Higgins-style figure needed to drive through new East London crossings

A leader like HS2’s chief executive is required to head new company to build new Thames crossings, say MPs. And DfT must move faster on Dartford 3.

Gallions Reach - could it look like this?

Lack of political leadership has led to ducking of decisions on where to build necessary new Thames river crossings in East London, the Transport Select Committee said this week. Government and the Greater London Authority should establish a special purpose company “with the sole objective to deliver a package of crossings east of Tower Bridge,” it said in its report on Strategic River Crossings.

The crossings are necessary if the capital is to absorb a population predicted to grow to 10M by 2013. Lack of crossings limit growth – something as true for London as the rest of the country, the committee said. Transport for London is currently pursuing Gallions Reach and Belvedere as potential sites for a new east London crossing.

“A deadline should be set for the start of construction and the mayor should have the power to appoint a chief executive with strong experience of delivering major infrastructure projects" - Transport Committee

The committee highlighted that a Centre for London commission had identified in 2014 the problem of lack of political leadership committed to bringing river crossing schemes to construction and recommended the establishment of a special purpose company to manage the development of new crossings within the M25. In charge should be a “respected and influential individual to lead the project to ensure that they would be personally associated with its success, as David Higgins is with HS2”, the Transport Committee summarised. “We believe that proposal has merit,” it said in its report.

“A deadline should be set for the start of construction and the mayor should have the power to appoint a chief executive with strong experience of delivering major infrastructure projects,” the committee said.

Whether the new special purpose company should also include the proposed new Lower Thames Crossing or Dartford 3 in its remit was not clear but the committee was critical of the slow pace adopted by the Department for Transport in building new capacity to improve the least reliable section of the strategic road network. Two options are on the table but with no final decision until 2016.

DfT needed to show more leadership in finding consensus between warring local authorities either side of the river on siting of the new crossing, the committee said. And it should work with the Local Enterprise Partnerships to increase their effectiveness in working together to identify regional priorities for development on the back of any new crossing.

ACE had highlighted to the committee that abolition of the Regional Development Agencies and their partial replacement with LEPs had made coordination between local and national government more difficult, and did not adequately accommodate the regional impact of new river crossings.

ACE had also suggested that more information on funding in the National Infrastructure Plan highlighting which schemes are available for private sector involvement and how high priority they are to government could help attract investors to projects such as river crossings which the public accepts are likely to be tolled.

The committee agreed and said: “We recommend that in the next update to the Infrastructure Pipeline, the Government implements a system that clearly identifies the funding status of each project so that the private sector is better able to identify investment opportunities.”

Read the Strategic river crossings report here

Meanwhile Wandsworth Borough Council has unveiled the four shortlisted designs for a new pedestrian and cycle crossing at Nine Elms west of the City. Four teams made the shortlist out of 74 entries. 

  • Buro Happold Limited  - with Marks Barfield Architects, J&L Gibbons Landscape Architects, Gardiner and Theobald; 
  • Bystrup Architecture Design and Engineering - with Robin Snell & Partners, Sven Ole Hansen ApS, Aarsleff and ÅF Lighting; 
  • Ove Arup & Partners Ltd  - with AL_A, Gross Max, Equals Consulting and Movement Strategies; 
  • Ove Arup & Partners Ltd with - Hopkins Architects and Grant Associates


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