Londoners do it regularly — multiple times daily in many cases.
But how many different ways are there to cross the Thames? When you count tube and rail lines running both under and over the river, footbridges, road bridges, ferries and the cable car, London's replete with ways to get across its main river.
We decided to count up exactly how many different options there are for traversing the Thames. We've kept it to within London boroughs — so as far east as the borders of Havering on the north bank and Bexley on the south bank, and as far west as Richmond on the north bank and Kingston on the south bank. Beyond this, we're not interested, as we're no longer in London. We've also kept it to methods which are publicly accessible (though of course some require an Oyster card or ticket, or access to a vehicle), excluding utility tunnels and any underpasses no longer open to the general public. (So, no, 'swimming' or 'very brief helicopter ride' don't count.)
A note on methodology. Some of these crossings are used by multiple methods of transport. Where the same method of transport uses the same crossing in different ways (for example, multiple different National Rail lines cross the river on their way out of Victoria station via Grosvenor Bridge), we've counted this as one method of crossing the river. But where different methods of transport use the same route (for example the District line and the London Overground both use Kew Railway Bridge to cross the river) we've counted it as two separate ways to cross. Clear as Thames mud? Good — let's count.
How many times does the tube cross the Thames?
Probably the quickest way to cross the Thames is by tube, as various tube lines cross the river at certain points — the Jubilee line alone traverses the waterway an impressive four times in nine stops, its passengers rarely aware. Here are all of the points at which you can cross the Thames on a London Underground train — albeit that some of them travel above ground further from central London. In order from east to west:
- Jubilee line between Canning Town and North Greenwich
- Jubilee line between North Greenwich and Canary Wharf
- Jubilee line between Canary Wharf and Canada Water
- Northern line between Bank and London Bridge
- Waterloo & City line between Bank and Waterloo
- Bakerloo line between Embankment and Waterloo*
- Northern line between Embankment and Waterloo*
- Jubilee line between Westminster and Waterloo
- Victoria line between Pimlico and Vauxhall
- District line between Putney Bridge and East Putney
- District line between Gunnersbury and Kew Gardens
*Though the Bakerloo and Northern lines both call at Charing Cross, Embankment and Waterloo, they each run in their own tunnels, so count as two separate ways to cross for our purposes.
That makes a total of 11 routes to cross the Thames on a London Underground line.
Which other railways cross the Thames?
The tube isn't the only railway crossing the Thames. National Rail trains, the DLR, London Overground and, more recently, the Elizabeth line, all cross the river as part of their routes. From east to west again, here's where that happens:
- Elizabeth line between Custom House and Woolwich
- DLR between King George V and Woolwich Arsenal
- DLR between Island Gardens and Cutty Sark
- London Overground between Wapping and Rotherhithe
- Thameslink between City Thameslink and London Bridge (via Blackfriars station, which itself straddles the river)
- London Overground between Imperial Wharf and Clapham Junction
- London Overground between Gunnersbury and Kew Gardens
- National Rail Cannon Street to London Bridge
- National Rail Charing Cross to Waterloo East
- National Rail Victoria to Brixton/Battersea Park
- National Rail Imperial Wharf to Clapham Junction
- National Rail Chiswick to Barnes Bridge
- National Rail St Margarets to Richmond
- National Rail Hampton Wick To Kingston
That's a total of 14 other railway crossings within London.
If you're thinking we've missed the high speed route between Stratford International and Ebbsfleet International, we haven't — that crosses under the Thames just east of the Dartford Crossing (you can see the route from the M25) so we've not included it, as it's outside London (as is the Dartford Crossing itself).
How many road and footbridges cross the Thames?
While tube lines and railway bridges are easily ignored unless you're on them, road and footbridges are one of the more visible methods of crossing the river — heck, Tower Bridge is one of the most famous structures in the world. We've counted up all of the road and footbridges across the Thames within London boroughs, and listed them from east to west.
Note: there are some footbridges which lead onto islands — such as that onto Eel Pie Island — which we haven't counted, as they only reach partway across the Thames and couldn't be used to cross from one side to the other.
Also, Hampton Court Bridge isn't included because although one bank is in Greater London, the other's in Surrey.
- Tower Bridge
- London Bridge
- Southwark Bridge
- Millennium Bridge
- Waterloo Bridge
- Blackfriars Bridge
- Hungerford/Golden Jubilee foot bridge x 2*
- Westminster Bridge
- Lambeth Bridge
- Vauxhall Bridge
- Chelsea Bridge
- Albert Bridge
- Battersea Bridge
- Wandsworth Bridge
- Fulham Railway Bridge (a footbridge runs along the eastern side of the railway bridge)
- Putney Bridge
- Hammersmith Bridge
- Barnes Bridge (a footpath runs alongside the railway bridge, with plans for a garden bridge in future)
- Chiswick Bridge
- Kew Bridge
- Richmond Lock and Footbridge
- Twickenham Bridge
- Richmond Bridge
- Teddington Lock footbridge
- Kingston Bridge
* We were torn as to whether the Hungerford/Golden Jubilee footbridges which run either side of the railway bridge into Charing Cross station count as one bridge or two separate bridges. But they're officially known as the Golden Jubilee Bridges (plural) and offer completely different views and experiences, we've counted them as two separate bridges.
That's a total of 25 road and/or footbridges to cross the Thames within London.
Crossing the Thames via tunnels
We've already burrowed through the train and tube tunnels which criss cross our river, but what about those for pedestrians and other vehicles? That's a much shorter list, and from east to west runs as follows:
*We've classified the Blackwall Tunnel as two separate tunnels due to the fact that the bores were dug and opened 70 years apart, and run a couple of hundred metres away from each other, just converging at each end, rather than running completely parallel.
We've not included the Tower Subway, because it's not open to the public, but it's pretty cool to know it's there. Likewise, the two tunnels beneath the Thames Barrier and other utility tunnels are excluded.
That's a total of 5 pedestrian/vehicle tunnels traversing the Thames.
Crossing the Thames via boats and ferries
We've looked at ways of going under the river, and over the river, but what about going completely old-school and travelling on the river? Though London is replete with boats, very few of them are focused simply on conveying the public from one side of the river to the other. Those which do offer simple passage across the river are:
- Woolwich Ferry, offering free passage between Woolwich and... North Woolwich. They named it well.
- RB4 RiverBus Service, a little-known, direct UberBoats by Thames Clippers service, running from the Doubletree Docklands Hotel in Surrey Docks, straight across the river to Canary Wharf Pier by Westferry Circus. Mainly for guests of the hotel, but open to anyone.
- Hammertons Ferry, a family-run boat service taking passengers back and forth between Ham House and Marble Hill in Twickenham.
Technically, there are multiple more ways to cross the Thames on boat, via the hop-on, hop-off services provided by the likes of UberBoats by Thames Clippers. For example, you could hop on at North Greenwich and off at Canary Wharf, or on at Canary Wharf and off at London Bridge, or on at Blackfriars and off at the London Eye... the list of combinations goes on, so we've discounted these options for ease of counting.
This leaves us with a total of 3 boat and ferry services offering direct routes across the Thames.
Other ways to cross the Thames
That's a total of 1 alternative way across the Thames (unless the river ever freezes over as it regularly did a few centuries ago, in which case we'll see you in the queue for ice skates — but that's highly unlikely).
Total number of ways to cross the Thames
Adding all of the above up, we make that a total of 59 ways for the public to cross the Thames within London, be it above, below or on the water. No doubt we've missed something along the way — let us know in the comments.