East London could get three new pedestrian and cycling links across the Thames — if a report’s findings into cross-Thames crossings are applied.

Currently, there are 22 pedestrian and/or cycling crossings over the Thames 15km west of North Greenwich, compared to just six 15km to the east. Two stretches – between the cable car and Woolwich Foot Tunnel, and east of the Woolwich ferry – have none. Because of the lack of crossings in East London, the Port of London Authority (PLA) recently commissioned a report to look into improving links across the Thames and has recommended three locations where electric ferries could be provided.

Of the three proposed pedestrian and cycle ferries, one would link the western side of North Greenwich with Canary Wharf, the second would be just to the west of the Thames Barrier, and the third would link Thamesmead with Barking.

Canary Wharf to North Greenwich proposals (c) PLA

Royal Docks to Charlton (c) PLA

Barking Riverside to Thamesmead (c) PLA

All three proposed ferry crossings are located close to major development areas in the capital, where North-South transport connectivity is severely lacking and would support the Mayor of London’s goal for 80% of all trips in the capital to be on foot, cycle or by using public transport by 2041.

Based on 2021 figures, the report estimates that each of the southern piers for the electric ferry routes are within a 15-minute cycle ride for nearly 110,000 people. Due to ongoing housing developments along the Thames between the Docklands and Barking, that figure is expected to increase by a third by 2035.

With a lifespan of 30 years, the investment required for each ferry option – estimated to be between £120 million and £132 million – would be around a third of the cost of a bridge capable of carrying a comparable number of people over the river. They could also be operational in a fraction of the time it would take to build a fixed river crossing.

Robin Mortimer, PLA Chief Executive, said: “The Thames has shaped London’s history for centuries and is key to its net zero future too.

“Based upon the experience of Auckland and Amsterdam, this report shows that the river can help create an affordable, low-carbon way of tackling transport inequity in east London.

“Using electric ferry crossings, the capital can deliver strong, sustainable, connected communities in the fastest-growing parts of the city.

“We hope that the London Mayoral and Assembly candidates will recognise the river’s huge potential to support connectivity, reduce emissions and improve quality of life for Londoners by progressing these concepts.”

Although there is an existing ferry between Canary Wharf and Rotherhithe, the ferry operator, Uber Boat by Thames Clippers, is also consulting on plans to upgrade that link with new electric boats and redesigned piers.

Rendered model of new all electric ferry design (c) Uber Boat by Thames Clippers

Although never built, there was also a plan to add a bridge to the Thames Barrier.


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  1. Peter Feltham says:

    For gods sake just do the job properly and build a couple of bridges instead of fannying around with the issue.There will be breakdowns and labour disputes and goodness knows what else with this short sighted proposal.

    • ChrisC says:

      Bridges aren’t awlays the best solution.

      If the river is to remain open fully then the bridge would need to be so high and exposed to the elements (to give the ships clearance) that many pedestrians would be put off from using them.

    • Fabs says:

      … or start with building a third tunnel as part of the current Silvertown tunnel massive works! One that is pedestrian only and separate from the cars to avoid breathing all the pollution.

  2. skriv says:

    A third the price of a bridge! But a bridge gives complete freedom to come & go whenever you please & permanently links communities. A ferry is more a touristic novelty until the next round of budget cuts.

  3. skriv says:

    It’s like offering an hourly minicab service, that allows pedestrians to cross the M25, instead of building a foot bridge over it.

  4. alistair twin says:

    these ferries look almost identical to the ones in amsterdam that go to the north part and they work really well. they are really fast

    bridges dont work for bikes and pedestrians unless they reduce the clearances needed for boats (think dangleway)

  5. Pete says:

    What the river really needs is more competition. Thames Clipper fares are astronomical, services are very unreliable and often overcrowded. Huge potential for another entrant to the market.

  6. Aidan Stanger says:

    Disappointing plan! It would be much better to have ferries ALONG the Thames, linking many communities and places of employment on both sides of the river.

    • ianVisits says:

      You mean like the Thames Clippers already does?

    • alistair twin says:

      But what if you just want to cross the river? ferries are slow and and better just used to cover the shortest distance very regularly.

  7. NG says:

    Get the pathetic & intermittent-to-useless electric Woolwich Ferries to work at all reliably, or even “at all”

  8. MilesT says:

    More dangleways. More expensive than a ferry, but less capex than a bridge (although TCO over time would favour a fixed link)

    I am being half serious, there are examples elsewhere of gondolas being very viable public transport options, and can be engineered for high winds, and would be tall enough to avoid impacting shipping.

  9. Tom says:

    East and South East London and all the surrounding areas desperately need bridges and tunnels to cross the river instead of pathetic ferries. How difficult is it to understand that?

  10. Julie says:

    After they have done this they will replace the woolwich free ferry and you will pay there as well. 🤪🤪

  11. Doreen says:

    Woolwich ferry needs upgrading because every time one of the boats brakes down there should always be two not one no wonder it takes longer for the people and cars and buses to get from se London to east London and many people complain that I have heard they keep having only one ferry so long queues all the time

  12. Leo says:

    What a nonsense. Those who need to cross the river on a ferry already do that with existing Thames Clippers routes. Adding a few other ferries won’t make much difference. What could make a difference and wouldn’t cost the earth would be building several relatively cheap opening bridges in East London. I live near the river and I see only a few big ships a day that would require bridges to be opened. Surely, opening times could be scheduled (e.g. for 20min every 2-3 hours) giving ships the opportunity to pass

  13. Leo says:

    I don’t have exact calculations, but in general, movable bridges have a lower cost because of their size limitations and limited land requirements compared with fixed bridges, which require greater clearances and longer approaches.

    Farrell proposed a set of moveable bridges some time ago

  14. tops says:

    While more expensive than a ferry this tunnel proposal claims to be cheaper than a bridge: https://cecl.global/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/CECL-Tunnelling-Journal.pdf

  15. Tony says:

    You may be spoilt for choice with Clipper services in some parts of London but there is nothing at all between Rainham / Dagenham and Erith. Despite having HS1 zooming above Rainham and views of the Dartford Crossing from the riverside it is a mightily tricky public transport journey in outer East London when one wants to cross the river. Though ferries may seem a bit archaic there is a flexibility there to move and adapt routes as the city develops.

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