London's Getting A New Twisty Bridge

By M@

Last Updated 10 June 2024

London's Getting A New Twisty Bridge
A snakey bridge over the Royal Docks
Image: Newham Council

A new pedestrian and cycling bridge for the Royal Docks looks set to go ahead after a council cash injection .

This undulating beauty will soon be constructed across Royal Victoria Dock, connecting Silvertown to the Elizabeth line and DLR stations, as well as the ExCeL exhibition centre at Custom House. The plans were approved by Newham Council in May 2023, but a recent cash boost should see work begin soon.

Hang on, isn't there a bridge there already?
Yes, but it's rubbish. It's raised 14 metres in the air, and the lifts are frequently broken. Now the Elizabeth line has opened at Custom House, more and more people want to cross the dock, and the numbers will soon grow quickly with planned developments.

A view of the Royal Docks with route of new bridge
In this very much NOT official image, we show the rough route of the new bridge across the dock. The view is from the top of Millennium Mills. Image and scrawl by Matt Brown

It looks nice, but I think the curves are a mistake. People just want to cross by the quickest route possible, which is a straight line.
This is true, but the curved profile isn't just to look pretty — it allows a more gradual build-up of height toward the centre, raising the bridge enough to allow smaller boats to pass underneath. So, yes, you'll have to walk or cycle slightly further, but on a shallower gradient, which helps with accessibility. The total journey is 312 metres — similar to the Millennium Bridge.

Can larger boats get past?
The docks are a sealed environment so large vessels are more of a rarity than on the Thames. However, the sinusoidal span can be opened at the centre via a pair of bascules to let the big 'uns through. There's a funky animation here, which makes us wonder if they're deliberately trying to get stunt-filming cash out of a James Bond/Mission Impossible movie.

What will it be like to cross the bridge?
According to the Royal Docks website, the bridge will provide a "breath-taking crossing experience," which is perhaps over-romanticising a footway across an old dock. For those whose breath really is taken — or anyone who simply wants to admire the post-industrial waterscape — seating will be provided on each bend. About 3,000 people will be able to use the bridge at peak times, which far exceeds the flow possible over the existing bridge.

A snaking bridge over the Royal Docks.
Image: Newham Council

Why is the bridge needed? Isn't this area a bit... quiet?
Not really. Much housing has gone up in Silvertown in recent years, with a ton more on the way. Millennium Mills, derelict for decades (see our video), is finally undergoing redevelopment, along with the surrounding land. Some 6,500 new homes are earmarked for the site (around 50% of which are deemed 'affordable'). The new bridge will give incoming residents a quick way of getting to the Elizabeth line across the dock at Custom House.

Who's paying for this new span?
Slinky new bridges don't come cheap. This fellow is costed at £41 million. Most of this will be paid for by The Silvertown Partnership, who are developing the new homes. They took out a £233 million loan from public body Homes England to kickstart development of the site, and some of that money will go towards the bridge. However,  Newham Council wanted the footway to be wider to increase capacity, and so have also put in £13.2 million to beef things up.

What will the bridge be called?
It's referred to as the Silvertown Bridge in some council communications, which seems a bit generic (and may be confused with the controversial Silvertown Tunnel). One wonders if it'll be opened to sponsors, to partly offset construction costs (perhaps the Tate and Lyle Bridge would be a sweet way of name-checking the famous local business). Whatever, we Londoners will, of course, find our own nickname, just as we dubbed the Millennium Bridge the Wobbly Bridge when it first opened with a shaky deck.

What do we reckon? Snake bridge? The Sine Wave? The Silvertown Slalom?