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.”
Network Rail has worked with community groups and Millwall Football Club to celebrate the team’s symbol – a rampant lion – with a new mural in Zampa Road pointing the way to The New Den.
It’s the latest in a number of collaborations between Network Rail and artist Lionel Stanhope.
Lionel Stanhope said: “I’m really happy to have worked with Network Rail and Millwall Football Club on this mural and I’m pleased with the outcome. It sits well on the wall with strong colours and I’ve received positive feedback from people walking past.”
Steve Kavanagh, Millwall chief executive, said: “I’d like to thank everyone involved at Network Rail for assisting with this project and we’re also incredibly grateful for the efforts of Lionel, who has done a superb job with the new mural. I’d like to extend our thanks to members of Millwall Supporters’ Club who have overseen an initiative organised by the fans, for the fans.”
Eddie Burton, community engagement manager at Network Rail said: “It’s great to see this wall looking so good and I’m really pleased we could do this for Millwall Football Club. We hope the fans and local community will treasure this artwork and the mural will offer a great photo opportunity for years to come”
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.”