1. Environmental
December 2, 2015

London could be getting a whole new set of pedestrian bridges

By Ed Hickey

Pedestrian bridges: they’re just like road bridges, only with less cars, pollution or excess deaths from respiratory diseases.

Good thing, too, that the British capital might be getting some more of the things. Here are three which Londoners could be treading fairly soon.

Nine Elms

Image credit: Erik Bystrup.

Opposition voices have declaimed the forthcoming Vauxhall-Pimlico pedestrian and cycle bridge as little more another layer of marketing gloss aimed at further flogging the area’s new high-end Nine Elms development.

But while the perceived gentrification of a historic neighbourhood – one which will include a 13,000 ft2 Waitrose – has been greeted with in equal parts opprobrium and support, the charges against the bridge don’t entirely stick.

The area has long been a recognised by TfL and the mayor’s office as offering great potential for further jobs and housing, and a new footbridge has been in the offing for years. Plans drawn up by Danish architect Erik Bystrup for a sweeping, slender crossing were this week backed by Wandsworth council’s assessors, who credited the design’s compactness and simplicity. The project is set to cost £40m.

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Brunel Bridge, Rotherhithe

Image credit: reForm.

Moving west from Tower Bridge, you’ll see 23 bridges up-river to Kew. Moving east, there are no bridges until the Dartford Crossing.

Perhaps not for long, however. Plans for a new drawbridge, spanning the river from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf, have just been unveiled by architects reForm. Experts say the bridge, for which Sustrans has been conducting a £200,000 feasability study, could unlock huge development on the southern side of the river.

If commentators are to be believed, the £88m pedestrian and cycle bridge could mean 20,000 new homes in Rotherhithe linked to 30,000 new jobs across the river, transforming this pocket of south east London. At 83 metres it would be the longest drawbridge in the world (shipping needs to be able to get underneath it).

Don’t get too excited, though: local government authorities are yet to weigh in.

The Garden Bridge

Image credit: Heatherwick Studios.

When they come to write the history of the Garden Bridge it will likely read as a great drama, full of grand ambition and dashed promise, money troubles, and a dose of celebrity. In reality, though, the project is a plodder, rumbling forward impervious to criticism and powered by charm and sheer self-will.

A fitting legacy for the Mayor, perhaps. The latest chapter of the saga last week saw the Garden Bridge Trust last week announce that work will begin in early 2016, despite the project’s significant funding shortfall.

The bridge will cost an estimated £175m; it’s so far has received £60m in official grants and loans, as will be reliant, too, on further government backing to meet any overspend. Of the £115m target for private pledges, so far £85m has been raised.

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