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Rotherhithe: TfL set to consult on world’s tallest vertical lift bridge

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Details have emerged of a proposal to construct the world’s tallest vertical lift bridge in south-east London

Transport for London documents seen by The Architects’ Journal’s sister title New Civil Engineer show development of plans for a 90m-tall, 180m-span vertical lift bridge to connect Rotherhithe with Canary Wharf.

It is understood that the pedestrian and cycling bridge’s concrete towers would be 90m tall and 15m wide under the proposals, while its deck would lift to a height of 60m, making it both the longest and tallest vertical lift bridge in the world, if built.

The plans, which are expected to go to public consultation in the spring, show a bridge deck 8m wide, 12m above high tide level and 180m long.

Last year bridge specialist Knight Architects won a key design role on the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf crossing following a controversial procurement process (see below).

The latest proposal for the crossing connecting Rotherhithe with Canary Wharf feature a bridge 10m longer than the Arthur Kill bridge in New York, which is currently the world’s longest lift bridge. 

Documents seen by New Civil Engineer suggest the preferred location of the bridge is from Durrands Wharf on the south side of the river to Westferry Circus on the north bank. It is expected to be L-shaped, as revealed by the magazine in November last year. 

The proposed crossing would link into proposed cycle routes on both sides of the river. 

Before Knight’s appointment, Southwark-based ReForm Architects and engineers Elliott Wood had drawn up concept plans for a bascule-style bridge as part of its own self-funded feasibility studies for the location. 

ReForm managing director Nik Randall told the AJ: ’If these reports are correct – aside from the ongoing concerns over the procurement process – we find it very disappointing that TfL has chosen this design without speaking to our engineering team of Elliott Wood and Buro Happold.

’Without assessing the design we put together over several years in consultation with local people and with respect for the importance of this strategic site, how can TfL know it has the achieved the best-value solution and the best possible design for the crossing?

‘We don’t want to prevent this much needed project from happening but it remains to be seen how local people will feel about having this proposed lift bridge outside their windows.’

A TfL spokesperson said: ’Following a public consultation in November 2017, we have been working to develop our proposed plans for a pedestrian and cycling crossing between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf.

’As part of this, we have been engaging directly with key stakeholders, such as the Port of London Authority and the boroughs on either side of the river, working through issues such as bridge alignment, landing points, opening mechanism, construction methods and operating procedures.

‘This will ensure the final scheme is deliverable and appropriate for all users. We are still working on the designs and plans.’

Subject to consultation and further design work, it is thought a Transport & Works Act Order application could be submitted before the end of this year.

Last year, TfL’s preferred option of a navigable crossing that can open for shipping won the backing of 85 per cent of respondents to a public consultation, while 93 per cent supported an east London crossing in some form.

Procurement controversy 

Buckinghamshire practice Knight Architects was appointed by consultancy giant Atkins in 2018 to help provide engineering and architectural support to Transport for London on the proposed Rotherhithe crossing.

Knight Architects was initially appointed by Arcadis to work on a technical scoping study for the scheme – a report that was at the heart of controversy over the subsequent procurement of design services.

As part of its feasibility work, Arcadis effectively recommended a number of structural options for the Thames Crossing. After assessing various types of bridge, including a bascule, Arcadis’s feasibility study concluded that either a lift or swing bridge were ‘most appropriate at this stage’.

Before Arcadis’s June 2017 appointment, Southwark-based ReForm Architects had been working on a bascule-style bridge as part of its own self-funded feasibility studies for the site. ReForm registered its designs for a proposed crossing at the location in 2015 (pictured).

Rotherhithe bridge

Rotherhithe bridge

In March 2018, London Assembly transport committee deputy chair Caroline Pidgeon wrote to Transport for London raising concerns over the procurement process for engineering and architectural support on the Rotherhithe crossing.

Pidgeon wrote of Knight’s most recent appointment on the crossing: ‘This is extremely worrying as it appears that [a] firm recommending against bascule designs, with its potentially prejudicial implications for at least one company, is now directly benefiting from that conclusion.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • This all springs from the need for our new aircraft carriers to reach as close as possible the centre of London in the event of any attempt at Singapore-style secession from the rump UK.

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  • ...with emergency deliveries of hummus, in case shortages cause the metropolitan liberal elites to riot in the street.

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