Not far from Beckton DLR depot is an odd road that seems somewhat oversized and impressive for the minimal amount of traffic that uses it. It should however be very busy, as it should connect with a bridge across the Thames to the south side and the Thamesmead estate.

What was initially called the East London River Crossing was proposed back in the 1970s, and as part of the docklands redevelopment, the LDDC pushed for the bridge to be built – as part of a much larger road scheme which would have seen effectively a motorway built through South East London.

It went through a public consultation and was approved in 1985, but the arrival of London City Airport meant that the bridge needed to be redesigned to be both high enough to let boats pass, but now low enough to comply with air traffic requirements.

A new consultation had to be commissioned, and that took place in 1991, even as environmental pressure grew to cancel it due to the approach road passing through the ancient Oxleas wood on the south side.

In July 1993 that the government dropped the planned bridge as no longer meeting modern expectations, and plans for a smaller more local bridge were pushed forward – this became the Thames Gateway Bridge.

This would be a more modest road bridge, but also included provision for the DLR to extend into Thamesmead, and a pedestrian link. This was pushed forward in 2004, and but despite political support was regularly kicked down the road by protests and inquiries rejecting the plans.

Finally in 2008, Boris Johnson formally cancelled the £500 million bridge, and what’s left is the spur road, officially the Eastern Gateway Grade Separation Bridge that runs up to a junction that faces a fenced off dead end of a bridge.

It runs just a few metres, pointing towards Thamesmead but will never reach it — and unless the overpass is demolished, will probably be an unused stump of a road for decades to come.

It did almost have a use though.

If you look at satellite photos, you’ll see a painted H on the road. It’s faded quite badly now and is barely visible, but the site was for a short while proposed for a helicopter landing site.

(c) Google

Today it’s an abandoned relic of a time when massive road building projects was seen as the future, although there is a proposal for a new river crossing nearby at Gallions Read.

Meanwhile, Thamesmead is still waiting for its DLR connection.

Nearest railway stations

  1. Gallions Reach DLR
  2. Cyprus DLR
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4 comments on “East London’s unused heliport and unbuilt bridge
  1. What is also fascinating is that to the west of the bridge there is a loop that was obviously going to be for traffic coming off the bridge to join the Royal Docks Road without having to negotiate the roundabout. From the aerial view in Google you can not only see the path in which the road would take, but also that there are lamp posts still in situ. This is even more clear in Google Street View. Amazing!

  2. Melvyn says:

    Seems Boris Johnson doesn’t have a good history with bridges with this one cancelled and no sign of his Garden Bridge !

    Perhaps somebody could plant a garden on this Beckton Garden Bridge ?

  3. JP says:

    Having had the odd ½ an hour to spare, I had a good old fly around the area on screen and found numerous stubs on roundabouts, heavy use of road marking paint to cut down dual carriageway sized routes to quiet cul-de-sacs and the like. It’s as if the road building mania of the seventies never went away. Time for a visit.

  4. The actual spur was of course the London Motorway Box/Ringways scheme, which dates back to the war. And the story of the bridges is also linked to the airport as protestores against its expansion in the 90s were keen only on ELRC bridges that were very high, as they blocked safe flight into the airport. The airport of course in turn protested against them, etc

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