Two issues involving bridges featured in Wednesday's Questions to The Mayor.
The first of these was the long running saga of the Central Line bridge over Forest Road next to Fairlop Station. This bridge has a sorry history of being struck by over height vehicles. The lorries come out of the Hainault trading estate or the nearby gravel pits and are directed towards the bridge by their satnav systems. Because the drivers are foreign they cannot read the various warning signs. Satnavs are available for over height vehicles but unfortunately the hauliers penny pinch and use systems for ordinary cars.
Raising the bridge would involve raising the embankment and the station, so is prohibitively expensive. Lowering the road - a solution used elsewhere - is impossible because of cables and pipes running beneath the surface. Concrete beams are in place to protect the bridge in case of a strike but this does nothing to safeguard vehicles and pedestrians on the road, and local residents fear there will be a fatality if the accidents continue.
I suggested restricting the road width - as TfL have done for Network Rail's weak bridge in Romford - thus prohibiting large vehicles completely. Boris promised to consider this option and I am sure Redbridge Council will want to help.
The second bridge under discussion actually doesn't exist any more. There was a pedestrian bridge over the A12 near its junction with Mawney Road in Romford, but some years ago now it was struck by another over height vehicle and had to be removed. Residents were effectively cut off from Romford Town Centre and the local councillors organised a petition calling for a replacement bridge. I presented this to the Mayor and TfL at an Assembly meeting.
The response from Ken Livingstone - yes it was that long ago - was that disability laws required a long ramp and that there was insufficient space at the location for a larger bridge. TfL would therefore create a crossing at road level with pedestrian lights.
After much delay the crossing was opened in the Summer - then closed again because of the danger posed by U-turning vehicles. Those of us who use the A12 know that U-turning is a common feature at all the cross roads leading up to Gallows Corner, but that fact appears to have passed TfL by. Boris assured me that the crossing would be reopened following the introduction of extra safety measures.
This has been a fiasco, highlighting the way that well meaning equality and health & safety regulations can actually strangle progress and make things worse for the community. The failure to plan for the U-turns is particularly unforgiveable.
Labour saw this MQT as an opportunity to criticise fare increases, but they are themselves saddled with Ken's unrealistic pledge to cut fares by 5% - whilst going around town promising expensive transport projects for which there is no money even with fares going up. In the circumstances they pressed their attack without much enthusiasm.
They had a bit more luck with Len Duvall's questions about proposals for a new floating park along the north side of the Thames. The Sunday Times questioned the finances behind the project - and it is difficult to see how it can make its money back - whilst high profile riverside residents and the City Corporation are unimpressed by the concept. This scheme looks unlikely to float.