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Thames Gateway Bridge faces design restrictions

BIDDERS FOR East London's £450M privately financed Thames Gateway Bridge face tight restrictions on design changes because of planning constraints, the project's engineers said this week.

One of two indicative designs produced by consultant Halcrow for the Mayor's Transport for London (TfL) department will have to be adopted and developed by the successful bidder.

'This is because there is no parliamentary time for a hybrid bill for the crossing, ' TfL project director Mike Clarke told NCE this week.

Hybrid bills are often used to speed up the planning process for major projects. They often allow some flexibility to modify designs as fully worked up designs are not required.

'We have to use normal highways powers process - which means submitting designs for planning approval, ' said Clarke.

'Making any major changes to the designs once approved would be very time consuming.'

The government announced last week that it had set aside credits to fund payments to the private finance group chosen to build the bridge.

A public inquiry will also be needed, pushing the expected start of work to 2009. The crossing is expected to open in 2013.

Halcrow originally produced four options for the new bridge, which will be constrained by the need to maintain shipping access below without affecting flight paths to nearby City Airport. It has since narrowed options to two - a triple arch structure and a concrete box girder structure.

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