The Croydon Flyover could soon be assessed as in a state of dangerous disrepair and closed to traffic because Transport for London does not have the money required to carry out urgent repairs that are required.
That’s according to a report submitted to the TfL board chaired by London Mayor Sadiq Khan last week, as the financial crisis that has hamstrung the capital’s transport infrastructure since the start of the covid lockdowns in March 2020 becomes ever more acute.
The Flyover, Croydon’s very own urban motorway which opened in 1969, is increasingly showing its age, its concrete pillars flaking and chipping off chunks to reveal the rusting steel framework beneath. Other similar 1960s era concrete road constructions around the capital, notably the Westway, have suffered structural decay and damage, forcing closures in recent years.
An estimated 40,000 vehicles travel across the Flyover every day. TfL needs to carry out urgent upgrades to the lighting on the Flyover, but lack the finances to give the required works the go-ahead.
The Croydon Flyover and Westway are among several major road structures in the capital that TfL warned in a report to its board last week may have to close for safety reasons.
The TfL board meeting agenda papers released said, “45 of TfL road network structures, bridges and tunnels have interim safety measures” in place.
Six roads and tunnels – the A40 Westway, Rotherhithe Tunnel, Gallows Corner Flyover, Brent Cross Flyover, Vauxhall Bridge and the Croydon Flyover – were identified as being at risk of “imminent closure” due to their deteriorating condition.
The report says, “without long-term funding certainty we risk significant disruption due to asset restrictions and closures, which will stifle the economic recovery and increase whole-life costs”.
With TfL’s usual income stream – fares from passengers – all but choked off since the start of lockdown, the London-hating Conservative government has been playing political games over funding for the capital’s Tube, bus, trains, trams and road networks.
TfL estimated that it needs to spend £2billion on its entire road network during the next 10 years to prevent key road bridges and tunnels from shutting.
Last weekend, the Department for Transport extended its negotiation deadline with TfL, once again avoiding providing the sort of long-term funding settlement the city requires. The government somehow managed to summon up longer-term and more generous settlements for the privately-owned rail operators whose networks have been similarly hit by the impact of covid.
According to a report in trade magazine New Civil Engineer, “The deteriorating condition of TfL’s road structures has been a long time coming.
“Last year, TfL meeting agenda papers revealed that the cost of patching up London’s surface transport assets has increased by 762per cent during the last five years. This includes all bridges and tunnels in the capital as well as River Thames crossings.
“TfL attributes this increase to delays and budget cuts to its surface transport assets renewal programme, which includes major repair work to at risk structures including the Rotherhithe Tunnel, A40 Westway, Vauxhall Bridge and Hammersmith Bridge.”
It was the New Civil Engineer that revealed that more money – £53million – was spent developing plans for the then Mayor Boris Johnson’s failed Garden Bridge project than TfL had spent on maintaining 25 River Thames crossings during the last 10 years. During his mayoralty, Johnson also managed to “spaff” a further £13million on proposals for a bridge between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf before that plan was axed in 2019.
Croydon has already been hard-hit by government-enforced cut-backs at TfL, with long-promised and carefully planned traffic schemes prepared for the busy Fiveways Junction on the A23 Purley Way, and for the area around Old Town and Roman Way being scrapped by order of Whitehall, while bus routes across Croydon and Sutton are being “rationalised” – generally meaning reduced.
Today Val Shawcross, Labour’s candidate to become Mayor of Croydon, added her voice to the calls for the Tory government to provide long-term assurances about vital funding for transport.
“The Croydon Flyover is a vital part of Croydon and London’s traffic system,” she told Inside Croydon.
“It’s been in place since the late 1960s it has linked us to our neighbours in Sutton and provided a vital south London access route for residents and businesses alike.
“As the flyover is such an important London-wide strategic route, Transport for London have responsibility for its maintenance. The government is failing to provide even an annual financial settlement to TfL and the consequence of this lack of long-term planning will be that important safety work on the lighting on our Flyover will be suspended.”
Shawcross is a former leader of Croydon Council, but has also worked as a London Assembly Member and was Khan’s deputy mayor for transport.
“During my time as deputy mayor of London,” Shawcross said, “I learned that timely maintenance of our transport infrastructure is vital. A badly maintained transport system is just not efficient and can create dangers.
“If our Flyover in Croydon is not safe to use, then traffic in Croydon will grind to a halt. If the government can write off billions of pounds in wasted money in frauds following badly managed business loan arrangments and on below standard PPE items, then it can help Croydon by finding enough money to keep our essential strategic road safe to use.”
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