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Could Rainham crossing plan be a bridge too far?

PUBLISHED: 12:02 17 January 2015

Bexley could soon be that bit easier to get to

Bexley could soon be that bit easier to get to

Archant

In the last 50 years of the 19th century, the Victorians built 18 bridges over the Thames. Since 1950, there have been only three.

An artist's impression of the bridge. This is not intended to represent the finished project An artist's impression of the bridge. This is not intended to represent the finished project

One of those is the notorious Dartford Crossing, loathed by the Havering motorist. The other’s the Millenium Bridge, a walkway.

Plans are afoot to address this gaping shortfall, described by London Mayor Boris Johnson as an obstacle to growth in east London, and one of the options would make Havering’s Rainham a tolled gateway to south London.

Yet if infrastructure planners want it, they’ll have to turn the tide of opinion in the borough.

The proposal is for a large bridge, connecting to the A13 near its junction with Marsh Way. Appropriately enough, this would mean the crossing lashing itself to Havering a stone’s throw away from Rainham’s Centre for Manufacturing and Engineering Excellence (CEME), an innovation centre at the heart of visions for development of the area.

Havering Council’s view on the project – outlined in a response to a consultation held last year – is mixed, and basically amounts to a criticism of Transport for London for an ill-thought out proposal.

While acknowledging the benefits it could bring to the borough, it says TfL’s work on local impact is insufficient.

Rainham councillor David Durant opposes the plan and suggests a possible reason for this.

“It was put in to make up the numbers,” he said.

“I’m not saying there’d be no support for the bridge, but the initial proposal is really a non-starter because the land the bridge would be built on has not been secured.”

Another option proposed by TfL would link Thamesmead with Beckton in Newham, a plan favoured by Cllr Durant, of the Independent Residents’ Group.

“I cannot see the benefits to the public with a bridge in Rainham. All the traffic is going to be in Rainham. If it was in Newham we’d have the benefits of a bridge without the traffic.”

Asked whether that view could come across as Nimbyism, he responded: “There’s nothing wrong with Nimbyism.”

There are also environmental concerns. Havering Friends of the Earth chair Ian Pirie said: “We would not support a bridge added to traffic. The reasons being: noise and air pollution, and the effect on the people of Rainham who are going to have trouble getting through to other parts of London.”

He went on to add that a commitment to cycling and public transport might weaken their opposition.

The business case for better connecting north and south London between Blackwall and Dartford is strong. A report published last October by think tank Centre for London claimed bridging the gulf could boost the south east’s economy by as much as £1billion a year, alongside creating up to 60,000 jobs.

Linking London’s co-author Sam Sims said east and outer east London “has the potential to accommodate London’s next wave of growth”.

Crucially, this report calls for four new crossings.

So maybe some Victorian industriousness is what’s needed. The simultaneous construction of several bridges in east and outer east London would spread out the impact of traffic and pollution across the area, softening opposition in Havering at the very least.

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