Transport for London (TfL) is “absolutely committed” to building the Silvertown Tunnel with “minimal impact” to residents, despite widespread opposition from local politicians and campaigners.
Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville (Lab & Co-op) voiced his “strong concerns” about the project in a joint letter with Cllr Jon Burke (Lab, Woodberry Down), cabinet member for transport, to TfL commissioner Mike Brown.
Though the Town Hall voted through a motion against the tunnel in 2015, the letter restates the council’s opposition to the project, warning that traffic to the east of the borough could be increased by it, in particular around Homerton, Cassland Road, Well Street and Victoria Park Road.
Mayor Glanville and Cllr Burke wrote: “Hackney, alongside our neighbouring boroughs, has consistently voiced our objections to this proposal. While we are supportive of improved transport connections in East London, we have serious concerns that the Silvertown tunnel will worsen air quality and attract extra traffic to Hackney and our neighbours.
“We argued back in 2015 that you cannot build yourself out of congestion, and the new Silvertown Tunnel is trying to do just that. We are proud to be London’s leading council in tackling poor air quality and we are determined to protect our residents from its harmful effects, which result in around 10,000 premature deaths in London every year.
“We urge you to rethink these plans and use the £1 billion saved to invest in more sustainable forms of transport, including upgrading cycling infrastructure in Hackney and acrtoss London.”
TfL hopes the new river crossing between Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula, planned for opening in 2025, will alleviate 90-minute tailbacks into the Blackwall Tunnel caused by “fast growth in East London”, and has also spoken of the opportunity presented by more cross-river bus routes.
However, the Stop The Silvertown Tunnel Coalition (STSTC), a cross-party and Extinction Rebellion initiative, petitioned City Hall to rethink the project in May, pointing out that road pricing and tolls on Blackwall Tunnel itself would address the congestion.
Alex Armitage of Extinction Rebellion said: “Silvertown Tunnel is trying to answer the future transportation needs of London with outdated twentieth-century methods.
“We desperately need to move beyond motor vehicle transportation in London – that needs solutions.
“However, Silvertown Tunnel is taking us in the wrong direction completely.”
A TfL spokesperson 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 traffic modelling demonstrates that overall traffic does not increase as a result of the Silvertown Tunnel scheme. This is because the user charge can be set to manage demand for the Silvertown and Blackwall tunnels.
“Currently around 100,000 vehicles use the Blackwall Tunnel without paying any charge. From October 2021, they will be required to meet the Ultra Low Emission Zone requirement or pay a daily charge. Once the Silvertown Tunnel opens they will also be required to pay a user charge for using the tunnel.
“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.”