Updated: May 13
We do need a new river crossing in South East London.
But in 2021, in a climate and clean air emergency, what should it look like and who should it be for?
There are better greener and cleaner options than a motorway, like this recently proposed walking and cycling bridge, which has been greeted enthusiastically by local people.
The Silvertown Tunnel scheme in contrast is vehemently opposed by locals on environmental and economic grounds. First outlined by Boris Johnson in 2012 and developed by the same team that worked on the Garden Bridge, this is a dysfunctional scheme which has been pushed through initially on the grounds of assisting economic growth in East London but now of lessening congestion and pollution.
The Silvertown Tunnel is due to be built next to the Blackwall Tunnel. It is a four lane motorway which goes under the river from Greenwich to Newham. It will take 6 years to build and will cost £2.2 billion pounds, a PFI funded by tolls paid to a global consortium.
Research has shown that new roads always lead to more traffic, so the idea that it will reduce congestion is misguided. The local approach roads are already saturated. The Silvertown Tunnel creates space for 100,000 new vehicles a day to cross the river.
The tolls for the both Tunnels which will be raised to pay for the scheme are presented as mitigation to keep down induced traffic. However these very tolls could be reduced or scrapped by a future populist mayor for political reasons. As TfL forecast, if this happened it would lead to massive increases in congestion and pollution across our communities.
Newham is the most polluted borough in the U.K. yet the tunnel will make already illegal and dangerous air quality worse for thousands of residents on both sides of the river. It has no walking or cycling through it, but has dedicated HGV lanes, so that means more big dirty vehicles through our communities. So more deaths, more asthma and more toxic pollutants filling all our lungs and entering our bloodstreams.
TfL claim Silvertown Tunnel will not worsen air quality overall. But even if we believe that, it will definitely worsen air quality for those in Newham and for those who live along the A102 when two tunnels meet southbound at the afternoon peak hour, an issue which has never been adequately addressed by TfL .
For more than eight years residents on both sides of the river have campaigned to stop the Silvertown Tunnel on the grounds of air pollution, carbon emissions and its eye watering waste of money. The Silvertown Tunnel project costs have more than tripled from £600m (Oct 2012) to £700m (Sept 2013) to £750m (Oct 2014) - and now before building has even begun are a staggering £2.2bn.
We say there is no economic case and no environmental case for the Silvertown Tunnel. And this costly mistake is wasting more than two billion pounds that could be spent on active travel and carbon emission reduction to help in the climate emergency we face. And all the experts we've talked to agree with us. That much money could be spent on electrifying the whole London bus fleet, or funding seven new walking, cycling and cargo-bike bridges like this one . Even the upfront capital costs to TfL of £199 million could comfortably fund the fixing of Hammersmith Bridge.
We are doing everything we can to make City Hall listen to us.
We've had support from local community groups, from politicians, from headteachers, parents and pupils from local schools. We've had support from climate experts, from traffic experts, environmental experts, and from travel and air quality experts.
The Silvertown Tunnel makes a mockery of the Mayor's promises on tackling climate change, and cleaning up our air. You would think he would care about social justice. But instead he is imposing this toxic monster on the poorest communities in London. Even worse, the PFI loan is paid for by tolling the tunnels when they're built, so TfL are making our communities pay for it too. No other river crossing is tolled.
Why's he doing this? We just don't know. But what we do know is that he's prepared to sacrifice the health and the future of our children in Newham and Greenwich by continuing with this misguided and toxic scheme. And that's not acceptable.
So we are calling once again on Sadiq Khan to Cancel the Silvertown Tunnel and we are asking you to support us. Please write to email@example.com, please lobby your local GLA candidates, and please let your voices be heard as we approach the election.
Coordinator Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition
@silvertowntn on twitter
More detailed information here https://transportactionnetwork.org.uk/new-report-urges