Newham Borough Council has granted planning permission for a new link across the Royal Victoria Dock in London, UK. The project is part of a US$6.2 billion regeneration plan for the Silvertown district on the north bank of the Thames River that includes the construction of 6,500 new homes with 50% affordable housing alongside a new Royal Docks centre.

The new bridge will provide step-free access for pedestrians and cyclist across the docks, link the growing Silvertown development with Custom House Elizabeth Line rail station and allow local residents to reach London’s West End in 20 minutes.

The footbridge will span above the waterline in a continuous curving profile resembling two linked “S” letters. The southern segment will approach the iconic for the area Millennium Mills before bending towards a future avenue that will extend down to a repurposed former grain silo and the core of Silvertown.

According to Moxon Architects who designed the bridge, the structure will delicately skip across the water with cantilevers extending from a central spine beam atop V-supports like the ribs of a ship. Smaller boats will be able to pass under the new bridge while taller ships will be able go through at its midpoint where a pair of curved bascule spans will provide unlimited clearance by pivoting clear of approaching vessels. Seating areas interspersed along the zig-zag deck will provide resting areas and viewing platforms for the public.

The Silvertown Partnership, a joint venture between Lendlease and Starwood Capital, commissioned plans for the footbridge in response to anticipated growth in the site’s population over the next decade.

The bridge is expected to serve over 3,000 users an hour during peak times which would significantly exceed the capacity of the adjacent single span steel footbridge with a suspended timber deck.

The existing structure has an elevated design to accommodate marine traffic, resulting in a 14m level difference between the dock side and the bridge deck. According to the London’s Royal Docks website, there have been numerous issues with the use of the existing pedestrian bridge due to it being only accessible via several flights of stairs and non-enclosed lifts that are open to the elements at the top. Earlier plans for the site included the demolition of the old bridge once the new one opens but a decision to retain the existing crossing was made in 2018.

The Silvertown development is expected to bring between £76-90 million (US$94-111 million) to London’s economy annually, with the vast majority to be in the Newham area. “This new bridge is key to unlocking the potential of the site, transforming the connectivity across the Royal Docks,” says Ed Mayes, project director for Silvertown at Lendlease.

“The stunning design of the new bridge will elevate it as a gateway to Silvertown’s exciting new piece of the city, and provide car-free access for all, establishing the Royal Docks as a pleasurable place to live, work and play.”

Among the participants on the new bridge project are: SLA, responsible for the jetty design; Buro Happold, leading engineering and sustainability; specialist mechanical engineer Eadon Consulting; Aecom carrying out the environmental impact assessment; and Arup in charge of transport.

The new movable Royal Victoria Dock Footbridge is expected to open in 2025.