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TfL shelves Knight Architects’ £600m Rotherhithe Crossing plan

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Transport for London (TfL) has scrapped plans by Knight Architects and Atkins for a new Thames crossing from Canary Wharf to Rotherhithe due to spiralling costs

According to TfL’s Programmes and Investment Committee, the ’sheer scale and complexity of the engineering solution that would be required’ had seen the bridge’s budget balloon from £350 million to a potential cost of more than £600 million.

But the architect behind an earlier bridge design for the crossing maintained that its design could still be realised for a fraction of the cost.

The AJ’s sister title New Civil Engineer revealed in March that Transport for London (TfL) had opted for a 90m-tall vertical lift bridge, which spans 180m, as its preferred option for the structure which would have been the world’s longest and tallest vertical lift bridge.

But in a letter to London Assembly transport committee chair Florence Eshalomi, deputy mayor for transport Heidi Alexander said the scheme for the pedestrian and cycle bridge had become unaffordable. She recommended the project ‘revert to the feasibility stage of development where strategic alternatives, such as a ferry service, can be reassessed’.

In May, the public consultation for the crossing was delayed pending a value-engineering exercise for the bridge option. 

Before Knight’s appointment, Southwark-based ReForm Architects and engineer 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, who believes his design could have been delivered for £100 million, said: ‘It’s crazy to cancel a much-needed project without checking if there are alternatives that may be affordable.’

Alexander said the current midpoint cost estimate for the bridge scheme was £463 million, within a range that means final costs could exceed £600 million. As this compared to the £350 million allocation in the current TfL business plan, the scheme was deemed too expensive in the short to medium term, ’particularly in the context of TfL’s wider financial challenges’.

TfL is currently facing financial pressures, which Alexander said would need to be managed as part of its business planning process this autumn.

She said she believed it was right to make the decision to cancel the project given the ‘significant costs’ of keeping it going. She added that the scheme’s development through the next phase of surveys, ground investigations and engineering design would cost around £800,000 a month.

Alexander said she hoped TfL would be able to develop a ferry option that was more affordable as a short to medium-term way of providing a walking and cycling clink between the two areas. She said options would include a roll-on/roll-off style service using electric or hybrid vessels.

‘This would be considerably cheaper than building a lifting bridge, and the service could be up and running more quickly,’ she said.

A spokesperson for London mayor Sadiq Khan said: ’While the mayor is investing hundreds of millions of pounds enabling more walking and cycling in east London, the estimated cost of this project has now increased to around half a billion pounds.

‘TfL has used all of its expertise to try and lower the costs of a viable new bridge at this site, but it would now cost substantially more than the money allocated in the Business Plan. Pausing work is now the sensible and responsible thing to do to protect the London taxpayer.

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