Archived press release
Press & Media

The proposed new Thames Gateway Bridge will lead to more traffic congestion, air pollution and an increase in noise pollution, a new environmental study for Transport for London has revealed [1]. But Friends of the Earth today (Thursday 19th) accused the study of downplaying the negative impacts of the six-lane road bridge, which, it says, will cause even worse blight to local communities and increase traffic levels, while not necessarily creating the number of jobs promised.

The 500 million Bridge is proposed as a Thames crossing between Greenwich and Beckton. Transport for London, backed by Mayor Ken Livingstone has said the project will mean less congestion and better access which will benefit business and the economy. But their environmental statement reveals:

  • The bridge would be congested during the morning rush hour from the first day of opening.

  • Traffic speeds will be slower in some areas.

  • The bridge would have "little impact" on traffic at other local crossings, with traffic in the Blackwall tunnel "remaining more or less unchanged". Transport for London's business survey cites "easing traffic congestion" as a key benefit expected of the bridge.

  • Some areas would be likely to experience "significant increases in traffic volumes" as a result of the bridge, further increasing air pollution. Areas of London already blighted by poor air quality could be in breach of European and UK standards.

  • More than 7,000 properties in the vicinity of the bridge would experience "a long term increase in traffic noise". Even with noise-mitigating measures in place, an estimated 4,500 people are expected to be "bothered" by the noise. TfL says that most residents will "become acclimatised to the traffic noise" and assumes that over time just 100 people would continue to "suffer". TfL admits that some people living close to the traffic may need to sleep with their windows closed.

Friends of the Earth London Campaigns Coordinator, Jenny Bates, said:

"Transport for London's own report shows the problems this bridge will bring, but even it is downplaying the evidence. Does it really believe that the noise of 20 million cars a year on a motorway-sized road will only bother 100 people?

"The Mayor makes dubious claims that the bridge will benefit local communities with jobs and better health. But in reality, local people will bear the brunt of the pollution and noise, while seeing little of the benefit. This whole plan shows a blatant disregard for people and the environment."

Friends of the Earth criticised the report for downplaying the environmental impacts and making meaningless claims about job creation. It also assumes that air quality in other areas would improve, because of the diversion of traffic on to the bridge. But Friends of the Earth points out that any easing of congestion in other areas is likely to be short-lived, with traffic and pollution levels soon returning to existing levels.


[1] ¬

Behind the claims Noise pollution

TfL says: Five thousand people will be "bothered" by noise levels after the bridge opens. It states that in the longer term the number of people bothered would fall to 100 as people become acclimatised to traffic noise, and that the number of people bothered by vibration will increase by one per cent.

Friends of the Earth says: If 20 million cars, lorries and buses a year are funneled onto this new road and into these residential communities, people's health and quality of life will decrease. Anyone living near the road can expect their lives to be made hell with dirty air, constant noise and be unable to open their windows or enjoy their gardens.

Air pollution

Tfl says: Reduced air quality will affect people living 50 metres or less from the road, and overall the effect of the road will be neutral because air quality in some areas will be improved.

Friends of the Earth says: Air pollution is already chronic in many parts of east and south east London and pollutants can travel far more than 50 metres either side of a motorway and in certain weather conditions will affect large areas. All TfL's supposed improvements in air quality are based on the unrealistic assumption that extra traffic will not fill temporarily-relieved areas.

Jobs and regeneration

TfL says: The bridge will provide increased accessibility to areas of East London, providing an increase in the potential number of jobs by 35-53,000. These jobs, say TFL, will lead to improved social and community conditions reducing deprivation and lifting people out of poverty.

Friends of the Earth says: The bridge could easily increase deprivation. The consultants carrying out the study have compared accessibility to jobs within 45 minutes travel time in west London and assumed that similar accessibility created by the road bridge could produce similar numbers of jobs in East London. But this assumption ignores the differences in the areas. The report admits it has not looked at whether sites are available for new businesses in the area and evidence also suggests that communities already blighted by incinerators and sewage works, will become more so, if dissected by a major road.

Public Transport

There would be significantly less increase in accessibility to jobs for people traveling by public transport, compared to those traveling by car. Some journey times, for instance from Thamesmead to Canary Wharf, could be no quicker by public transport with the bridge built.

If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.


Published by Friends of the Earth Trust