Today we met with MPs to present our proposals for a temporary floating Parliament. Our concept, which we have drawn up jointly with Studio Octopi, Expedition Engineering, Houlder, Jackson Coles and Securewest, was initiated by a similar proposal from Gensler. We thought that Gensler’s idea was interesting but had complications in respect of security, constructability and particularly cost.
Coincidentally Transport for London will be replacing the three Woolwich ferries in autumn 2018, the existing ferry hulls are in excellent condition but their machinery is well past its useful life. So could the hulls be reused? A size comparison showed that each debating chamber, together with the Commons division lobbies, could be fitted onto each of the hulls. From this realisation our team worked up a scheme for re-configuring the three Woolwich ferry hulls, mooring them outside Parliament and installing all the core facilities required for the temporary decant of Parliament. The floating accommodation includes a central lobby, two debating chambers, division lobbies, committee rooms, catering facilities, roof-top bars and restaurants and other support facilities.
The additional weight on the hulls was an issue but by stripping out the existing engines and equipment and boxing out the hull ends we were able to obtain 1,100t of capacity and with structurally efficient superstructures we were able to keep within that allowance. Discussions with Lloyds Register confirmed that the re-purposed hulls could meet their Class rules. We obtained in principal support for the scheme from the Port of London Authority and also from TfL who were keen for the ferries to have a beneficial second life. We then costed the scheme and at £55m it would be less than half the government’s budget for Parliament’s six year temporary accommodation. Further details of the proposal can be found on the project website HMS Parliament
This is a serious proposition that opens up a debate on reuse of existing maritime infrastructure on cost and environmental grounds. The high land values in London mean the considerable waterways of London provide opportunities for temporary but also permanent solutions. With HMS Parliament the main problem is timing. A final decision on the decant of Parliament has repeatedly been put back. Decisions on the refurbishment programme has been postponed many times and therefore its highly unlikely anything will be agreed before TfL have to dispose of the ferries. While this is unfortunate our work on exploring the reuse of the ferry hulls has created an appreciation for their potential and we are now on the lookout for an alternative reuse opportunity. If you know of one do get in touch!