Woolwich Ferry may be tolled as new river crossings proposed

July 10, 2009 by  

Toll booths could be introduced at the Woolwich Ferry and for the first time, as part of plans to pay for a series of new river crossings, it was revealed today.

Current legislation prevents any tolls at Woolwich. However, this could change under proposals to upgrade the existing ferries and boarding facilities.

Plans announced today for a series of new bridges, tunnels, and ferries across the river could also mean that existing crossings will be tolled.

Among the new river crossings proposed by Transport for London today are:

1. A Foot/Cycle Bridge between North Greenwich and Canary Wharf

This would be an expensive and tricky project. It’s position on the Thames means that any bridge would need to be at least 50m high in order to allow ships to pass. Despite this, TfL say that it would be an “iconic” scheme and would be “strongly supported” by both Greenwich and Tower Hamlets. The Canary Wharf group and AEG (O2) have also agreed to the bridge in principle.

2. North Greenwich to Canary Wharf passenger ferry

Cheaper than the bridge, this would require new piers on the Western side of North Greenwich and the Eastern side of Canary Wharf. Journey times would be quicker than the existing services from the Eastern side of the Peninsula. Cyclists would be able to use the crossing and like all other river services it would be fully ‘oysterised’ under current plans by the Mayor.

3. Silvertown Crossing

Talked about for many years, Boris Johnson has already signaled that he’s keen on this project. Running from Silvertown to the Greenwich peninsula, the crossing would feed into the Blackwall Tunnel approach via John Harrison Way.

Both a bridge and a tunnel are under consideration by the Mayor, although the former would almost certainly meet strong resistance from environmental campaigners and from the Port of London Authority. On the other hand, the latter would be less attractive to pedestrians and carry added safety risks.

As with any road crossing, the biggest worry is that it would just add further congestion to an already highly congested and polluted area.

4. Woolwich Ferry Upgrade

TfL say that the current ferries and landing stages are “coming to the end of their life” Under today's proposals, tolls would be introduced to pay for replacement ferries and a full upgrade of facilities. Once finished, TfL say that the crossing would be able to carry a much greater volume of traffic. However, any tolling would need a change in the current legislation. TfL also say that tolling would be dependent on extra crossings being created elsewhere.

5. Gallions Reach Ferry (vehicles and pedestrians)

Following the route of the now abandoned Thames Gateway Bridge, this would be a relatively inexpensive way of opening up Thamesmead to much-needed extra jobs and transport links. Although not a long term solution, it would at least offer some extra provision to commuters and businesses. Supporters say that it would be unlikely to create anything like the influx of traffic that the Thames Gateway Bridge would have doneH.

6. Local Gallions Reach crossing

The final crossing under consideration, is effectively a smaller version of the Thames Gateway Bridge. Planned for a similar position as the TGB, this crossing would be designed for mostly local use, and unlike the TGB it has already received crucial support from Bexley Council.

Among the more ambitious plans ruled out by Transport for London today, were proposals for a joint vehicle and train Crossrail tunnel, and a cable car between North Greenwich and Canary Wharf. TfL say that the cable car would have created "significant access and privacy concerns" and would not have coped well with crowds at the O2.

The Mayor will now consider which, if any, of these proposals should go ahead.


The Mayor’s decision to drop plans for the Thames Gateway Bridge last year was strongly welcomed by the London Green Party, who had long campaigned against it. They are also supportive of today's plans for extra ferry and pedestrian crossings.

However, London Assembly Member for the Green Party Darren Johnson said today:

“Building a road tunnel or crossing is environmentally damaging and will do nothing to regenerate East london. The mayor is ignoring all the evidence that new roads just cause new traffic jams. It is incrediable that he would even consider building a new, traffic generating road, at a time when london is facing court action by the European commission over air pollution."

Labour Assembly Member for Greenwich Len Duvall said the Mayor should “come to his senses”:

"The reality that Boris Johnson has so far failed to accept is that the Thames Gateway Bridge is the real solution to east London's river-crossing needs. While it may be controversial to the few, it makes perfect sense for the many. A Silvertown crossing would have to go under rather than over the river and should be in addition to, rather than a replacement for, the Thames Gateway Bridge. Any other proposals, such as a pedestrian crossing, would have to allow for large ships to travel and berth up the Thames and would not redress the unequal distribution of vehicle crossings between west and east London.

"I'm glad the Mayor now finally accepts the need for a further crossing in east London, but his position still makes no sense. He opposes the Thames Gateway Bridge on environmental grounds, yet proposes a potentially damaging vehicle ferry and a road crossing at Silvertown. He should come to his senses, accept he made a mistake and go ahead with the Bridge for which London had already banked around £300 million of PFI credits."

Mayor Boris Johnson said earlier today:

“Anyone that has ever tried to cross the Thames in East London is aware of the lack of crossings and the congestion this causes. The residents and businesses in this part of London deserve better and I am absolutely determined to deliver the improvements they require. This report makes a series of sensible recommendations that we will now dig deeper into and that I will consider as I put together my transport strategy for the capital.”

Greenwich River Crosssing


27 Responses to “Woolwich Ferry may be tolled as new river crossings proposed”

  1. Friends of the Earth (press release) on July 10th, 2009 7:45 pm

    Responding to Transport for London’s announcement today of a review of potential East London river crossings, Friends of the Earth’s London Campaigner Jenny Bates said:

    “Before he came to power Boris Johnson promised to make London the greenest city in the world – but he’s letting Londoners down again by pursuing further road and vehicle river crossings in east London.

    “These proposals fly in the face of the urgent need to tackle climate change and bring London’s air quality within European limits. Vehicle crossings will increase traffic and congestion and worsen the already poor quality environment for local people – who will suffer from further traffic noise and pollution.

    “The Mayor has taken a huge step backwards after rightly scrapping the damaging Thames Gateway road bridge last autumn. These proposals include two new crossings for road vehicles but no new public transport options – although the pedestrian and cycle crossing suggested is welcome.

    “The Mayor and Transport for London must give Londoners proper options to help people access jobs and amenities including clean fast public transport options which would increase accessibility and improve the quality of life for local people while tackling climate change and air pollution.”

    andrew bond Reply:

    sir i do not live in the london area but live in kent i do not agree to the right of boris johnson s comments regarding river crossing in the east of london ,not only is he a failure to the people of london with his crossing proposal s that will produce more pollution with in the london area ,it will also cause more pollution on the kent side of the river,this will affect the air quality of a large part of the population on both side s of the river ,and cause a significant increase of respiratory born illness within this area ,will he be prepared to put by a considerable amount of money to pay for the medical care these people will require ,and also pay compensation to these same people for the discomfort this will cause ,along with his fool hardy idea of polluting the air further with his plan for a new airport in the thames estuary do,s he not realise that again this will be built and pollute this same area more so ,maybe we should build this all in his back garden and then it will be no lost to us if it is only him that then suffers from the air pollution ,noise pollution ,and all associated problems these plans will produce for centurys to come .

    Roger Lawson Reply:

    These ungrammatical comments might have been written by a ten year old, and bearing in mind the wild exaggerations and spurious claims that they contain, they probably were. There is an urgent need for more cross-river crossings in East London so as to meet public demand and improve the economy of those parts of the capital. If they are not provided, then traffic congestion will get worse and pollution levels will increase. New crossings can be provided with minimal or no impact on air pollution levels, as was very clear from the TGB proposals.

    Pedro Reply:

    The grammar may be faulty but the logic is sound. More Thames crossings will mean more people switch to their cars rather than public transport, there will therefore be more traffic on the roads and more pollution.

    London’s public transport lags behind many European capital cities – while prices are significantly higher. This issue should be addressed, rather than simply pushing more cars on to the roads.

    Roger Lawson Reply:

    Public transport prices are high in London for three reasons:

    1. The public is generally unwilling to subsidise public transport via taxes (and why should they – it means you and I paying for somebody elses personal trips when they should pay for them themselves). Continentals take a different view. Mayor Boris Johnson has been trying to put some more sense into London’s transport budgets and that is why fares have risen recently, but they are still massively subsidised.

    2. There are enormous numbers of “freeloaders” on the public transport system – such as pensioners who often could afford to pay. On some routes, 50% of travellers pay nothing.

    3. It has been inefficiently managed for a number of years, and new transport projects get built that are simply uneconomic and will never pay for themselves (Crossrail and HS2 are good examples).

    Pedro Reply:

    The entire notion of “subsidising” is a fallacy. Efficient capitalist countries like Germany recognise there is a net economic benefit to improving public transport.

    Unfortunately in this country the lobbyists who influence government behaviour encourage them to give subsidies or support to banks, to housebuilding, to supermarkets and other private interests. This is the reason a nation that once led the way in this area is languishing behind.

    The talk of “freeloaders’ on the public transport system is also nonsense; pensioners use primarily buses, and outside peak hours these are not as full as the trains.

  2. Roger Lawson on July 11th, 2009 8:11 am

    The Thames Gateway Bridge was sorely needed and has been for the last 50 years. It was unfortunately poorly designed due to conflicting objectives and ultimately defeated by a luddite decision of the Planning Inspector that people should not be encouraged to travel (or in reality be deliberately obstructed from doing so). The sooner we have some proposals implemented for more road, rail, pedestrian, cycle and other links across the river in East London, the better. Certainly improved road links are essential and can meet environmental needs – there is nothing worse for the environment than the current congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel.

  3. Adam Bienkov on July 11th, 2009 11:55 am

    Thanks Roger. It would be interesting to hear which of the options people think should be the priority.

    I suspect that Boris will push for the cheaper ferry options, but is this a long term solution? Would it be better to invest in fixed links? What do people think about the Silvertown link which he also seems to favour? Will it ease congestion on the A2 or add to it? Would a bridge ruin that part of the riverfront?

  4. SCAM - Stop City Airport Masterplan on July 13th, 2009 11:26 am

    I am at a loss to understand what Boris is trying to do to Silvertown and what he has against it and the residents living there.
    One thing is for sure – Boris does not understand East London and sees it as a problem rather than an opportunity.

    A bridge between Silvertown and Greenwich would be catastrophic for the residents of Silvertown and Royal Docks. Already living under the blight of London City Airport, the air quality is 50% above acceptable EU levels. A bridge opening up Silvertown would only add to this.

    I am surprised that this is back on the table and being mooted as a possible solution. We had been lead to believe that it was completely abandoned.

    In July 2008 Boris wrote to the Newham Planning committee to ask them to delay a decision on the expansion plans of London City Airport, as he wanted to wait for research from the National Air Traffic Services on the possible impact of increased flights on the proposed Thames Gateway Bridge.

    He then did a U-Turn on London City Airport and gave them his support – Even though he should never have got involved as the planning predated his mayor ship and there was nothing he could do. Days later he announced the scrapping of the Thames Gateway Bridge and that the Silvertown Crossing was again being looked at. Did he give his blessing to London City Airport in return for its support for a Silvertown Crossing? After all they would be one of the major obstacles to a Silvertown Crossing. A day after the planning for expansion is given the go ahead we have the Silvertown crossing mooted. Coincidence?

    Richard Gooding is Chief Executive of London City Airport which owns substantial land in Royal Docks / Silvertown.
    Richard Gooding is also the chair of Newham Homes – The Housing division on Newham Council. Many residents in Silvertown live in a “Newham Home” and would be subject to consultation. Newham Homes would have carte blanche over any objection and could move people out of the area.
    Richard Gooding at time of LCA Expansion was a director of Newham primary Care trust giving him access to sensitive health information around Silvertown.
    Richard Gooding is on the Royal Docks Trust.
    He is also a member of Elba, Docklands Business etc

    In October Boris Johnson announced the appointment of nine new members to the London Skills and Employment Board (LSEB). One of them being Richard Gooding OBE, Chief Executive, London City Airport!

    So did Boris get a blessing from Gooding that the Silvertown crossing would be supported?

    It’s also worth noting that Boris never declared that London City Airport had received £1.6 million to help build a holding bay from the London Development Agency.

    London City Airport was Boris Johnson’s first foray into Silvertown. Then recently he got involved in Thames Barrier Park. One of London’s greatest parks is based in Silvertown at the Thames Barrier. It is a beautiful park albeit under a constant noise assault from LCA. Developers applied to build around the park. Under huge local opposition the planning was approved by Newham Council and ended up going to Boris. Boris supported the application.

    And now the Silvertown Crossing. Boris is now at the point where he is more in sync with the Labour run Newham Council than his predecessor Ken Livingston. While Ken also wanted a Silvertown Crossing he recognised the harm this would do to the community and was fiercely opposed to London City Airport expansion so much so the CE Richard Gooding launched an attack on Ken saying he was planning a land grab at the airport.

    I am at a loss to why Boris is turning Silvertown into an industrial wasteland. It could be an amazing place – The potential is huge but that would need a visionary mayor. I guess he wants to push all London’s pollution to east London so the whole of London’s average balances out.

    And what about Greenwich and Newham working together? Well it shouldn’t be too hard. After all Greenwich MP Nick Raynesford is a director of Rockpools. Rockpools are the company who hired the Newham Chief Executive Joe Duckworth at a salary of over £250,000. No loyalties there then.

  5. Bridge of sighs « 853 on July 13th, 2009 12:01 pm

    […] recommendation – revamping the Woolwich Ferry and introducing tolls – would also only send more traffic through the Blackwall […]

  6. darryl853 on July 13th, 2009 12:15 pm

    I’ve expanded more elsewhere (Bridge of Sighs link above), but the Silvertown Link is a crackers idea – simply funnelling more traffic up a 40-year-old dual carriageway that a future generation of policy-makers will be tempted to expand, blighting homes in Greenwich and Blackheath.

    Without serious consideration of serious public transport improvements to give people the choice of getting out of their cars, this report is just lazy thinking.

  7. Adam Bienkov on July 13th, 2009 1:05 pm

    Thanks SCAM – It’s interesting that the Mayor talks endlessly about Heathrow being a “planning error of the 1960s” but at the same time is determined to implement his own planning error of the 21st century.

    Darryl – Good piece. One of the interesting parts of the report not mentioned so far though are the maps which show how much SE London is missing out economically because of the lack of crossings. My own preference is for rail and pedestrian crossings, but there’s no doubt that an extra crossing of some sort is needed. It’s quite staggering to compare the diagrams of East and West London in the report.

    The report does give some alternatives to vehicle crossings, but pleasant as they are, I don’t think ferries are anything more than a tokenistic effort to address the problem.

  8. hilly on July 14th, 2009 10:52 am

    although speculative, it has been argued that boris shelved the TGB due to his reliance on the support of bexley (his electoral majority in that part of london was equalled only in kensington and chelsea) – this leads to the assumption that he would have no qualms about carving up a red zone…

    concentrating on reality – greenwich borough has loads of crossings – just not many for cars!! two foot tunnels, a river ferry, a river bus, two dlr crossings, blackwall, and is getting crossrail :) clive efford is campaigning for another DLR crossing (sadly on the back of the blackwall extension proposal) and this has a far better image than the silverlink idea.

    if clive efford was to ditch the road building part of his lobby, and stick by his DLR hopes, silverlink wouldn’t stand a chance :)

  9. Adam Bienkov on July 15th, 2009 6:07 pm

    At Mayor’s Question Time today, Boris again gave the impression that Silvertown and the extra ferries were the projects that he was most keen on. Len Duvall said that a bridge at either Silvertown or North Greenwich would not be feasible because the river is too narrow at those points to allow for a tall enough bridge for ships to pass.

    Green AM Jenny Jones said that Boris was offering them a “hooray boo” agenda: Promising to scrap the TGB , but then promising to build another bridge in it’s place, promising to oppose expansion at Heathrow, but then allowing expansion at City airport and proposing a new airport in the Estuary.

  10. Adam Bienkov on August 7th, 2009 10:14 am

    Forthright response to these proposals from Nick Raynsford


  11. Resident on September 22nd, 2009 4:23 pm

    If someone has common sense they would see that a cross-river links between Blackwall tunnel and Dartford-Crossing is crucial.

    I live in Woolwich and its a nightmare to cross the river. Both the Blackwall tunnel and Woolwich ferry get very congested and most of the time it takes over a hour to cross the river. People who are oppose to cross-link please use the existing crossing for a month during peak and off-peak hours and then come back and tell me if the congestion and long journeys are good for the environment.

  12. darryl853 on September 23rd, 2009 11:26 am

    Where should it go, “resident”? And where are you a “resident” of?

  13. Resident on September 24th, 2009 8:28 pm

    I think further studies need to go into this to determine ideal position for the bridge to minimize impact on the environment. Based on the current studies I would choose option 1 and 6:

    – Iconic footbridge linking O2 to Canary Wharf

    – A bridge with height restriction to reduce the traffic flow and upgrade to local road. Every effort should be made to ensure the traffic are directed to dual carriage way.

  14. darryl853 on September 25th, 2009 8:59 pm

    So whose houses would you demolish to build this dual carriageway?

    After all, the existing dual carriageway can’t cope with the Blackwall Tunnel as it is, and Bugsbys Way struggles with retail park traffic.

  15. Resident on September 26th, 2009 12:19 pm

    Please read the comment first before commenting. I didn’t mention anything about demolishing any houses. If option 6 is chosen then traffic can easily be directed onto Western Way (A2016)

  16. darryl853 on September 26th, 2009 12:30 pm

    So, if we’re resurrecting the Thames Gateway Bridge… how would traffic get to Western Way from, say, Bexleyheath? There aren’t any dual carriageways there.

  17. derrick barker on January 16th, 2010 12:31 pm

    would a private co build the TGB and charge high tolls to prevent high use?

  18. DR.M.A.HAKIM on January 2nd, 2012 2:28 pm

    My house is in central Thames mead. I find it very hard to come to Blackwell tunnell or Woolwichferry to cross from Thamesmead to come to london for various reasons. It take long time to cross the river Thames. As there are lot of developments taken place and many houses built in and around Thamesmead area it is very essential and very urgent to build a permanent tunnelling or over bridge in these areas.I am a great supporter of TGB or equivalent to safe times and troubles to drive from Thamesmead to the city.

  19. DR.M.A.HAKIM on January 2nd, 2012 2:29 pm

    See above my comments.

  20. DR.M.A.HAKIM on January 2nd, 2012 3:43 pm

    As I said before, I like to have a bridge or tunnell built from Thamesmead to London borough of Newham.

  21. Derrick Barker on January 2nd, 2012 6:40 pm

    A Thamesmead bridge ia no no due to planes on final to runway 27 to Ciity Airport,
    however a tunnel would be ideal.

  22. Mayor wants Greenwich to Silvertown tunnel within ten years | Greenwich.co.uk on January 13th, 2012 1:54 am

    […] crossing at Silvertown and the Gallion’s Reach ferry both featured in a TFL document published in 2009 that put forward plans for future river […]