Cancellation of the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf Bridge

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 29th July 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Pidgeon Caroline Pidgeon Liberal Democrat

Do you still support a bridge from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf for pedestrians and cyclists?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I have always made clear my support for a new walking and cycling bridge between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf.  I want to be the Mayor to make it happen, but it cannot be at any cost.  I set ambitious but much-needed targets in my Transport Strategy for 80% of Londoners’ trips to be on foot, cycle or by using public transport by 2041. I hope this bridge will help to meet that aim and I continue to support a bridge as the right, long‑term solution.

Despite considerable effort by TfL to minimise the cost of what is a well‑designed and technically feasible solution, the sheer scale and the complexity of providing an opening bridge on this part of the river with the increased costs means it is currently unaffordable. The scheme’s costs are now expected to be substantially higher than originally forecast, so I agree with TfL that this is a reasonable decision to take for now. In my view, something needs to be done in the short term to address the transport needs in this area.

The original forecast was between £100 million and £200 million. In the 2018 TfL Business Plan [2019/20 to 2023/34], there was an allocation of £350 million for this bridge. The scheme is now forecast to cost around £463 million with an upper limit of more than £600 million.

TfL is looking at options for a fast ferry as a way of providing cross‑river walking and cycling connectivity. Options for a ferry service being considered include a roll‑on roll‑off style service using electric or hybrid vessels. This would be considerably cheaper than building a lifting bridge and the service could be up and running more quickly. This is alongside the wider investment in walking and cycling across the Rotherhithe Peninsula. This includes delivering Cycleway 4, a new cycle route from Rotherhithe to Peckham, and progressing an expansion of Santander Cycles across Canada Water.

The valuable work that has been done to date to demonstrate the technical and operational feasibility of the bridge will be concluded so that it can be used in the future. This means there will be a well‑developed plan ready to be picked up in the future when financial circumstances allow and if costs can be reduced. I will continue to lobby the Government to ensure we can secure steady and sustained investment for the capital, which can allow for sensible investment decisions to be delivered for London in the long term.

Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander wrote to the Chair of the Transport Committee and offered to meet to explain the challenges. I understand Heidi and David Rowe from TfL are meeting with the Committee tomorrow and they look forward to discussing this matter in more detail then.

Photo of Caroline Pidgeon Caroline Pidgeon Liberal Democrat

Thank you for your update. I am disappointed with this decision. In May 2016, just after you were elected, you said that this bridge was a great project. As recently as last November [2018] you said the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf crossing is “an important and a unique part of my vision for healthy streets”, and I agree with you.

You have stated that the increasing costs of the bridge is a big factor. The latest estimate states the top cost is now £602 million, yet in September 2018 the top cost was £595 million. It is only £7 million different. Why have you changed your mind?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The fluctuations will be discussed tomorrow by Heidi and David Rowe. I do not agree with the figures in relation to the top end. The top end is now between £370 million and £602 million and they use various factors to go for ‑‑

Photo of Caroline Pidgeon Caroline Pidgeon Liberal Democrat

Previously it was £250 million to £595 million. I am saying the top end is still roughly around the same. What is it that has really made this decision take place to cancel the bridge?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The additional costs were not there before in relation to what we think the bridge may cost. TfL has now forecast the bridge based on brackets. It forecasts the bridge will cost around £463 million.  You mentioned the top end, but the figure it has is £463 million and it is only going one way at the moment. That is its concern.

Photo of Caroline Pidgeon Caroline Pidgeon Liberal Democrat

Will you agree to a full, independent evaluation of all of the designs for a Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge to understand these escalating costs, whether it is simply the design choice that TfL has made or whether there is something here that is more complex?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

As a result of the concerns raised by Assembly Member Duvall and you not too long ago, TfL did get the various designs looked at independently. I will forewarn Deputy Mayor Alexander and the TfL expert and at tomorrow’s Committee hearing they can talk you through the various reviews that have been undertaken.

Photo of Caroline Pidgeon Caroline Pidgeon Liberal Democrat

Could those be published, Mr Mayor, so that we can see? We need to understand because those of us who support this project want to understand how it has gone up so much.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I am very happy for you to raise it tomorrow at the Committee with the Deputy Mayor in relation to the possibility of publishing some of that stuff. I am not on top of the details of the review but I am happy for you to raise that with Heidi Alexander and TfL tomorrow.

Photo of Caroline Pidgeon Caroline Pidgeon Liberal Democrat

You believe an independent evaluation has been carried out on all of the options?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

It has because, if you remember, you were in favour of a certain option. There was concern that some work had been done on one option and we should run with that and I said, “Hold on a second. We have to go through the proper procurement process”, learning the lessons from the Garden Bridge. Then there was some concern raised about that process.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

My understanding was the decision taken by TfL was endorsed by an independent peer review by the Institution of Civil Engineers, but I am happy for you to discuss that with the experts and Heidi tomorrow. If they can publish that, I am happy for them to do so.

Photo of Caroline Pidgeon Caroline Pidgeon Liberal Democrat

That would be helpful. You are committed to this project; we have talked about it many times and I know you are. It fits in with your whole Healthy Streets agenda. You know you have the power to direct TfL to build this bridge. Given the budget constraints, I know, will you direct TfL to proceed with this much‑needed bridge at this location?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The question you are asking is whether I will agree to potentially £600 million‑plus being spent on this bridge, and the answer is no. We have seen with the previous Mayor [Boris Johnson] what happens when you become fixated with a project and a bridge, even though common sense is telling you and experts are telling you it is not value for money and is not a sensible use of taxpayers’ money.

The Garden Bridge started off costing tens of millions of pounds. In the end it would have cost more than £200 million and the previous Mayor’s fixation led to £400 million being wasted. We have to be pragmatic about these bridges. Sorry, I am being heckled by somebody.

Photo of Caroline Pidgeon Caroline Pidgeon Liberal Democrat

It is my question, Assembly Member Bacon.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I beg your pardon, £43 million. I had the ‘4’ bit right anyway. £43 million. What is important is that we are pragmatic about this bridge. I want it to happen.  I still want it to happen. That is why we are going to finish the current piece so that work is completed and we can revisit it if we can reduce the costs. If you are saying that review work can lead the costs being reviewed, I am very happy to have that undertaken. Why not? It is a really important project.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Chair, that was my fault. I said £400 million. I meant £43 million and that led to the intervention of Gareth Bacon [AM].

Photo of Jennette Arnold Jennette Arnold Labour

OK, thank you for that.