MP Fitzpatrick fury over £61m on Thames crossing with nothing to show for it

Blackwall Tunnel northbound entrance in rush-hour

Blackwall Tunnel northbound entrance in rush-hour - Credit: Archant

Shock figures reveal £1.1 million has been spent by City Hall on its Thames River Crossing team’s wages bill since 2012, paying out £46,000 every month to look at options to relieve the congested Blackwall Tunnel.

Blackwall Tunnel northbound entrance in rush-hour

Blackwall Tunnel northbound entrance in rush-hour - Credit: Archant

Around £43m has already been paid out by Transport for London in the past 15 years and is set to reach £61m by 2018—even before the first brick or iron girder is laid.

Now the Poplar & Limehouse MP, whose constituency includes the tunnel, has this week accused two mayors of London of wasting eight years between them delaying the scheme before coming round to the idea, then lashing out public funds on studies without producing the goods.

“It’s outrageous that they have wasted millions on what is a simple issue of a need for a Thames crossing in east London,” Jim Fitzpatrick told the East London Advertiser today.

“Half London’s population lives east of Tower Bridge—but only has two river crossings, while west London has 23.

Gallions Bridge - artist impression

Gallions Bridge - artist impression - Credit: TfL

“We need more Thames crossings in east London, otherwise the gridlock in the Blackwall Tunnel will be permanent.”

Current proposals include three crossings east of Tower Bridge, at Silvertown, Gallions Reach linking Beckton with Thamesmead and further out between Barking and Belvedere, all with public transport as well as vehicle traffic.

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Fitzpatrick, a former transport minister himself, added: “The government didn’t take a Thames crossing seriously for years, until the new London mayor Ken Livingstone took it up—and he took five years to be persuaded.

“Boris Johnson opposed crossings when he took office and took another three years to be persuaded—so between them they wasted eight years.

“It’s been a complete waste of money during those years. Time and again we needed to draw a line under it and get a crossing built.”

The £61m cash being paid out by TfL up to 2018 includes extensive design, planning and consultation work.

The tally over the past 15 years includes £31m between 2000 and 2004 on the Thames Gateway bridge that was never built, £1.1m in 2008 looking at plans for the Silvertown crossing, £10.6m in 2014 on preparation work, design studies and public consultations on a Silvertown tunnel and £12m up to 2018 on a Development Consent Order application.

The figures were uncovered by London Assembly member Darren Johnson—who is against a road crossing and, instead, is calling for more public transport expansion.

He said: “They are frittering away shocking sums of public money on fanciful plans for new trunk roads in east London which will just bring new traffic, noise and pollution and make congestion worse.”

TfL insists a crossing is urgently needed because of east London’s growing population.

The authority’s planning director Michèle Dix said: “The level of congestion we see at the Blackwall Tunnel today will get worse if we don’t improve facilities. The economy of east London will be affected.”

Consultations in 2014 for the Silvertown crossing received 11,000 responses with “the overwhelming majority” supporting it, City Hall claims.

New data shows £12m has been set aside by TfL this year for the Silvertown planning application, after £5m was spent up to the end of 2014 on consultations, feasibility studies and unspecified “other activities to progress the work”.