The Thames Clippers ferry service between the Doubletree by Hilton London Docklands Riverside hotel in Rotherhithe Street and Canary Wharf has resumed operation, having been suspended since March.
Although other Thames Clippers services – now under the ‘Uber Boat’ brand – have been running for a while, the reintroduction of the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf ferry had to wait until the hotel reopened, as the only access to the pier on the SE16 side is via the Doubletree reception.
Local residents who contacted TfL for status updates found the transport body’s customer service department was unaware that the ferry – although pricy – is integrated into the Oyster pay as you go system.
The ferry has been back in action since Friday and operates seven days a week, though there is no service on weekday afternoons between about 12.30pm and 4.30pm.
Essential works to keep the Rotherhithe Tunnel operational could cost as much as £178 million, according to Transport for London.
The expected cost range of the Rotherhithe Tunnel works was revealed this week in a written answer by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to a question tabled by Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon.
“The renewal of the Rotherhithe Tunnel is currently progressing through concept design and, at this early stage in project development, Transport for London (TfL) estimates that costs will be in the range of £116 million to £178 million, subject to funding being available,” said the Mayor.
“TfL plans to complete the concept design work later in 2020. An updated estimate will then be produced, prior to the appointment of a contractor in 2021 to progress detailed design.
“”In addition to the project activities, TfL will continue regular maintenance and progress any short-term minor renewal work to ensure the tunnel remains safe and operable.”
TfL’s 2019 business plan had put the cost of the Rotherhithe Tunnel works at about £140 million.
Ms Pidgeon also asked the Mayor about TfL’s plans to fast track proposals for a Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf ferry service if the prospect of regular or long-term closures of the Rotherhithe Tunnel increases.
Mr Khan said that as with the decision to pause plans for a walking and cycling ferry, “full implementation of [the Rotherhithe Tunnel] works is similarly dependent on greater certainty over TfL’s long-term funding position”.
The Mayor added: “I can assure you that the impact of any long-term closures of the Rotherhithe Tunnel on local residents and businesses will be a key consideration in the further development of this work.”
The project to upgrade the ferry link between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf – intended as a consolation prize after the cancellation of the proposed walking and cycling bridge – has been officially put on hold by Transport for London as it grapples with a financial crisis in the wake of COVID-19.
In budget papers to be considered by the TfL board next week, the transport authority says that the scheme is “currently unaffordable in the context of other walking and cycling priorities”.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “In the years I’ve been in office, I’ve ensured that Transport for London was in a strong financial position despite London being one of the only major cities in Western Europe without a Government grant for day-to-day transport operations.
“Coronavirus has had a devastating effect on TfL’s finances, which rely on fare income. Prior to the pandemic TfL were on course to reduce their operating deficit by 86 per cent and increase their cash balances by 31 per cent. TfL’s revised budget, should sufficient funding be provided by the Government in the months ahead, will keep services running safely and support London’s recovery from the pandemic.”
Andy Byford, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “Prudent financial management had placed TfL on the cusp of breaking even for the first time in its history and with strong financial reserves.
“However, the pandemic revealed that the current funding model, with its unusually heavy reliance on fare revenue, simply doesn’t work when faced with such a shock.”
In March – before the scale of the COVID-19 crisis was known – Sadiq Khan had said that it was “full steam ahead” for the ferry plan.
Cllr Johnson Situ, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for growth, development and planning, said: “The decision to pause work on the Rotherhithe to Canada Water crossing is deeply frustrating.
“Transport for London is facing a huge and unprecedented financial challenge in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic and it’s clear difficult decisions will have to made.
“However, the Rotherhithe to Canada Water crossing would provide a vital new route over the Thames in an under-served part of London and would mean more people can choose walking and cycling. The crossing would also support new homes and jobs in the area.
“The proposal is particularly disappointing given that the crossing had already been downgraded from the original commitment for a walking and cycling bridge.
‘We feel that schemes such as these should be prioritised not paused. We were disappointed not to have the opportunity to discuss the revised proposals before they were published, particularly given the assurances that were previously given about the scheme’s viability.
“We thank the Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander for her agreement to meet next week.”
A giant tunnel boring machine (TBM) set to create the final stretch of London’s new super sewer has arrived in the capital.
The TBM, Selina, was delivered on Wednesday to Tideway’s Chambers Wharf site in Bermondsey, where she will be lifted onto the site before beginning her underground journey toward Abbey Mills Pumping Station later in the year.
A total of six TBMs are being used to create London’s super sewer (with two already finished tunnelling), meaning Selina is the final machine to begin work – but she is also the deepest.
Beginning her journey more than 60m below the ground, Selina will tunnel on a slight decline toward the pumping station in east London.
Maurice Gallagher, Deputy Delivery Manager for the eastern section of the project, said: “To welcome Selina to site is a great moment for Tideway – and for London.
“Although there is much work still to be done, her arrival in the capital means we’re on the final stretch – and closer than ever to a cleaner, healthier River Thames.”
Selina was delivered to Chambers Wharf using a giant vessel called the Skylift 3000.
Each of Tideway’s six TBMs was named, via a public vote, in honour of inspirational women from history associated with the local area.
Selina is named after Dr Selina Fox, who founded the Bermondsey Medical Mission in 1904. The small clinic and eight-bed hospital provided medical and spiritual care to the most vulnerable women and children in the area, and continues to this day under the name Mission Care.
Tunnelling predominantly through chalk, TBM Selina will head north east towards the already-built Lee Tunnel, which links Abbey Mills Pumping Station to Beckton Sewage Treatment Works.
Chambers Wharf in Bermondsey is a key site for the Tideway project – the launch site of Selina, but also the site at which TBMs Ursula (currently en route from Battersea) and Annie (soon to begin her journey from Greenwich) will finish.
The future of the scheme to create an upgraded ferry between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf will depend on negotiations with the Government on the capital’s post-COVID-19 transport funding settlement, Sadiq Khan said this week.
Green Party London Assembly member Caroline Russell asked Sadiq Khan for an update on the Rotherhithe ferry project at Mayor’s Question Time on Thursday.
Mr Khan replied that the ferry proposal “will be part of the negotiations that we have with the DfT [Department for Transport], which will be tough negotiations.
“I’m not going to pretend that the Government has not been very difficult in relation to the monies that they give to London going forward.”
Just before lockdown, Sadiq Khan was asked about the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf ferry at the 11 March People’s Question Time event. He said that it was “full steam ahead” for the electric ferry proposal.
In the three months since the Mayor made those remarks, Transport for London’s finances have collapsed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Earlier this year TfL published a list of future contract opportunities that revealed that it expected to award the contract for “detailed design, build, supply and performance” of the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf ferry in March 2021.
For the first time, TfL put a cost on the proposal, categorising the contract value as being above £50 million.
This compares to a cost of more than £400 million for a bridge across the river linking Rotherhithe with the Isle of Dogs.
Thames Clippers will resume their riverbus service from Greenland Pier on Monday 15 June – but the ferry between the Doubletree Hotel and Canary Wharf remains suspended for now.
Sean Collins, Thames Clippers co-founder and CEO, said: “It is key that we can support London and its commuters with the ease of lockdown and return to work, by providing travel in a safe and comfortable way.
“My entire team has worked incredibly hard to deploy new safety measures and to ensure our passengers have a contact-free and enjoyable commuting experience.
“The unique travel experience with Thames Clippers naturally provides good personal spacing and in addition we have reduced our passenger capacity to ensure even greater social distancing, which has allowed us to increase the number of bicycles we can carry on each boat, so those who want to cycle part of their journey can do so too.”
The London Assembly transport committee has written to Transport for London in the wake of the cancellation of the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge to urge them to review and improve their business planning process, so that under-funded and undeliverable projects are not progressed as a result of unrealistic engineering proposals and low cost estimates.
The committee has also sought further detail and clarification on the proposed ferry service.
Budget projections for the bridge project soared from £120-£180 million in November 2017, to £463 million in March 2019 and now latest estimates stand at exceeding £600 million.
Navin Shah AM, chair of the Transport Committee, said:“How did TfL get its sums so wrong? This major infrastructure project is key to unlocking this part of east London in terms of active transport links, jobs and homes.
“A ferry service between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf is a much cheaper alternative, but we have questions over its cost, frequency, commencement of the service and whether it will be free to use.”
“TfL must improve how it costs major infrastructure projects and ensure that projects of this kind have realistic costings and plans, so that Londoners are not continually disappointed time and again.”