diamond geezer

 Friday, November 23, 2007

How do you get from Wapping to Rotherhithe?

Easy. you take the East London line under the river through the Thames Tunnel. It takes about one minute. Next question please.


How do you get from Wapping to Rotherhithe in a month's time?

Ah, not so simple. One month from today the East London line will be closing down, for 2½ years, so that it can be magically re-engineered as part of the new London Overground. And that means that the Thames Tunnel will be closing too, and no trains will be running between Wapping and Rotherhithe until June 2010. So you're going to have to find another route. Sorry, your journey may take a little longer.

If you're a car driver there's an obvious road option - the Rotherhithe Tunnel. Drive from Wapping to Limehouse, and then you can head under the Thames through this 99-year old single bore tunnel. The full journey is longer than you might expect - 2.7 miles according to the AA - and should take about 13 minutes. Or you could drive west instead and cross the river via Tower Bridge - again 13 minutes but this time 2.9 miles. It's not exactly speedy, but it'll do. If you have a car.

Or you could walk. Believe it or not pedestrians are allowed to walk through the Rotherhithe Tunnel. I can't imagine why anyone would want to risk walking alongside the rumbling traffic for a mile, breathing in lungfuls of trapped exhaust fumes, but apparently an average of 20 people a day do exactly that. The healthy alternative is to head up Wapping High Street, cross Tower Bridge and continue down Jamaica Road. It's a 2½ mile walk, though, and takes 50 minutes at a medium walking speed. Maybe not.

Or you could take the bus. Route 395 runs through the Rotherhithe Tunnel on its all too brief journey from Limehouse to Canada Water. Ah, hang on, no it doesn't. The 395 was scrapped last year because too few people were using it. At the time of its death it was a 15-seater red minibus, running only twice an hour and for no particularly good reason. Now a similar journey from one side of the Thames to the other requires three separate buses and over an hour's travel time.

Or you could take the tube. There won't be a direct tube connection once the East London line closes, of course, so TfL are running four rail replacement bus services instead. Sorry, they won't be much use either.
Shoreditch → Whitechapel (every 20 minutes)
Whitechapel → Shadwell → Wapping (every 10 minutes)
Rotherhithe → Canada Water (every 15 minutes)
Canada Water → Surrey Quays → New Cross → New Cross Gate (every 5-8 minutes)
[Full details in this comprehensive leaflet]
Notice that you can't ride the whole line in one go, it's been split into four distinct sections. And one section is missing, the half-mile under the Thames between Wapping and Rotherhithe. Damn.

So why isn't there going to be a direct cross-river replacement bus service? It's because of width restrictions in the Rotherhithe Tunnel. No bus bigger than a minibus would be allowed, and minibuses (like the old 395) are too small to cope with the expected number of displaced passengers. So there won't be any buses at all. TfL recommend that you make cross-river journeys "via the Jubilee line and DLR". What they don't tell you is how long those alternative journeys will take...

From Wapping to Rotherhithe, your first step will be the replacement bus service to Shadwell [average wait 5 minutes, journey time 6 minutes]. Here you can catch the DLR [transfer time 5 minutes]. Going west via Bank would involve travelling through Zone 1 which might cost extra, so we'll go east instead [average wait 2 minutes] to Canary Wharf [journey time 7 minutes]. Next walk to the Jubilee line [transfer time 7 minutes] and ride one stop west to Canada Water [average wait 2 minutes, journey time 3 minutes]. And finally exit the station [transfer time 5 minutes] and catch the replacement rail bus to Rotherhithe [average wait 7 minutes, journey time 4 minutes]. That's a grand total of 53 minutes for those who choose to follow TfL's advice. It would be quicker to walk.

In one month's time, when the East London line closes, it'll be completely impossible to cross the Thames by public transport at any point between Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf. A 3-mile-long invisible barrier will have been erected across the middle of the capital, inhibiting all passenger travel across the river between south and east London. It's all for a good cause - a much better railway from the summer of 2010. But you'd better start planning those alternative routes now.


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