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London's £4 billion 'Super Sewer' could disrupt east-west segregated cycle route

Massive construction project could see years of diversions for riders, and may also cause delays in its completion

London’s planned east to west cycle superhighway, dubbed ‘Crossrail for the Bike’ faces disruption for up to three years within 12 months of being opened to cyclists – who may be forced to take detours as a result of works associated with the city’s £4 billion ‘Super Sewer’ project.

According to the London Evening Standard, parts of the cycle route running from Tower Gateway to the Westway, currently open for consultation and due to be completed in 2016, will have to be dug up while works are carried out on the Thames Tideway Tunnel at Blackfriars and close to Embankment Underground station.

Transport for London says that it aims to provide an alternative, safe route for cyclists should detours be required, but depending on the exact locations of the works, it could prove problematic to easily re-route riders – expected to number 3,000 an hour at peak times – particularly at Embankment.

TfL’s managing director for surface transport, Leon Daniels, told the newspaper: “We are working closely with Thames Water to ensure that there is no impact on the superhighway. It is planned that in the event of any closures, a safe, segregated and clearly signed cycle lane will be installed to get cyclists past the works.”

But a spokesman for Thames Tideway Tunnel, which received the green light from the government last week as it was grnated planning consent, suggested that sections of the planned cycle route might even be delayed.

He said: “We are liaising closely with TfL to identify ways of working collaboratively to minimise any impacts that our construction works may have on the Cycle Superhighway. These include the option of a phased approach to the Cycle Superhighway’s construction that integrates with our own plans.”

The project, the scale of which dwarfs that of the £48 million east-west cycle route, will see a 16-mile tunnel be constructed from Acton in west London to Abbey Mills in the east of the capital, linking 34 sewer overflows.

Contractors will need access to certain parts of the roads running along the river to carry out work to connect those to the tunnel, including at Embankment and Blackfriars, which is also where the Cycle Superhighway running along the river intersects with the planned north-south route.

An unidentified source told the Standard’s transport correspondent, Matthew Beard: “They have no idea how they are going to do this or what the effect is. They haven’t started on it.

“These are quite large land reclamation jobs and you have to work on the land-side. In order to do that you need at least one lane but if you do that it takes out the cycle route.

“The idea is that they do the cycle superhighway in 2015 and then in 2016 take it out all again for Thames Water. The concern is you are going to have to pay tens of millions of pounds and you are going to have to take it all out,” he added.

Last week, it emerged that organisations representing some of London’s major employers were seeking to secure an extension to the six-week consultation period over the two Cycle Superhighways and were also demanding more details of the schemes.

Mayor Boris Johnson, who is hoping to stand as a candidate at next year’s general election and will not be seeking re-election as mayor, was also accused of trying to bulldoze the scheme through before he leaves his current position in 2016. It could be that his successor inherits the headache of reconciling the cycle routes with the tunnel works.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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