MPs have called on the Mayor and government to build “a package of new river crossings” in East London.
The House of Commons transport committee says the region is key to helping the capital cope with an ever growing population but add that additional crossings are needed if new homes and jobs are to be viable.
MPs claim “there has not been sufficient leadership to see plans through to construction” and are calling for the creation of a joint Government and City Hall agency to push through projects.
Under former Mayor Ken Livingstone, Transport for London had developed plans for a new bridge connecting Beckton with Thamesmead. Some local residents and environmental campaigners opposed the scheme, arguing it would increase traffic levels and pollution.
Current Mayor Boris Johnson axed the bridge when he took over City Hall in 2008 but has since approved a consultation on building a new cross-river tunnel at Silvertown which, like Livingstone’s bridge, is opposed by many local residents.
Launching the committee’s report, chair Louise Ellman MP said: “Time and time again a clear need for new river crossings has been identified in east London, but a lack of political leadership has seen plans shelved repeatedly.
“Without new crossings congestion will continue to get worse and the area will never realise its full potential.
“To solve that problem, the Government and GLA must work together as a matter of priority to establish a special purpose company with the sole objective to deliver a package of crossings east of Tower Bridge.”
However the committee’s focus on road projects has been criticised by Liberal Democrats at City Hall who accuse the MPs of basing their idea in “the 1970s”.
Caroline Pidgeon, the party’s London Assembly transport spokesperson, said: “I think it is bitterly disappointing that the report totally overlooks the need for improved public transport links across the Thames, such as extending the London Overground across the Thames beyond Barking Riverside.
“The committee has also overlooked the need for new pedestrian and cycle links east of Tower Bridge.
“A pedestrian and cycle bridge linking Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf would have immense benefits, yet the idea does not even get a mention in this report.”
Darren Johnson, a Green party AM, said MPs had conducted “a one sided debate” by deciding to invite “14 witnesses supporting new roads and a single witness who was against.”
He added: “I understand that several experts did offer to present the evidence that roads can damage local economies and lead to increased congestion and pollution, but the MPs turned them down.
“If you have a one sided debate, you get a one sided result and I am concerned that the new system of Parliamentary approval for major planning applications is going to be a rubber stamp on environmentally damaging schemes.”
The MPs’ report has been welcomed by business group, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Chief Executive Colin Stanbridge commented: “Local political squabbles have long held up progress on this much-needed area of development and strong leadership would help to bridge the divide and create political consensus.
“One issue that has not been addressed, which we believe will help to enable London to strategically plan for its’ burgeoning population is the way in which transport infrastructure is financed in the capital.
“Paris’s transport authority has a secured stream of finance up to 2030, this is not the case in London. If further power over tax and spend in London were devolved to the Mayor, we would be much better placed to plan and deliver transport upgrades and would not need to go cap in hand to HM Treasury for funding for each new project.”