diamond geezer

 Monday, July 07, 2014

It is ridiculously difficult to cross the Thames by road in East London. There are no bridges along the 15 mile stretch from the City to the Dartford Crossing. There are only two tunnels, one at Rotherhithe and one at Blackwall, on either side of the Isle of Dogs. And there's a dinky little ferry at Woolwich, which tries its best but can't keep up with demand. It is therefore a no-brainer that more river crossings are needed, which is why TfL are today launching a consultation for more.

One of these is the Thames Gateway Bridge from Beckton to Thamesmead - a project which, like Crossrail, has been on London's drawing board for decades. It appears in the Abercrombie Plan of 1944, then again in the aborted Ringway projects of the 1960s. In the 1990s it came close to being built, but protesters objected strongly to a link road being driven through Oxleas Wood and the project was dropped. Ken Livingstone brought the plans back ten years ago, with special lanes for public transport, but Boris scrapped the idea on cost grounds when he became Mayor. More recently a Gallions Ferry was suggested as a replacement for Woolwich, but the public laughed at that idea and said "but why can't we have a bridge?" So now Boris is all keen again, despite local opposition, and today's consultation looks likely to lead to eventual completion.

Being a long standing scheme, the Thames Gateway Bridge has one enormous plus - nothing needs to get knocked down. Indeed most of the main roads on either side of the crossing have been built already, with connecting infrastructure ready and waiting should the Thames span ever be built. To the north, slip roads and a flyover exist on Royal Docks Road to give traffic from the North Circular a clear run. A diagonal strip of land lies empty to the south of the DLR depot on Armada Way, which'd join up with Atlantis Avenue before launching into space. And on the opposite side there's absolutely nothing, just a vast former waste tip, previously part of the Woolwich Arsenal's gunpowder testing grounds. Another clear strip of undeveloped land runs between existing estates to join up with what could be a major roundabout to the north of Plumstead. Everything is lined up ready, at least for the bridge itself. [11 photos]

Before the bridge arrives, if indeed it does, its southern end is a remarkably remote spot. A string of flats runs along the waterfront from Woolwich, becoming increasingly less expensive as the curve continues. This is the unloved West Thamesmead development, built about 20 years later than the rest of Thamesmead, and geographically entirely separate. The 380 bus wiggles round the top end of this amenity-free estate, or you can save your money by lugging carrier bags of groceries home up the Thames Path to your designated box. The final block is Bridge House, named after the road that doesn't yet exist, and currently with a large England flag draped from one balcony. Living here ought to be really quiet, except the block lies directly below the flightpath for City Airport, so planes on approach come screaming overhead at annoying regular intervals.

After Bridge House the land opens out, first with a cultivated green strip which will one day be Gallions Reach Park. Not to be confused with the shopping centre of the same name, this reclaimed ecopark includes 800 trees and five conical-shaped hillocks to add character. It ought to be a pleasant place for recreation, except three years after its creation it's still undergoing a "period of establishment", and remains firmly fenced, gated and locked. All looked fine to me, and a woeful waste of resources, but maybe the developers are worried local youth might overrun the place and decapitate the saplings. Having observed a few, they might just be right.

And beyond the thin park, wilderness. The Thames Path runs ahead towards Tripcock Ness with woody waterfront to one side and fenced-off thicket on the other. Acres and acres of former waste dump are covered by undergrowth currently dripping with purple blooms, so much so that if Buddleia World was ever a viable theme park, this would be the perfect spot. This is also very much the foxes' domain - three eyed me up as I walked along the path, and I heard more cavorting beyond. And it's along the precise line where park becomes overgrown thicket that the Thames Gateway Bridge would be built. The roadway has to pass high enough that ships can pass underneath, so I suspect the riverside path would survive, but what a difference from today to have concrete and traffic soaring overhead.

For the best view, head back to the housing estate and find Gallions Hill. This is a high mound of recycled excavated material, rising way above rooftop level, with a spiral path leading gently up from street level. More adventurous souls, and one suspects every local child, much prefer the "straight up the side" route, stepping over low rails and a bench to reach the summit. I was fortunate and got the hilltop to myself, while a gang of lads mustered in a front garden below and a youth in trackie bottoms played a game resembling football with two bull terriers. And the 360° view was truly excellent, that is assuming you like flat estuarine views of residential and light industrial sprawl. Downstream is Thamesmead proper, with Rainham and Erith in the distance, and to one side the wooded scarp of Lesnes Abbey Woods. Upstream are Woolwich and Docklands, with a sea of intermittent tower blocks rising across the less glamorous half of Royal Greenwich. And to the north is that undeveloped strip of green, where one day could run the approach road to East London's first bridge.

It sounds too good an opportunity to miss, the chance to link communities and businesses across the Thames, and no doubt that's what TfL's consultation will find. But there is a catch, and it's the same catch that derailed the very same bridge 20 years ago, which is traffic. Although the existing road network on the northern side of the Thames should be resilient enough to absorb the considerable additional throughflow which would be generated, the road network to the south is insufficient. Sure there's a decent dual carriageway off towards Erith, and thence to Dartford, but no such speedy getaway exists through Plumstead. Traffic heading for south London and in particular the A2 would enter a grid of entirely unsuitable local roads, which would then mean greatly increased congestion and air pollution... or would require a massive bypass. Will the road lobby force through their bridge and damn the consequences, or will narrow streets and ancient woodland once again hold them back?

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards