BY TOBY PORTER
Delays to a long-awaited river crossing have been condemned by politicians on all sides.
The cycle and pedestrian bridge, linking Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf, was put on hold by London’s transport Deputy Mayor Heidi Alexander.
The former Lewisham MP said the sheer scale and complexity of the engineering means it would cost £450million and is currently unaffordable.
But Southwark Liberal Democrat councillor Damain O’Brien likened it to the Garden Bridge – commissioned by Boris Johnson but shelved in 2017 after wasting £43milion of public money.
Cllr O’Brien said: “This will become Labour’s ‘Garden Bridge’ fiasco, but more than that, it shows that Labour sadly lacks the drive, vision and ability to deliver the modern green infrastructure Southwark and London needs.”
He said it joins a long list of broken Labour promises – including the development of Bricklayers Arms Tube station in Southwark, a bike-hire scheme, and the ditching of the RV1 bus linking both sides of the Thames.
The decision has also come under fire from Labour leaders south of the river.
Southwark council leader Councillor Peter John said: “We are very disappointed by this news and feel it is short-sighted as we try to encourage Londoners to choose more sustainable and environmentally-friendly ways to travel, and help deliver cleaner air.
“We are urgently asking the Deputy Mayor for Transport and Transport for London (TfL) to rethink this decision and to commit to working with Southwark to get this project back on track.”
Rotherhithe ward councillors Kath Whittam, Stephanie Cryan and Bill Williams said: “We, like more than 90 per cent of local residents, back the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge.
With existing river crossings being seriously overcrowded, it is clear that this bridge is vitally needed, and would improve the lives of residents on both sides of the river.”
London Assembly Members have also voiced their disappointment. Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon said: “A bridge linking Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf would enable thousands of cleaner and healthier journeys to be made each day.
It would hugely benefit people in Rotherhithe, but also people living in the north of Lewisham and Greenwich.” She said that instead of prioritising transport improvements and a walking and cycling link across the Thames, the Mayor is choosing to spend £1billion on a road tunnel under the river which will inevitably create more traffic and pollution.
She said: “His rhetoric on air pollution and climate change is not matched by his decision to build a new road tunnel in London.”
But she hopes the money could be spent on other projects, such as its ferry service.
London Assembly Green Party Member Caroline Russell said: “This shocking bridge cancellation may yet have a silver lining for people walking and cycling if the Mayor and TfL move fast on alternative schemes.”
She said: “The pot could also be used to fill the £14million funding gap for the Diamond Jubilee bridge – a shovel ready scheme that has been crying out for more money from the Mayor.”
Ms Alexander said: “Looking forward, it is my hope that we are able to develop a ferry option that is more affordable as a short to medium-term way of providing the walking and cycling connectivity that is needed at this location.”