Buses could be barred from crossing Tower Bridge, City warns

The City of London Corporation has warned that buses may have to be banned from using Tower Bridge in response to concerns that traffic restrictions on London Bridge have led more heavy vehicles to cross the adjacent Victorian landmark bridge.

Buses could be barred from crossing Tower Bridge, City warns

This week the streets and walkways sub-committee of the City of London Corporation will discuss the Square Mile authority's response to Transport for London's plan to continue the experimental restriction on private cars, vans and lorries using London Bridge on weekdays between 7am and 7pm.

The restriction was introduced two years ago as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and TfL says it has improved bus journey times and made London Bridge a more attractive option for cyclists and pedestrians.

The next bridge to the east – Tower Bridge – has an 18-tonne weight limit, with exemptions for buses, but TfL monitoring shows that between 100 and 150 vehicles a month flout the current limit.

A report prepared for this week's Guildhall meeting says: "There is concern that the London Bridge and Bishopsgate experimental traffic order schemes have led to more overweight vehicles diverting to Tower Bridge."

The City Corporation acknowledges that "displacement from London Bridge or Bishopsgate will only form part of the three to five overweight vehicles per day crossing Tower Bridge" but the Square Mile authority continues to have concerns about the impact of the London Bridge restrictions on Tower Bridge.

The report says that TfL has committed to protect Tower Bridge from unsuitable vehicles but notes that the Corporation has "seen no evidence or had any discussions on these measures".

The City also points a finger at TfL for failing to enforce the current Tower Bridge weight limit.

The report says: "The existing weight restriction at Tower Bridge is an environmental restriction which exempts buses and is enforced by the highway authority. Unfortunately, TfL have not undertaken this for a number of years contrary to the agreement the City had to facilitate the introduction of Congestion Charging.

"We have convinced Southwark Council to undertake this enforcement on behalf of TfL to afford some protection for the bridge.

If these [London Bridge] proposals continue and TfL do not introduce additional measures to afford Tower Bridge some protection from HGVs then the next step will be for the Bridge House Estates Board to require the weight restriction to be changed to a regulatory restriction used for weak bridges.

"This will not allow the exemption for buses and prohibit many of the existing tourist buses crossing the bridge but is also enforceable by the police as a traffic offence.

"This increased enforcement, especially where points are applied to drivers’ licences, should help reduce the effects.

"If there continue to be offences and damage or increased wear occurs to Tower Bridge then the BHE Board can introduce a lesser weight limit that will prevent all large vehicles and install physical barriers on the approaches, similar to TfL’s current restrictions and installations at Rotherhithe Tunnel."

• TfL's consultation can be found at https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/london-bridge-borough and is open for responses until 27 January.

Tags: Transport, River Thames, City of London, Politics & local government

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