Councillors unanimously vote to call on Sadiq Khan to bin Silvertown Tunnel

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

Artist's impression of one of the Silvertown tunnel portals - Credit: Transport for London

Newham councillors voted unanimously in favour of a motion calling on Sadiq Khan to cancel the Silvertown Tunnel project.

An agenda for Monday's full council meeting (February 28) said the motion was heard urgently "because work on the Silvertown Tunnel has already begun and the possibility of obtaining a halt to the project is rapidly receding".

The proposed crossing is intended to link Newham and Greenwich via a road tunnel under the Thames.

At least four Labour councils have already written to the Mayor of London calling on him to cancel the scheme over concerns that it will increase traffic and contribute to worsening air quality.

Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz told the meeting it is a “moral and health imperative” to oppose the construction of the tunnel.

She said: “Recent estimates show at least 115 people die prematurely each year in our borough because of life threatening vehicle fumes; and that we have the highest rate of child hospitalisation for asthma related conditions in the country.

“One in seven (14 per cent) of Newham’s population, including the entire town centres of Stratford, East Ham, Forest Gate and Canning Town, are exposed to levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) that are above the UK limit for human health.

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"Not only that, the entire borough exceeds the World Health Organisation guide limit for PM2.5 particulates."

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Sadiq Khan is facing calls to scrap the Silvertown Tunnel - Credit: PA

A spokesperson for Mr Khan said the Silvertown Tunnel would help tackle congestion and poor air quality around the Blackwall Tunnel without increasing the amount of traffic crossing the Thames.

They added: "The Silvertown Tunnel will transform the way people can travel in a part of London that currently has few options for getting across the river.

"In addition to providing new zero-emission cross-river bus services for an area in need of them, the tunnel will massively reduce the chronic congestion problems currently associated with the inadequate, Victorian-era Blackwall Tunnel.

“The Blackwall Tunnel is closed an average of 700 times a year with a six-minute closure leading to a three-mile tailback of cars, vans and buses with idling engines emitting toxic pollutants into London’s air."

The mayor's spokesperson explained that charges levied on both the tunnels would provide the revenue stream to fund the scheme.

They added that if the Silvertown project was cancelled, money could not be made available for other projects.

But Ms Fiaz told councillors she was "unconvinced" the scheme cannot be reversed. 

Meanwhile, medical staff staged a protest against the project outside the new City Hall in the Royal Docks.

A letter, co-signed by more than 100 health workers and urging Mr Khan to scrap the scheme, was handed in.

Dr Jackie Applebee, a practising GP for 30 years and chair of doctors for the Unite union, was one of those protesting.

She said she fears for children if the tunnel is not stopped.

“There will be needless deaths of children and other people who get chronic lung diseases because of the air pollution.

Health workers, including Jackie Applebee (far right), protested outside City Hall

Health workers, including Jackie Applebee (far right), protested outside City Hall - Credit: Karin Tearle/Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition

“But there’s also climate change. If we don’t stop building roads, and actually take radical action now to decrease our consumption of fossil fuels, this planet … will be in a terrible, terrible state and I worry for the future of my children.”

The mayor's spokesperson added: "The approach roads to the Silvertown and particularly the Blackwall tunnels run through some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in London.

"When the Silvertown Tunnel is built, it is these same neighbourhoods that will see direct benefits to air pollution from improved public transport links and reduced congestion.

"The scheme has been subject to a rigorous and transparent process to demonstrate its merits and prevent any unwanted impacts, such as on health and air pollution."

Transport for London plans to open the 1.4km Silvertown Tunnel, which is estimated to cost around £1 billion, in 2025.