‘You cannot build yourself out of congestion’: Transport chief joins in condemnation of Silvertown Tunnel

Artist’s impression of planned Silvertown Tunnel. Photograph: Arcadis.

Hackney’s councillor in charge of transport has spoken out against plans for the contentious Silvertown Tunnel in the wake of Transport for London (TfL) nominating international consortium RiverLinx to build the £1bn project.

TfL hope the new river crossing between Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula, planned for opening in 2025, will alleviate 90-minute tailbacks into the Blackwall Tunnel, but campaigners earlier this month slammed the project as an “expensive mistake”.

The recently-formed Stop The Silvertown Tunnel Coalition (STSTC), a cross-party and Extinction Rebellion initiative, petitioned City Hall to rethink the project earlier this month, pointing out that road pricing and tolls on Blackwall Tunnel itself would address the congestion.

Cllr Jon Burke, cabinet member for energy, waste, transport and public realm, called on TfL to “re-evaluate” the scheme, saying: “We have consistently argued, as evidence from transport schemes almost universally demonstrates, that you cannot build yourself out of congestion. Yet the Silvertown Tunnel is trying to do just that.

“Since 2015, when Hackney passed a motion opposing the Silvertown Tunnel, we have led the way in tackling London’s poor air quality by improving conditions for walking and cycling and promoting sustainable transport – including successfully making the case for the expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone to cover the whole borough by 2021.

“A new tunnel at Silvertown is not only fundamentally incompatible with attempts to tackle the public health hazard of London’s polluted air, it will also exacerbate the UK’s growing land transport sector greenhouse gas emissions.”

Cllr Jon Burke.

Caroline Russell, Green Party member of the London Assembly, added: “I am very disappointed to see the Mayor charging ahead with Silvertown Tunnel, we know new roads attract even more traffic and the Mayor’s own Transport Strategy calls on TfL to cut traffic – something it has so far failed to do.”

TfL assurances that the Silvertown crossing will carry an additional toll, on top of the £12.50 ULEZ charge and £11.50 congestion charge, have failed to satisfy STSTC campaigners.

An STSTC spokesperson said: “Even if you think London needs new river crossings, this is illogical. TfL’s own figures show that if the new capacity created by the tunnel is used, traffic, pollution and congestion go up.

“In response they’ve decided to set the toll so high that drivers won’t use the new capacity they’ve built. So, according to the Mayor’s plans, residents are going to spend the next 50 years paying for the new crossing plus use of the existing Blackwall tunnel that, effectively, they are being discouraged from using.

“We feel that the building the new Silvertown Tunnel is a very expensive mistake at this time. We now know that motor traffic is detrimental to the health of the population born and unborn, and that to ensure public health and climate stability we need to sharply reduce car use across London – so building a tunnel that can never be fully used because it’s a potential pollution bomb is a massive waste of public money.”

Alex Williams, Director of City Planning at TfL said: “The need for more river crossings in East London, to unlock growth and give residents and businesses better access to jobs and services, has been clear for decades.

“The Silvertown Tunnel, which is vital to support London’s economy, has been designed to resolve the existing congestion problem around Blackwall, improve overall air quality and enable new cross-river bus routes to be introduced.

“We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the project is delivered with minimal impact to local residents. We will closely monitor noise and air quality during construction and traffic levels and emissions once the tunnel is complete.”



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