Contract for controversial £1bn Silvertown Tunnel is signed

Artist's impression of one of the Silvertown tunnel portals. Picture: TfL

Artist's impression of one of the Silvertown tunnel portals. Picture: TfL - Credit: TfL

Work on the Silvertown Tunnel will begin next year, Transport for London has confirmed as the contract for the controversial road link’s construction was signed.

The £1 billion project will finally get underway after a design, build, finance and maintain contract was given to the Riverlinx consortium - a five-strong group led by Aberdeen Standard Investments.

They were selected earlier this year but were stopped from signing the paperwork after a rival bidder challenged the outcome of the procurement process.

Environmental campaigners had raised concerns over the impact of the tunnel, which will fall inside the expanded ultra-low emission zone designed to tackle air quality in the capital.

Other criticisms included congestion and heavy traffic travelling through the surrounding boroughs.

And now that the contract has been signed, further details about the tunnel and its impact on people living either side of the Thames have been revealed.

Once the Silvertown Tunnel opens - expected to be in 2025 - both it and the Blackwall Tunnel will introduce user charges. The cost for each type of vehicle are yet to be determined but the money will be used to pay for the construction and maintenance of the new tunnel, with TfL saying it is a legal requirement as part of the planning approval.

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Any surplus revenue will be reinvested into public transport services across London.

People living in Newham, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich who are on low incomes will be eligible for a discount on the tunnels, expected to take a similar form to the existing bus and tram travelcard which offers half price travel for those in receipt of certain benefits.

Those living in the three boroughs will also be eligible for free account registration for the first year, while there will also be a £2m bus concession to help promote the new cross-river bus services which will run through the Silvertown Tunnel. Around 37 buses an hour - expected to be zero emission - are proposed to run in each direction.

This will link areas like Stratford and Canary Wharf to parts of south east London such as Eltham, Grove Park and Charlton for the first time.

TfL has also pledged £1m worth of support available to businesses on both sides of the river to help them to adapt to the user charge, including providing infrastructure such as cycle racks and electric vehicle charging points.

Stuart Harvey, TfL's director of major projects, said: "Following detailed discussions, we have now completed the contract for the Riverlinx consortium to design, build, finance and maintain the Silvertown Tunnel.

"Once open in 2025, the tunnel will provide new cross-river bus routes in east London and during its construction we will work tirelessly to ensure that any disruption to local residents or businesses is kept to an absolute minimum."