Thames ‘drawbridge’ idea draws promises from London Mayor candidates

Artist Peter Morray's view of proposed drawbridge at Canary Wharf

Artist Peter Morray's view of proposed drawbridge at Canary Wharf - Credit: Peter Morray

Candidates from the major parties in Thursday’s London mayor elections have pledged backing for a proposed bridge for pedestrians and cyclists across the Thames.

What proposed Thames bridge at Canary Wharf would look like from the air, letting shipping through

What proposed Thames bridge at Canary Wharf would look like from the air, letting shipping through - Credit: Sustrans

The pledges come after weeks of campaigning by the environment charity Sustrans to build the world’s longest cantilever drawbridge in east London which would link Canary Wharf to Rotherhithe.

The new mayor could cut the ribbon as early as 2020—if the £88m scheme gets the green light, the organisation believes.

Walking or cycling between the two areas at present means detours to Tower Bridge three miles west or to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel a mile south, despite being just a few hundred yards apart either side of the tidal river, it points out.

“We need candidates’ promises to bridge the gap,” Sustrans’ London director Matt Winfield said.

How proposed drawbridge would let shipping through

How proposed drawbridge would let shipping through - Credit: Sustrans

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“They could start with an international competition once they’re in City Hall to find an attractive design.”

The bridge has pledges from Labour’s Sadiq Khan, Tory Zac Goldsmith, Lib Dems’ Caroline Pidgeon and the Greens’ Sian Berry.

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A feasibility study estimates 110,000 new jobs could be created on the Isle of Dogs and 4,000 new homes in Canada Water by 2030 with the new link that would carry 10,000 cyclists and 3,000 pedestrians a day.

One design for a 600ft-long bascule span that would open to let shipping through has already been put forward by architects reForm, first revealed in the East London Advertiser in December—it would be the first cantilever structure on the Thames since Tower Bridge was built in 1894.

The proposal followed a study commissioned last year by Sustrans after the government signalled interest in a new east London crossing.

The bridge would run east-west from Millwall on the Isle of Dogs to Rotherhithe, roughly following the London Underground Jubilee Line deep below the riverbed.

The pedestrian approach from Millwall would start at Westferry Road, while the longer cycle approach would wind its way from the upper deck of Canary Wharf’s Westferry Circus.

Commuters from Rotherhithe would get easy access to the DLR and to Crossrail opening at Canary Wharf in 2018, while cyclists from east London could cross to Surrey Quays without a long detour to Tower Bridge or the dangerously-busy Rotherhithe Tunnel.

The proposal could go to public consultations by the end of the year, before a planning application next year to Tower Hamlets and Southwark councils and the GLA for approval. Construction could take as little as three years, if all goes to plan.

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