Bridge vs Ferry

The Mayor gave the unequivocal go-ahead for the bridge on 4th October 2016, with the prospect that it would be completed in 2020.

After nearly THREE YEARS during which time progress has been extremely slow,  TfL and the Mayor have done a U-turn on the grounds of cost.  We believe that unrealistically high financial estimates (including a 52% charge for “optimism bias”) are key factors and that the estimates should be reconsidered

Having previously considered other types of crossing such as a tunnel or ferry at an early stage,  TfL are now advocating the previously rejected ferry option.

Do you want to pay to cross?

We understand that TfL has assumed that a bridge would be free of charge but a fare would apply for the ferry.

A season ticket for the current ferry costs £782.55. An adult return is £9.10 which is approx £36 per Km. This is by far the most expensive ferry in the UK [1] if not the world!

There is no other central London crossing which charges a fee. Even the TfL Woolwich ferry which carries cars and trucks is free! – it cannot be right that this crossing is charged for.

If this is correct we have to question a costing methodology which assumes a fare for one option but no fare for the other!

Advantages of a bridge:

  • Available 24/7
  • Low running and manpower costs
  • Environmentally friendly – very low energy costs to actuate a cantilevered bridge
  • 95% of all river traffic will pass under the bridge without it opening (a frequent ferry service will be in conflict with a high proportion of river traffic)

It has been said that the bridge would suffer from interruptions due to the need to open for river traffic,  but the ferry would also be affected to some extent – not only by the same large vessels which would require the bridge to open, but by all regular river traffic which we understand has the right of way over the ferry and would be in constant conflict. 

Noting that Tower Bridge only interrupts traffic for a few minutes,  we would expect the bridge openings to be similar in duration.  Openings would be planned to avoid busy periods.

Disadvantages of a ferry:

  • We would have to pay a fare for the ferry. Using the bridge was planned be free of charge, like any other bridge in central London
  • Manpower costs for the three ferries proposed would be significant – we assume 18+ personnel for three vessels and two shifts x 7 days a week
  • Unlikely to be 24/7 operation
  • Potential for interruption of service at low tide and in adverse weather
  • Greater potential for strike action (look at issues we get periodically on the tube)
  • Long delays during embarkation and disembarkation and waiting for the ferry

Design challenges for a ferry:

We understand the proposal will be for a roll-on-roll-off ferry, to accomodate cyclists. The huge tidal range of the river will require very long ramps – we believe up to 180m in length to ensure the slope doesn’t exceed safe limits. We don’t know where these will be located, but it is possible the impact on the surrounding areas on either side (eg Durrands Park) may not be much different than for the bridge.

A report[2] in New Civil Engineer states that it is proposed to have two ferry berths at Nelsons Dock, adjacent to the Doubletree Hotel. We are unclear how cyclists will be accommodated at this location. Cyclists currently wheel their bikes through the Hotel lobby and it is also unclear how the 180m ramps will be located.

It has been proposed to use an electric ferry. Given that it will be in constant use we are questioning how it will be recharged and whether the required technology is currently available. If it isn’t then we must add diesel engine noise and pollution to the list of disadvantages

Other Issues

It could be argued that the ferry is cheaper to implement than the bridge.  This is certainly true if we accept the £600M figure for the bridge but is open to question with the original £100M figure.  We believe the benefits of a fixed link which include 24/7 operation, hugely lower operating costs and much longer design life are worth the additional investment.

We are in favour of a bridge

It is self evident that the bridge is our preferrred option. Imagine West London with ferries instead of bridges! Why should Rotherhithe get inferior treatment?

Bridge vs Ferry – Poll

Let us know what you think in our poll