Sadiq Khan has defended the mammoth cost of a shelved bridge from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf.
Transport for London (TfL) originally allocated £100m to a river crossing that would have connected pedestrians and cyclists travelling between the Rotherhithe peninsula and London’s financial district. Projected costs for the bridge, which would have been the longest in the world, quickly mounted – with the latest estimate standing at about £600m.
Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon asked Labour mayor Khan why the cost had risen sixfold earlier this month. She compared the huge cost of this bridge to the Pont Chaban-Delmas bridge in Bordeaux, in south-west France, which had a budget of just £130m and opened in 2013.
The Bordeaux bridge lifts and opens up in the middle to let boats through, just as the Rotherhithe bridge would have done. Pidgeon – who is also chair of the assembly’s transport committee – wanted to know why the Rotherhithe bridge would have been so much more expensive than its Bordeaux equivalent.
Khan hit back, saying that the 53-metre span of the Bordeaux bridge is “substantially shorter” than the Rotherhithe-Canary wharf crossing – which would have been 180 metres long. He added that the £600m Rotherhithe estimate includes building materials, which are much more expensive now than a decade ago.
The project shifted from being a bridge to a ferry in 2019 amid the skyrocketing costs, and was shelved entirely in April 2020 because of the first Covid-19 lockdown – but not before TfL had spent some £13m on plans.
But some kind of crossing remains a “long-term aspiration for TfL”, the transport agency said in July. There is no pedestrian Thames crossing between Tower Bridge and the Greenwich foot tunnel, which connects to the southern end of the Isle of Dogs.