Friday, November 07, 2008

Burying Bridges

There were once-in-a-generation news headlines this week. The presidential election (RB wins). The drastic cut in interest rates (RB loses). These massive stories are a chance for political cowards to bury bad news.

That's what Boris Johnson and his gang seems to have done. For all the pre-mayoral-election talk of needing to regenerate and improve London's infrastructure, yesterday there was a little announcement that ten major capital projects have been scrapped.

Now some cuts I could understand. But one particular cancellation is just wrong. I have been driving around London for much of the last twenty years. Travel is often difficult bordering on impossible. But (in my opinion) the single worst bottleneck in the entire city is the Blackwall Tunnel.

The western stretch of the Thames has bridges every few hundred yards. Yet between the central Tower Bridge and the Essex-Kent QEII bridge, covering at least ten miles of river with high population density on both sides, there is nothing else. Well almost nothing, another ancient tunnel that has only one narrow winding lane each way, and a single unreliable ferry. But this is obviously not enough, as each of these crossings is still at full capacity. Even the costly Dartford crossing. And that approach should solve the cost conundrum. There is so much pent-up demand that any new bridge would surely pay for itself, as much as any new road anywhere in the world possibly could. It is just madness to go ahead with the massive Thames Gateway housebuilding project unless there is a corresponding Thames Gateway infrastructure project.

Three disclaimers: I cross the river frequently; I accept marginal traffic charges; and did I mention that I like bridges?


Faisal said...

'Ow 'bout them those super thin cars, so you can squeeze three in each lane, side by side.

R N B said...

Round this way, we call them "bikes" :)