This Romford flyover was supposed to be temporary, but 50 years later there is still no solution
- Credit: Archant
The cost of replacing Havering’s Gallows Corner flyover could exceed £50million, say City Hall sources
Planned improvements to Romford’s Gallows Corner junction may be impacted by the economic consequences of coronavirus, the Romford Recorder has learned.
City Hall is having to consider the feasibility of the most expensive options, after the covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on Transport for London’s (TfL) finances.
In January 1970, construction began on the “temporary” flyover at Gallows Corner, which was designed to last 15 years.
Fifty years later, it remains in situ. The site has long been an accident hotspot, causes significant traffic problems and the flyover requires constant maintenance – but decades of political promises to do away with the flyover have amounted to nothing.
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Now, quipped Del Smith, former chairman of Havering Council’s development and transportation committee, “It’s been there long enough to be listed.”
Julia Lopez, Conservative MP for Hornchurch and Upminster, was more blunt.
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“The flyover at Gallows Corner was a temporary sticking plaster that has turned into a 50-year-old eyesore,” she said.
Over five decades, the flyover has been owned by bodies including the Ministry of Transport, the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Highways Agency. Since 2000, it has been owned by TfL.
In 2008, the junction was named the eighth most dangerous in London. In the same year, during maintenance work, TfL discovered significant corrosion in the flyover’s safety barriers. Traffic had to be restricted to one lane and was then stopped altogether while repairs were carried out.
When it reopened, TfL issued a statement: “These essential safety works will have significantly extended the life of the flyover... and will minimise the need for any further large scale maintenance for at least a decade.”
By 2019, further works were needed.
“The Gallows Corner junction is dangerous and can cause major tailbacks during rush hour,” said Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford. “Over many years, I have made representations for the so-called ‘temporary’ flyover to be replaced. I am dismayed that no long-term solution has yet been found over all this time.”
Local activist David Ainsworth said congestion at the junction rendered bus timetables “a fiction”.
“This ramshackle flyover is often closed for ‘running repairs’ to address ‘wear and tear’ and keep it standing – so causing even more delays,” he added.
Both Mr Rosindell and Mrs Lopez put the blame on Labour mayor Sadiq Khan.
“Havering is part of greater London, so getting this matter sorted requires the Mayor of London and TfL to take action,” said Mr Rosindell.
Over a year ago, said Mrs Lopez, she “successfully made the case to the Transport Secretary to upgrade the junction.” The government said it would make up to £50million available for the project, once plans were submitted.
“The ball was in TfL’s court to put together a business plan to unlock the cash,” she said. “Keith Prince and I met TfL to push for progress and I have written several times to the Mayor to ask for an update on his proposed replacement scheme. While some safety upgrades were made last summer, there has been precious little news from him since.”
But London Assembly member Keith Prince said all mayors, including Boris Johnson, had been slow to act.
“Successive guardians, as is so often the case, have failed to see outer London as a priority,” said Mr Prince. “Its current owner – and indeed its longest – is TfL, but after 20-plus years and three mayors, progress has been painfully slow.”
After decades of political inaction, the project could now be derailed just as it was about to be green-lit, due to coronavirus. The £50m funding was not enough to cover the cost of the project and now it is thought extra funding may be harder to secure.
Mrs Lopez suggested TfL should top up the funding with some of the £1.6billion bail-out it received last month. It was given the cash after the public was instructed not to use public transport due to the pandemic. Tube use fell by more than 95 per cent and buses were made free, which saw revenue plummet.
“With the covid pandemic leaving the economy in need of a boost from shovel-ready infrastructure upgrades, Gallows Corner could be just the kind of project to improve our area,” said Mrs Lopez. “But once again, outer London risks getting caught up in the Mayor’s inertia, buck-passing and indifference to the capital’s road network.”
But City Hall sources say the bail-out was designed to keep the company afloat as it faced a drop in income that would kill any ordinary business. If anything, they said, the current situation could scale down the Gallows Corner improvements.
“Some of the options being considered would cost far more than the £50m funding,” said a source. “TfL is carefully considering which of these options would be feasible and provide best value for money – which is particularly important, given the impact of coronavirus on TfL’s finances.”
A spokesman for Sadiq Khan said: “City Hall and TfL are committed to finding the right solution at Gallows Corner. The existing flyover structure has presented many challenges, which means more time has been needed to thoroughly assess all the possible options.
“TfL plans to submit a business case and proposals to the DfT later this summer as significant government funding will be needed to take plans forward.”