MEASURES TO prevent HGVs illegally crossing London's ageing Tower Bridge have been agreed in principle, potentially clearing a major hurdle to the introduction of congestion charging in the capital.
Agreement follows weeks of negotiation, described by congestion charge promoter Transport for London (TfL) as 'close and constructive dialogue'. The bridge's owner, the Corporation of London, has agreed to proposals to control the amount and type of traffic using the Grade I listed structure in the future.
Although the Corporation will not formally approve the proposals until September, Corporation strategic transport director Joe Weiss told NCE he was happy that plans to introduce speed cameras and greater police surveillance would protect the 107 year old structure.
'These proposals are welcome, ' said Weiss. 'They need to be implemented before the real threat to the bridge comes into play. What we need now is action not words.'
The Corporation had feared that TfL's plans to charge drivers £5 to cross the city - due to be introduced in January 2003 - would force more traffic across the already overloaded bridge which lies to the east of the charging zone (NCE 24 May).
But speed cameras on the bridge will be used to enforce the 30kmph speed limit, now largely ignored, and new parking bays will be constructed on both northern and southern approaches so that police can more easily monitor and control traffic across the bridge.
'The original legislation in 1973 defined banned vehicles by number of axles and unladen weight, ' explained Weiss. 'This translates to a 17t gross weight limit - but it still means that goods vehicles with more than three axles are banned from the bridge and can be spotted visually if they try to cross it.'
Technically, breaching this limit is a criminal offence and so enforcement is a matter for the police. The new bays will make it easier for them to gather evidence.
In the longer term TfL hopes to de-criminalise the restrictions, allowing it to enforce them using weigh-in-motion systems and CCTV linked to fixed penalty notices, a spokesman confirmed.