Transport for London scraps plans for six-lane road bridge

London Mayor Boris Johnson scraps scheme amid strong opposition from environmental campaigners

Boris Johnson, the London mayor, has shelved £3.5bn of transport schemes in the capital, including the Thames Gateway bridge, as part of multibillion-pound cost cuts.

Johnson said today the move ended the "deception" of his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, who had ordered officials to draw up plans for the Thames Gateway project amid strong opposition from environmental campaigners.

"I am stopping the deception of keeping hopes alive when there is no funding for these schemes," said Johnson.

Other proposals taken off the drawing board today include the £1.3bn cross river tram; a £500m tram scheme for Oxford Street in the centre of the capital; and a £70m extension of the Docklands Light Railway to Dagenham.

The mayor also revealed plans to save £2.4bn in costs at Transport for London, including the loss of hundreds of jobs among TfL's 22,000-strong workforce.

The cost drive and sidelining of unfunded schemes were announced alongside an £80bn investment programme over the next decade. The programme includes bringing back the routemaster bus, upgrading the tube network and building the £16bn Crossrail underground link between Heathrow airport and east London.

"These cuts need to be seen in the context of the biggest investment in London transport for a generation," said Johnson.

Green campaigners welcomed the scrapping of the motorway-scale Thames Gateway road bridge as one of the most significant rejections of car traffic ever made.

The decision by TfL follows a year-long public inquiry which rejected the £450m bridge for environmental, social and economic reasons. The inquiry was to reopen next year after further pressure businesses.

"I have always been in favour of another crossing. But I don't think that this idea was the right one," said Johnson.

He said Transport for London would "look again" at proposals for a crossing at Silvertown, near London City Airport in Docklands. He argued the Thames Gateway area had sufficient transport links for the nearly 100,000 new homes that will be built there over the next decade.

Supporters of the bridge between Beckton and Thamesmead in east London argued it would reduce journey times and make east London a more attractive place for business. But evidence at the inquiry showed it would encourage car use, bringing more air and noise pollution and increasing carbon emissions.

The bridge was to pass through some of Britain's most deprived communities in east London, but leading transport analysts showed it would not bring regeneration to these areas.

Local resident groups joined national environment groups in welcoming the decision.

"This was not a local bridge for local people as it was billed. It was never designed to regenerate the area. It was just going to cause worse air and noise pollution," said Jacqui Wise, coordinator of the Action Group Against the Bridge.

Jenny Bates, London campaigns coordinator for Friends of the Earth, said: "This was an ill-conceived and outdated attempt to regenerate an area with road-building and would have blighted the area and led to more traffic, congestion and climate change.

"It would have brought terrible problems for some of the most deprived communities in Britain. We must find better ways of helping east London."

It was the second time in 12 years that business interests had tried but failed to get a major Thames crossing built. In 1993, the proposed east London river crossing, which would have would destroyed Oxleas wood, one of London's last remaining areas of ancient woodland, was dropped after similar local opposition.

Darren Johnson, a Green member of the London assembly, said: "Scrapping this six-lane new road across the Thames is good news for the environment and for the local people who have spent years fighting this proposal. It was the single biggest mistake of the previous mayor, who spent £30m of taxpayers' money preparing a traffic-generating monster."

The Thames gateway bridge was first proposed in 1996 by Steven Norris when he was transport minister in the last Conservative government. In a remarkable reversal, Norris was instrumental in having the bridge scrapped — he now sits on the TfL board that ruled against it.

Johnson pledged to scrap the bridge in his election manifesto this year but supports the need for an extra river crossing in the east of London.

Jannette Graham, a resident of the Windsor Park estate in Beckton which would have been within 50 metres of the bridge, said: "We are ecstatic. People here, who are largely ethnic communities and do not have a political voice, have had far too much noise and pollution already. This is a victory for the people. It makes a whole heap of difference around here."


John Vidal and Dan Milmo

The GuardianTramp

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