Rotherhithe Tunnel: TfL bosses warn cuts could mean increased restrictions and closures

Josh Salisbury (08 October, 2018) Transport

The agency has seen a significant fall in its surface assets budget after the Government removed £700m in funding this year

22554TfL bosses have warned squeezed surface asset budgets could mean increased closures and restrictions over the next five years (Image: TfL)

TfL bosses have warned that cuts could mean increased closures and restrictions on major roads like the Rotherhithe tunnel over the next five years, causing “significant” disruption.

A paper due to be presented to the TfL board cautions that deferral of roadworks may increase restrictions on major assets including the Rotherhithe Tunnel.

Budgets for surface repairs are facing a tight squeeze after the Government withdrew £700m in funding for London’s highways this year.

The paper, being delivered to the Programmes and Investment Committee on Thursday, warns: “Restrictions may be necessary on some major assets within the next five years due to the deferral of works; these include Vauxhall Bridge, the Westway and Rotherhithe Tunnel.”

TfL had originally planned to spend £548m between 2017/18 – 2019/20 on surface assets, which includes roads, bridges and piers.

Now that amount is projected to be £303m over the same period – with spending in 2019/20 falling from a predicted £189m to only £64m.

The paper adds: “Continuation of the [budget] reduction beyond 2019/20 is very likely to result in greater impacts and maintaining network safety will require asset restrictions and closures, resulting in significant network disruption.

If the restrictions and closures are needed, the paper says restrictions on major assets are “likely to start with the restriction of abnormal loads, then HGVs, extended to buses and other motorised vehicles if the condition reduces further.”

Vauxhall Bridge is said to be at the “immediate highest risk” of restriction.

Since last month restrictions have prevented vehicles heavier than two tonnes or higher than two metres from entering the Rotherhithe tunnel due to poor ventilation.

However, managers say that due to historic investments, a two year reduction in active renewals of surfaces can be managed safely despite the risk of increased disruption.

The agency has paused all non-essential road renewals but said that necessary road repairs would still be prioritised.

Ben Plowden, TfL’s Director of Strategy and Network Development, said: “Safety remains our top priority and we will ensure the road network continues to be safe through our inspections and repairs – however, in the short term, we have temporarily paused all non-essential road improvements on TfL roads, in order to manage a £700m per year reduction in Government subsidy.

“This will allow us to get the best results of our investment for all road users, whilst ensuring TfL’s road network remains safe.

“We are delivering huge efficiencies and looking at alternative funding sources for roads and we’re also continuing to work closely with boroughs to make the case for maintaining funding for London’s roads and to support more walking and cycling journeys across the capital.”

The paper also reveals that work is still ongoing for TfL’s “preferred option” of a bridge between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf.

The proposal went to consultation last year, while further consultation on the bridge design is expected this year before a consents application in 2019.

However, a ferry option has not yet been ruled out.

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