ALTHOUGH it is a supporter of the Thames Gateway Bridge, the inquiry has revealed Greenwich Council has some major concerns about the project.

It granted the Transport for London (TfL) scheme planning permission because of its regeneration prospects, the promise of better public transport links and a major landmark.

At the public inquiry, being held at Charlton Athletic FC, counsel for Greenwich Timothy Jones accused TfL of reneging on a promise the new bridge would be a Low Emission Zone.

Such a zone would discourage high-polluting vehicles from using the bridge but encourage low-emission ones by offering lower or no tolls in a bid to lessen air pollution from traffic using the new bridge.

He said Michael Clarke from TfL had addressed the planning board meeting last December, which was to decide on TfL's planning application for the bridge, and promised "there would be a Low Emission Zone associated with the bridge".

Mr Jones claimed Labour councillor Ray Walker, a member of the planning board, had relied on the promise to vote for the project, which was only approved by six votes to four.

Greenwich is also disappointed the public transport lanes will not be able to convert to a light rail system and trams might also be unsuitable because of the proposed layout.

Mr Jones expressed worries the £11.45m set aside by TfL is now being expected to pay for more and more items.

Greenwich Council also objects to the way TfL plans to structure the tolls for the new bridge and the traffic orders for the side roads in the borough. It also objects to plans to create a ramp from the bridge's public transport lanes into exiting roads in Hill View Drive and Battery Road, Thamesmead.

Challenged by Mr Jones over the Low Emission Zone, TfL air quality witness Professor Duncan Laxen said refusing bridge access to high-polluting vehicles, which is what declaring a zone would mean, will force them through residential roads to reach other crossings.

He said TfL would support low- emission measures such as lower tolls.

  • GREAT store has been set by the public transport provisions on the new Thames Gateway Bridge project.

TfL proposes two lanes in the six-lane road dedicated solely to public transport.

But navigation limits set by the Port of London Authority for the River Thames and the requirements of the flight paths to London City Airport have meant tight design restrictions.

As a result, the slope of the road when it comes off the bridge in a loop to join local roads, and the 25m radius of the loop, means light rail systems, such as the Docklands Light Railway, would not be able to negotiate the road.

It means the public transport lanes could not convert to light rail as Greenwich had hoped.

TfL says the lanes could be converted to take trams but Greenwich claims there is no guarantee trams will be able to negotiate the loop either.

And it says the City Airport has not been asked its views on the equipment needed to run trams.

Inquiry inspector Michael Ellison has already expressed concern about the height margins between the Thames Gateway Bridge and planes flying overhead.

Greenwich is also concerned about residents living in roads where the public transport loop finishes, especially the height of bedroom windows of homes in Battery Road, Thamesmead, in relation to the height of the loop.

Mr Jones pointed out the present roads were not suitable to take up to 20 buses an hour from the bridge into Hill View and Barnham Drive.


ALTHOUGH much of the inquiry has been full of dull facts and figures and almost incomprehensible methods of measurement, there have been some lighter moments.

These include:

  • The incident when part of the ceiling fell in on the stenographer who was keeping a daily transcript of proceedings.
  • The mystery sheet of paper shown to TfL witness Professor Bridget Rosewell by counsel for Bexley, Richard Humphreys, on day five. He would not allow her to reveal what the sheet contained and, after taking it back, told the inspector he could not say publicly what it said.
  • Inquiry inspector Michael Ellison brought the inquiry to a halt on day eight when he accused a man in the audience of prompting a TfL witness with the answers to cross examination and threatened to have him removed. The man turned out to be nothing to do with TfL and was just nodding his head, he claimed.
  • Add to that, inquiry objectors being forcibly removed by Charlton Athletic security staff for just trying to attend the first day's hearings.

It hasn't been so dull after all.