' structures and would best be determined through competition with the new mayor and gla as the likely client. 'It's very important to identify a place' Baybars said 'and a design competition should be built into the programme.'

Baybars was speaking following an event held by London First at Foster and Partners' new Canary Wharf Jubilee Line station, where the issue was discussed before an audience including prospective mayoral candidates Ken Livingstone, Trevor Phillips, Steve Norris and Judith Mayhew (above). London First is aiming to ensure that the issue of the East Thames Crossings is high on the agenda when the new mayor takes over to speed progress on the bridges, an issue that has stalled for the past year. There have been 100 reports on the need for a new series of bridges. The most recent, commissioned by English Partnerships from Price Waterhouse, is likely to point up their economic benefits when it appears shortly.

All three crossings would be private and public sector partnerships or pfi schemes, and builders are likely to benefit from toll income. Baybars said that Blackwall tunnel would also need to be tolled to prevent car drivers from simply avoiding the bridges to save money. The Thames Gateway Bridge, costed at £230 million, is conceived as a four-lane road bridge with an extra two lanes devoted to public transport. Chris Wilkinson Architects and Ove Arup came up with a scheme for it around two years ago. The same architect produced a lifting-bridge concept for the Silvertown crossing, after being commissioned by the Government Office for London. The new two-lane bridge would cost £100 million. And the railway bridge for rail or an extended Docklands Light Railway would cost £150 million. London First is adamant that all three are required and is lobbying hard to drive home the point to present and future decision-makers.

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