London’s river crossings came under intense scrutiny at the most recent meeting of the London Assembly transport committee.
The session which lasted around three hours tackled the complicated ownership models of our city’s bridges and tunnels, plus future plans to increase cross-river connectivity.
In order to support the panel of Assembly Members in their scrutiny, transport expert Dr Michael Horodniceanu, a professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering and former New York Traffic Commissioner, was invited to speak at the meeting virtually from the United States.
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The famous George Washington Bridge in New York is tolled
His message was clear: “In New York City, there are bridges that are tolled. Their own operation and funding is generated by tolls solely.”
The tolls raise so much money, that he added: “part of the tolls have actually been subsiding the public transit.”
Tolls in New York provide 12 per cent of the MTA’s (TfL’s equivalent in New York) income, more than what the Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emissions Zone bring to TfL.
This means that TfL could look to increase road pricing and tolls in the capital to make up the £300million in new income or savings it has to make as part of its £1.9billion central government bailout deal.
In 2019, the MTA made $2billion (£1.46billion) on the tolls alone, money TfL could do with.
This is where the tunnel will run
(Image: Transport for London)
Assembly Member and former Conservative Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey challenged the professor suggesting that there might not be much of an ‘appetite’ for tolling here.
The professor responded: “Tolling today, due to technological advances, can be done based on the vehicle miles of travel.
“Therefore the contribution of the overall vehicle traffic in the city can then be used to support generic maintenance.
“If one bridge charges and another one does not, what happens is people will try to find a way to travel on the roads that are not trolled. It’s important to look at it in a very unified fashion.”
In New York, most bridges and tunnels between Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs are toll roads. Unless you walk, cycle, take the subway or a bus across the bridges you have to pay around $16 (£11.70), meaning a return trip could be costly.
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TfL says that when the Silvertown Tunnel, a new road tunnel between the Greenwich Peninsula and West Silvertown, opens in the mid-2020s, it will introduce tolls on both the new Silvertown and existing Blackwall Tunnels to repay construction costs and help finance the wider public transport network.
The planned tolls will be much cheaper than New York’s, with documentation suggesting it would be pegged to the Dartford Crossing toll at around £2.50.
Hammersmith & Fulham Council is currently examining implementing a toll to fund the urgent repairs needed to Hammersmith Bridge.
The meeting also touched on other issues such as the DLR extension to Thamesmead, the Woolwich Ferry issues and a bizarre exchange when Port of London Authority was unable to answer a question on how far along the river large ships could be restricted to.
Gareth Powell, TfL’s Director of Surface Transport told the committee that bar Hammersmith Bridge: “The one that needs the most repairs and maintenance is Rotherhithe Tunnel.”
He also added that Vauxhall Bridge will need additional repairs within the next five years.
It’s not just London learning from the Big Apple. Dr Horodniceanu added: “New York is now considering what London has already had – congestion pricing.”
Do you think London should introduce more tolls on its bridges and tunnels? What do you think about road pricing? Let us know in the comments below.
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