BIG DEBATE: Toll charges and a new Thames river tunnel at Silvertown

The Silvertown tunnel will run (image: TfL)

The Silvertown tunnel will run (image: TfL) - Credit: TfL

Letters have dropped onto the mat in thousands of homes across east London as public consultations get under way over controversial proposals for toll charges and a new tunnel under the Thames at Silvertown. TfL says in the letter that the Silvertown Tunnel between the Royal Docks and Greenwich will be “a valuable alternative” to the congested A12 Blackwall Tunnel. Newham Council wants more river crossings anyway, Beckton as well as Silvertown. The big issue is—whether there should be toll charges including Blackwall Tunnel. Environment activists, meanwhile, don’t want another tunnel at all—but say public transport should be improved instead. Consultations go on till Till December 19, with 5,000 responses to City Hall so far. The battle of Silvertown rumbles on...

London Assembly's Darren Johnson [left] and Newham Council's Ken Clark

London Assembly's Darren Johnson [left] and Newham Council's Ken Clark - Credit: Archant



London Assembly’s Darren Johnson thinks a new tunnel will add to congestion in the end and make things worse for other road users in east London like cyclists:


Boris Johnson likes to thinks of himself as ‘the cycling Mayor’. But his big plan for London’s transport improvements over the coming decades earmarks a whopping £34 billion for road building and road widening schemes — and just £3bn for safe cycle routes.

The Mayor of London is loudly promoting a £750 million Silvertown Tunnel between the Royal Docks and the Greenwich peninsular as the solution to congestion on east London’s roads.

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But a simple investigation of the facts shows this scheme to be expensive, unnecessary and dangerous.

TfL admit the only way to stop a tidal wave of extra traffic flooding roads across east London would be to impose toll charges. Motorists would pay around £2.50 to cross the Thames using either the new tunnel or the old Blackwall Tunnel which is currently free.

Londoners will surely question Boris’s logic of building new roads, then saying to drivers, ‘I don’t really want you to use them — so I’ll charge you!’

If the problem is “too much traffic and pollution” on existing roads, then it makes sense to have toll-charges on the Blackwall Tunnel and use the money for better public transport across east London, rather than building new roads and introducing charges to put drivers off using them.

Boris argues that it’s all about creating jobs. But there are much better ways of creating employment than building new roads and clogging them up with extra traffic.

Newham has one of the lowest levels of car ownership in London. Two-thirds of its people get to work on public transport—the highest ratio of any London borough.

East London needs the DLR, London Overground and London Underground extensions as well as much greater investment in cycling.

What it doesn’t need is a huge new road tunnel which will only bring more pollution and more traffic.



But Newham Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Affairs, Ken Clark, believes there has been a groundswell of support for the Silvertown tunnel and for a bridge at Gallions Reach in Becton, highlighted by TfL’s consultations on much-needed river crossings in east London:


People have made their voices heard and say they are fed up with the traffic congestion they are facing, that more needs to be done to relieve the queues.

There is currently insufficient capacity on existing crossings in east London to meet demand. A Gallions bridge and the Silvertown tunnel would reduce the congestion we see in Newham—but more importantly would meet the needs of the population increases that are expected in this part of London.

Most recent consultations have shown that almost 80 per cent favour a bridge over the Thames at Gallions Reach, while three-quarters support or strongly support a tunnel at Silvertown.

The bridge would also support an estimated 24,500 businesses increasing access for customers, suppliers and other businesses, adding an extra £55 million to the economy.

It could also attract private sector investment, opening up access to 40 regeneration sites either side of the Thames and could create 20,000 jobs.

The bridge and the tunnel would also help to speed regeneration of key sites, including the Royal Docks enterprise zone, London’s largest area for economic growth. Developing the Royal Docks alone could create up to 10,000 new jobs by 2037, a large proportion for local people.

Residents have been short-changed for too long, with ‘quick fixes’ like the Woolwich Ferry.

The only long-term solution for growth, economic benefits and to meet east London’s growing needs is the Gallions bridge and Silverton tunnel—and I, for one, am glad that TfL is finally taking these proposals forward.