Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bridge Too Far for Ken's New Guise as Divers' Friend?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bridge Too Far for Ken's New Guise as Divers' Friend?

Article excerpt


KEN LIVINGSTONE has rarely been seen as the driver's friend. During his long, if intermittent, career as London's first citizen he has concentrated on improving public transport.

From Fare's Fair in the early Eighties to today's bus policy, Mr Livingstone spent much political effort (and not a little money) on attempting to make the buses, Tubes and trains better and/or cheaper.

His excursions into roads policy have generally been concerned with limiting the freedom of vehicles. Lorry bans, road closures, bus lanes and, from 2003, the congestion charge have sought to reduce the extent to which people use their cars and vans.

Yet his determination to build the Thames Gateway bridge means he is pushing for the creation of a major additional road in the east of the capital.

Whether or not there are many buses or trams across the new link, motor vehicles will be the chief beneficiary of being able to drive directly from Beckton to Thamesmead.

Even Mr Livingstone's cheeky proposal that Bexley council might introduce a congestion charge to mitigate any traffic impacts hardly reduces the shock of seeing the Mayor championing a road.

The key reason for building the bridge is to encourage the regeneration of east London both north and south of the river. The repopulation and improvement of the so-called Thames Gateway is an objective shared by the Mayor and by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

At present there are very few river crossings east of Tower Bridge, compared with the many to the west. Transport for London has calculated that the new bridge would put an extra 1.4 million jobs within 45 minutes of Thamesmead. Up to 35,000 new jobs might be created.

The proposal to construct a major new bridge across the Thames has annoyed a number of groups, notably anti-roads campaigners and environmentalists. …

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