World’s longest drawbridge proposed on Thames from Canary Wharf to Rotherhithe

Aerial view of proposed Rotherhithe Bridge [image: reForm Architects]

Aerial view of proposed Rotherhithe Bridge [image: reForm Architects] - Credit: reForm Architects

Plans to build a new bridge across the Thames between Canary Wharf and Rotherhithe on either side have reached completion in a new feasibility study. The proposed ‘Rotherhithe Bridge’ would have the longest bascule span in the world, at 600ft (184m), for use by pedestrians and cyclists.

Aerial view of proposed Rotherhithe Bridge [image: reForm Architects]

Aerial view of proposed Rotherhithe Bridge [image: reForm Architects] - Credit: reForm Architects

It would be the first bascule bridge on the river that would open to let shipping through since Tower Bridge was completed in 1894.

Pedestrians and cyclists would use two separate parallel spans, each 15ft wide, avoiding conflict that occurred between walkers and riders in the nearby Greenwich foot tunnel last year.

The study was commissioned from leading architects reForm by the Sustrans cycling charity, after the government signalled interest in a new east London crossing in the national Infrastructure Masterplan last December.

“Any new bridge across the Thames must respond to the significance of its setting and add to London’s culture and heritage,” reForm’s Nik Randall said.

Aerial view of proposed Rotherhithe Bridge [image: reForm Architects]

Aerial view of proposed Rotherhithe Bridge [image: reForm Architects] - Credit: reForm Architects

“Our design will do this with an internationally recognisable landmark enhancing the views of the river, with scale and interest in the way that ships on the river itself do.”


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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, just south of Westferry Circus.

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

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Construction details have been worked out by Elliott Wood engineers with costing advice from Arup, which advised the government on the Eurostar route through east London more than a decade ago.

Aerial view of proposed Rotherhithe Bridge [image: reForm Architects]

Aerial view of proposed Rotherhithe Bridge [image: reForm Architects] - Credit: reForm Architects

Elliott Wood’s director Gary Elliott said: “The bridge is fitting for such a significant location, which would improve connections between the under-served Rotherhithe with a dedicated and safe river crossing for pedestrians and cyclists.”

The scheme is a response to demand in south-east London for a river crossing which would cut commuting time and congestion on other parts of London’s overstretched transport network. Commuters from Rotherhithe would get easy access to the DLR and to Crossrail opening in 2018, while cyclists from east London could cross to Surrey Quays without a long and polluted traffic route detour to Tower Bridge or the dangerous Rotherhithe Tunnel.

Up to three million people a year would use it, the proposers envisage.

Cost is estimated at £88m, taking up to five years to build.

Aerial view of proposed Rotherhithe Bridge [image: reForm Architects]

Aerial view of proposed Rotherhithe Bridge [image: reForm Architects] - Credit: reForm Architects

The next step is securing financial and political backing to continue testing and developing the design.

The proposers are looking for private backing and are approaching companies in Canary Wharf to support the scheme.

They need £250,000 to reach pre-application stage in four to six months, with another six to 12 months for the planning and consultation process to start, before going to Tower Hamlets and Southwark councils and the GLA for approval. It could open by 2022—if all goes to plan.

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