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Roads to Nowhere

London deserves better than new polluting roads!

Steve Chambers's picture

New road bridges and tunnels crossing the River Thames will fail to address the problems they are supposed to solve, say campaigners in London. 

Transport for London is promoting three road building schemes in east and south-east London. All are zombie projects, with a heritage going back decades. But London has moved on from the primacy of the motor car and is rediscovering itself as a city for walking and cycling. Billions of pounds must be found if this ‘package’ of crossings is to be delivered. The evidence suggests that new roads will create new demand, worsen congestion, and create air pollution in a city where it is already at dangerous levels.

The Silvertown Tunnel scheme is the most advanced in London, and thankfully so are campaigners against it. London deserves better than polluting new roads,

Silvertown Tunnel

The Silvertown Tunnel is a proposed new twin-bore four lane road tunnel under the River Thames between the Royal Docks in Newham and the Greenwich Peninsula. The southern portal would be adjacent to the existing Blackwall Tunnel, sharing the approach road from the south. The proposed northern portal would be at a junction with Silvertown Way and Lower Lea Crossing. It is the most advanced proposal. It has been the subject of three consultations, with a further consultation expected during 2015.

The Silvertown Tunnel is promoted as responding to increasing population, existing demand for river crossing and providing economic benefit. The scheme has serious problems that undermine this rationale. It will increase traffic, including heavy goods vehicles. It would blight parts of Greenwich, Newham and Tower Hamlets with the environmental costs of new road building and induced traffic. Instead of 'relieving' the Blackwall Tunnel, the approach roads to the south would be shared with it, creating increased demand on existing roads, causing congestion as well as noise and air pollution.

The brilliantly organised No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign have been fighting the proposal and pointing to sustainable alternatives. They have highlighted that there is no economic benefit to the Greenwich peninsula, which is in need of new public transport to keep up with 10,000 new homes that are planned to be built there. ​The scheme is projected to cost £ 750 million and campaigners have shown how this money could be much better spent on providing pedestrian and cycling links between the Greenwich peninsula and Canary Wharf, connecting people to jobs.

The project has nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) status, which ensures a fast-track planning process, but the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaigners have successfully shown how to engage with Transport for London and the local planning authorities through consultation responses. But No to Silvertown have gone much further, undertaking their own air pollution studies using resources available to campaigners from Mapping for Change. They have demonstrated the negative effects of the roads in their area, where pollution levels are already twice that of acceptable levels.

Find out how you can support the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign on their website.

However, these are not the only threats London is facing from new roads and campaigners need to come forward now.

Gallions Crossing

The Gallions Reach Crossing is a proposed new road bridge over the River Thames between Gallions Reach in Newham and Thamesmead in Greenwich. In earlier consultations it was alternatively proposed as a vehicle ferry. It is the second most advanced proposal after the Silvertown scheme and has also been the subject of three consultations, with a further consultation expected during 2015. The Gallions Reach Crossing has been proposed before as the Thames Gateway Bridge, a scheme that was withdrawn in 2008 after serious problems were found by the planning inspector.

The cost of the new scheme is estimated to be £ 600 million. The scheme is promoted as providing economic benefit to the local area, facilitating regeneration, and encouraging pedestrians and cycling. The 2007 planning inspector report highlighted serious problems with the scheme, including that it would increase congestion, is an unsuitable crossing for pedestrians and cyclists, would make air and noise pollution worse, and that there is no evidence that regeneration and economic improvement would result from it.

Find out how you can support the No to Gallions Crossing campaign on their website.

Belvedere Crossing

The Belvedere Crossing is a proposed new road bridge or tunnel across the River Thames between Rainham in Havering and Belvedere in Bexley. This is the least advanced proposal and has been the subject of one consultation to date, with a further consultation expected during 2015. The cost of the scheme is estimated to be £ 900 million and it could be completed by 2030.

The Belvedere Crossing is intended to 'plug' one of the longest gaps between crossings on the River Thames in London. However, this part of east and south-east London is as lacking in public transport river connections as it is roads. The scheme is intended to connect people to workplaces and improve the local economy. Although at the early stages of planning, the report published by Transport for London has already identified several potential problems, including that the local road network will become congested with new traffic, traffic pollution and noise would increase, and there is potential for a negative impact on the Crossness Nature Reserve and Rainham Marsh sites.

If you would like to get involved in campaigning against these crossings, please contact Steve Chambers, our London Campaigner.