Pedestrians, cyclists may get own bridge in London

British firm Buro Happold's design (above) is one of the four that have been short-listed. All four feature curving walkways, tall suspension towers and minimalist architecture.
British firm Buro Happold's design (above) is one of the four that have been short-listed. All four feature curving walkways, tall suspension towers and minimalist architecture.PHOTO: BURO HAPPOLD

Four designs picked for Thames bridge but project faces objections from local council

LONDON • The River Thames in London may get its first bridge just for pedestrians and cyclists if the winner of a competition receives the go-ahead and political differences are resolved.

Four shortlisted designs have been chosen from 74 entries in an international competition that called for a landmark that was elegant in its own right. All four finalists' designs feature curving walkways, tall suspension towers and minimalist architecture.

The brief by Wandsworth Borough Council, which wants to link Pimlico to the redeveloped suburb of Nine Elms, was challenging because the bridge has to rise high enough to allow large vessels to pass beneath. But this had to be done without creating too steep a slope for cyclists and pedestrians.

"There is still a long way to go but these teams have given us real hope that a solution can be found to the complex challenges involved in creating a new pedestrian and cycle link across this stretch of the river," said Mr Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council.

The council says the bridge will cost around £40 million (S$85 million) and that it has the support of a Transport for London study that says the Nine Elms to Pimlico link has a strong business and transport case, providing a valuable route and supporting the shift towards zero-emission, sustainable travel options. Supporters of the bridge say it would fill in a gap between the Vauxhall and Chelsea road bridges.

However, neighbouring Westminster City Council, which controls the Pimlico side of the river which would host one end of the proposed bridge, is not so keen.

Councillor Heather Acton told the BBC that while Westminster is enthusiastic about connecting the two banks of the Thames for pedestrians and cyclists, the location and cost would need more thought.

She said Westminster would prefer a pedestrian-cyclist bridge to be built alongside an existing rail bridge connecting Battersea, part of Wandsworth's territory, to Victoria Station.

And a Pimlico residents' group claims the bridge would take away one of the few green spaces it has on the river bank, although Wandsworth says the exact location has yet to be decided.

Londoners have been invited to give their opinions on the bridge, which will be considered by the competition panel before a winner is named later this year.

The four final designs are from British firm Buro Happold, Danish company Bystrup Architecture Design and Engineering, and Ove Arup & Partners, which has two designs on the shortlist.

Nine Elms on the South Bank of the Thames is a former industrial area now undergoing major redevelopment as a business and residential hub. It is already home to the iconic Battersea Power Station and New Covent Garden Market.

The United States and the Netherlands are planning to relocate their embassies there.

London's property media has speculated that a new Chinese embassy will also be built on the 5ha former Royal Mail depot at Nine Elms, one of the few available London sites big enough to accommodate China's requirements.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'Pedestrians, cyclists may get own bridge in London'. Print Edition | Subscribe