diamond geezer

 Monday, November 21, 2016

Blackfriars Pier has moved. It's a sign.

It's only been in place since 2000. The City of London Corporation and TfL provided the money as part of the Thames 2000 project, a plan to kickstart river bus services between the centre of the City and a certain millennial attraction at North Greenwich. It's still called Blackfriars Millennium Pier, or at least it was, because it closed three weeks ago after 16 years of service.



Here's the former pier at the eastern end of the Victoria Embankment, close to Blackfriars Bridge. It wasn't particularly special, architecturally speaking, more a double-decker box on a wooden platform, plus a short ramp down to a landing stage. Now its minimal footprint is sealed off behind a short blue hoarding, and a thin blue river bus flag flutters forlornly until somebody remembers to take it down.

You probably haven't used Blackfriars Pier. It's a rush hour only facility aimed at commuters, closed between 10.30am and 4pm, and all day at weekends. Boats head in from Woolwich and Greenwich, and also from Putney and Chelsea, allowing City employees to skim to work via a jam-free river route. But with journeys charged at eight quid a shot, which is the going rate these days for Thames travel, the closure of Blackfriars Pier has probably passed you by.

It's OK, a new Blackfriars Pier has been provided, now with the word Millennium dropped because that would be anachronistic. It's on the other side of Blackfriars Bridge - that's both the road bridge and the railway - about 250 metres east of the original. I'd say it's harder to get to, on Paul's Walk off the concrete flank of White Lion Hill, but it might be more convenient for some depending on where their office is located.



The new Blackfriars Pier is extensive, at least in comparison to what came before. A short ramp leads out above the river to a small fixed platform, where a timetable and electronic display board have been provided. If boats are running the onward gate is then unlocked, leading to a long latticed walkway which rises and falls with the tide, leading to a substantial permanent pierhead. Out here are a ticket machine, some seats and three boarding points, two of which are currently operational. I'd say it's possibly a two minute walk from the tip of the pier to the embankment, above the sloshing waves, and maybe five minutes to the station.

But why go to enormous expense to shift an under-used pier to a less accessible location? The answer is the Tideway Tunnel, Thames Water's controversial solution to excessive sewage outflow, a 21st century update to the comprehensive Victorian network of outfall pipes bequeathed by Bazalgette. These generally still function well, but are overwhelmed several times a year and end up discharging their excess into the Thames rather than funnelling it all down to Beckton and Crossness.

By 2023 the Tideway Tunnel will zigzag down the Thames from Hammersmith to Rotherhithe, before following the Limehouse Cut to Abbey Mills where it'll feed into the already-finished Lee Tunnel. Along the way it'll join up the outflows of several long culverted rivers, including the Westbourne and the Effra, acting as a safety valve at times of storm flow. And London's most famous lost river is of course the Fleet, which historically disgorges from an outlet underneath Blackfriars Bridge. This needs diverting, as does the Northern Low Level Sewer which runs beneath the Victoria Embankment, and this is why the old Blackfriars Pier had to go.



Once it's gone, 200m of riverside will be transformed - that's from HMS President, which has been temporarily shifted, to the opposite side of Blackfriars Bridge. Thames Water's contractors need to dig a deep shaft down to tunnel level, connecting two key sewers to the new overflow, and that shaft is planned to be an impressive 24m in diameter. When it's built it'll be in the river, but will then be covered over to create a new wedge of foreshore so that future tourists need never guess it was there. You'll notice. You'll think blimey, where did that new sticky-out promenade come from, but not until 2022 which is how long all this work is scheduled to take.

The end result will be "a new area of public space", basically a paved triangle with landscaping offering realigned riverside access. A freestanding kiosk and "info point" will be provided, as well as a stepped planted terrace at the eastern end with plane trees, a reflective pool and rainwater cascades. What perhaps won't surprise you are the plans for the undercroft beneath the end terrace, which is for a run of shops and a café, because no new development these days is complete without a commercial opportunity. The City of London is getting fractionally bigger, and part of the extension will be somewhere new to buy a coffee.

All of this is five years work, kicking off over the next couple of months with the installation of a new set of stairs and a lift to link Blackfriars Bridge to the new pier. Once they're in place "the pedestrian Thames path along Bazalgette Walk will be diverted to the northern ramp footway outside Unilever House." Also in January "the existing east-west Cycle Superhighway along Bazalgette Walk" will be closed, and cyclists redirected "to the new diverted route along Victoria Embankment". All of this was known when the Cycle Superhighway was in its planning stages, so TfL should have everything worked out. But "this diversion will be in place for approximately 4 years", which is a heck of a long time for a diversion, and all to make the Thames less brown.



I blogged back in 2005 how if you want to see the outfall of the River Fleet you should wait for low tide then stand at the bottom of the staircase down from Blackfriars Bridge and hang out over the edge, or stand on Blackfriars Pier and peer into the gloom beneath the first arch. If you've ever wanted to do that, get here soon. The staircase is being removed, the waterside walkway is being closed, the old pier is being demolished, and the Fleet sewer outlet is being realigned along the new foreshore wedge.

Blackfriars Pier has moved. It's a sign of major Thameside change. Further details here.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
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 me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream