Up to six major road structures in London are threatened with closure, according to a recent report released by Transport for London (TfL). They include five bridges and a tunnel which are in a poor state of repair. The threat of closure is described as ‘imminent’ and is blamed on a lack of available funds, New Civil Engineer reports.

The structures in question include: the A40 Westway, Rotherhithe Tunnel, Gallows Corner Flyover, Brent Cross Flyover, Vauxhall Bridge and the Croydon Flyover. A further 42 road network structures are identified in the report as having interim safety measures in place.

TfL are responsible for maintaining the capital’s transport network. The organisation is currently negotiating a new funding settlement with the government. The settlement was due to end on 4 February, but Grant Shapps has announced an extension until the 18 February 2022.

In a statement, Shapps said: “Since the start of the pandemic, we have supported the transport network in London with over £4.5 billion funding through extraordinary funding settlements for TfL. We have recognised the reliance of London’s transport network on fare revenue and government continues our commitment to mitigating loss of fare revenue [].”

He added: “Government is committed to supporting London’s transport network as we have since the start of the pandemic and is in discussions with TfL on a fourth funding settlement. This short extension will enable us to finalise the terms of a robust settlement for this period, ensuring TfL and the Mayor take steps to move towards financial sustainability.”

TfL claims it is facing a £1.9bn funding shortfall, and without extra help, vital roads and bus and tube services will be closed. The BBC reports that in the past, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the Prime Minister Boris Johnson have clashed over the reasons for TfL’s financial problems.

Some of the current difficulties can be blamed on the ongoing Crossrail project, which has become embroiled in delays and escalating costs. Work began back in October 2007, and yet central London is still without a Crossrail link, despite projected opening date of 2018. This has not only increased costs, but led to loss of income from fares and advertising.

TfL are keen to point out that other major world cities receive heavy government subsidies to support the transport network, while London relies on passenger fares for 72% of its income. This is despite a steady decline in passenger numbers which began in 2014, and has been sharply exacerbated by the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

New Civil Engineer points out that when Boris Johnson was Mayor of London, he pledged £53m for developing plans for the failed Garden Bridge project, while the 25 River Thames crossings received just under £43m in maintenance spending over a ten year period.

Sadiq Kahn introduced a fare freeze when he became Mayor of London in 2016, as part of a policy to encourage people back onto public transport. However, this policy has now come to an end, in the face of the scale of the problems faced by TfL.


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