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Silvertown Tunnel under scrutiny

Bridget Fox's picture

The Mayor of London’s controversial plans for the Silvertown Tunnel are now under examination by the Planning Inspectorate.

Campaign for Better Transport is a registered objector to the proposals, which would see a new four-lane road built between Canning Town and the Greenwich Peninsula.

We think that's the wrong solution to improving connections in some of London's most densely populated neighbourhoods, already enduring some of the capital's busiest roads and most polluted air. 

Previous Mayor Boris Johnson proposed three new road-based crossings in east London, at Silvertown, Gallions and Belvedere.  Mayor Khan has, thankfully, backed off the latter two, agreeing with us that extending the DLR and London Overground are better options.

He’s also given the green light to a new cycling and walking bridge crossing the Thames from Canary Wharf to Rotherhithe and a new ferry at Greenwich.  That’s all good news: but the Silvertown Tunnel still threatens to undermine this positive programme.

In particular, the air pollution implications go against everything the new Mayor has said about cleaning up London’s filthy air, including his plans for an expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone, an initiative we are keen to see succeed.

We agree with the No To Silvertown Tunnel campaign that bringing more traffic and pollution into one of the areas of the city worst affected could never be a good idea.  The recent ClientEarth High Court judgement  strengthens the case against building new roads based on old assumptions about air quality.  The Inspectors have already written to Transport for London asking them to review their plans.

Air quality is not our only grounds for objection.  Road-based connections will not provide the kind of regeneration most needed by the communities on either side of the river. Private car use in London has been falling over a number of years, despite the growing population.

The Silvertown Tunnel will primarily benefit longer distance traffic, bringing pain not gain to its neighbours. There’s the problem of more traffic choking local roads, the worsening environment for cyclists and pedestrians at either end, and the increase in heavy goods vehicles from introducing two-way HGV capacity (unlike Blackwall).

TfL are offering a shuttle bus to carry bikes and their riders through the tunnel: they’d be better off saving the £1bn it will cost to build the Tunnel and giving cyclists access to the woefully underused Greenwich – Royal Docks cable car instead.

Then there’s the proposal to introduce a user charge for both the new Silvertown and the existing Blackwall tunnels.  Newham Council has already withdrawn its support for the Tunnel because they object to charging local motorists to use it.

We agree that building the tunnel without a user charge would be a disaster, encouraging even more traffic: but levying a charge undermines the case that the new road will help local small businesses (a contradiction the Inspectors have already spotted). 

Where a road is a preferred route, charges don’t deter traffic (witness the permanent queues at Dartford): and if there is an alternative, then having a charge won’t make the new road pay its way (as the M6 toll road shows).  The Silvertown Tunnel is shaping up to be a lose-lose, not a win-win.

The Inquiry continues with hearings in December and January, and a decision due by 11 April 2017.

You can read our written representation, and the comprehensive No to Silvertown Tunnel submission, on the Inquiry website.