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Canary Wharf to Rotherhithe drawbridge scheme is axed as projected costs hit £600m

PUBLISHED: 14:00 24 June 2019 | UPDATED: 17:04 24 June 2019

Drawbridge withdrawn... ambitious Thames bridge at Canary Wharf is

Drawbridge withdrawn... ambitious Thames bridge at Canary Wharf is "too costly". Picture: Nik Randall/Reform Architects

Nik Randall/Reform Architects

An ambitious scheme for the world's longest pedestrian and cycle drawbridge over the Thames at Canary Wharf has been shelved because of rocketing costs now put at £600million - seven times its original estimate.

Alternative ferry idea at Canary Wharf instead of a bridge. Picture: Mike BrookeAlternative ferry idea at Canary Wharf instead of a bridge. Picture: Mike Brooke

The project has been halted by City Hall which has already spent £13m so far—which has been slammed as a "waste of public money" by a campaigning Tower Hamlets councillor who warned of its doom in an exclusive East London Advertiser report back in April.

The shock decision is in an internal memo from the Mayor of London's office to the London Assembly's transport chair that TfL must "pause development and revert the project to the 'feasibility' stage".

Deputy mayor Heidi Alexander's memo seen by the Advertiser says: "The sheer scale and complexity of the engineering solution means that it is currently unaffordable."

The cost of a bascule drawbridge from East Ferry Circus to Rotherhithe's Canada Water shopping district, which would be raised in the middle to let shipping through, like Tower Bridge, was originally set at £88m in 2015. But the 'half way' estimate today is £463m and the final tally exceeding £600m.

"Continuing the project with surveys, ground investigations and designing would cost £800,000 a month," the memo points out. "The bridge is therefore unaffordable, particularly with TfL's financial challenges." Added to this its £2m annual maintenance.

Cllr Andrew Wood... Cllr Andrew Wood... "The bridge is dead!" Picture: Mike Brooke

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TfL is now thinking of a ferry—first called for by Canary Wharf's Cllr Andrew Wood in April who is furious at the wasted £13m so far.

"The bridge is dead," he said. "We knew for months that the scheme was in trouble.

"The mayor declared that he would build a bridge by 2020, rather than a crossing that might include a ferry. City Hall has made the same mistake as the doomed 'garden bridge' idea at Blackfriars which cost taxpayers £43m before being scrapped in 2016."

The aim of building a bridge linking Canary Wharf to Rotherhithe was to cope with Jubilee line overcrowding. But TfL cancelled 10 new tube trains in 2017 it had ordered that would have solved the issue, critics point out.

Troubled �600m drawbridge scheme comes crashing down. Picture: Nik Randall/Reform ArchitectsTroubled �600m drawbridge scheme comes crashing down. Picture: Nik Randall/Reform Architects

A spokesman for the Mayor said: "A new bridge at Canary Wharf would cost substantially more than the money allocated. Pausing work is the sensible and responsible thing to do to protect the London taxpayer, with the estimate now increased to half a billion pounds."

TfL is now looking at a fast electric ferry, first mooted by Cllr Wood, that can be used by cyclists and pedestrians.

Other ferry routes might follow, if the service is successful, which could link the Isle of Dogs and Greenwich and link Barking Riverside and Thamesmead - costing between them less than the £13m spent on the scrapped drawbridge scheme.

What the Advertiser reported in April about Thames bridge in doubt

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