Silvertown Tunnel Gets Go-Ahead

The Government has given the go-ahead for the new Silvertown Tunnel in East London under the Thames. This will run slightly to the East of the existing Blackwall Tunnels which are one location of high traffic congestion every day. The slightest hiccup such as minor accidents or people running out of fuel in the existing tunnels or on the approach roads can create miles of traffic queues.

With the Secretary of State giving planning consent, and Mayor Sadiq Khan not apparently likely to block it despite the many objectors to the scheme, it looks likely that construction will start next year with completion in 2023. This is what the Mayor had to say: “I’m delighted that the green light has been given to progress with the Silvertown Tunnel. Since I became Mayor I’ve been determined to ensure the Silvertown Tunnel doesn’t have a detrimental impact on our environment. That’s why the new plans have such a focus on cleaner transport, with only buses with the highest emission standard using the tunnel, and substantial investment in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.”

A toll will be introduced on both the new tunnel and the old tunnels to help pay for the scheme. Although there were objections on air pollution grounds, it is not expected to make matters worse in that regard and the smoother traffic flows will mean substantial benefits. That’s apart from the economic benefits of reducing the wasted time of people stuck in traffic jams and the improved public transport provision (the new tunnel will be large enough to accommodate double-decker buses).

Comment: On behalf of the ABD I have submitted a number of supportive representations for this scheme over the last few years. For residents of South-East and North-East London this will prove to be a major improvement to the road network which is long overdue. Let us hope there are no further delays and that schemes for other Thames crossings are also progressed.

Roger Lawson


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Silvertown Tunnel – Air Quality Should Be OK

Transport for London (TfL) have published an “Updated Air Quality Assessment” for the Silvertown Tunnel. This is the tunnel proposed to run alongside the Blackwall Tunnel under the Thames in East London – it is urgently required to relieve traffic congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel.

There have been concerns that the additional vehicle capacity might worsen air pollution in Greenwich and also north of the river. It’s already bad because of the queues of traffic that form every morning and evening. But the report’s conclusions are that the Silvertown Tunnel will “not lead to a significant impact on air quality” and nor affect the ability to achieve compliance with the Air Quality Directive.

The Silvertown Tunnel was included in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy but is still subject to a Public Inquiry by the Planning Inspectorate and a decision to go ahead by the Secretary of State which keeps on getting delayed. We might get one in May, but there is still vociferous opposition to this sorely needed new transport link. The earliest date for completion, if given the go-ahead, is likely to be 2023.

More information here: where you can see a “drive through” simulation.

Roger Lawson


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Mayor Supports More River Crossings

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has committed to building more Thames River Crossings in a press release on the 4th October. These are to be “greener” and more “public transport focussed” he says.

It includes plans for a new pedestrian and cycle bridge linking Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf but the Silvertown Tunnel to relieve congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel will go ahead and a bus shuttle service for cyclists will be included in that.

He is also proposing to take forward an extension of the Docklands Light Railway from Gallions Reach to Thamesmead but there is no mention of a ferry or bridge for vehicles at that location as previously discussed. He has asked TfL to look at a new ferry between Canary Wharf and North Greenwich but there is also no mention of a replacement for the Woolwich Ferry where the ferries in use are nearing the end of their useful lives.

The new Silvertown Tunnel and the existing Blackwall Tunnel would be charged to pay for the construction of the former. Suggested figure is £2.50 per trip and there is a public inquiry being undertaken into the proposals of course.

Comment: This looks like a typical political compromise where Mr Khan is promoting his green credentials while at least pushing ahead with the urgently required new Silvertown Tunnel. But he has ducked some of the issues about the need for other crossings or a long term road structure plan. As Green Party London Assembly Member Caroline Russell has said, the measures appear to be “tokenistic”, i.e. it’s a political fudge to try and please eveyone.

Roger Lawson

Blackwall Tunnel Consultation

Transport for London (TfL) have launched a formal public consultation on proposals for a new Blackwall Tunnel to run alongside the existing one – called the Silvertown Tunnel. This is a summary they give of the reasons which certainly spells out why it is required:

“The Blackwall Tunnel is at the heart of east London’s strategic road network, linking the A12, the A13, the A2 and the A20. It is crucial to the success of the east London economy because it is the focus for most of the demand to cross the river by road in the east. The current levels of demand to use the Blackwall Tunnel greatly exceed the capacity of the tunnel, and there is regularly very significant congestion in and around the area. The tunnel itself was first opened in 1897 and was designed for horse & coaches. While the Blackwall Tunnel is accessible to most vehicles, it wasn’t designed for modern freight vehicles, or double deck buses. As a result, it is highly susceptible to disruptive incidents which can require that it be closed at very short notice.

The Silvertown Tunnel will reduce congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel, improve the resilience of the surrounding road network and support economic and population growth. In recognition of the importance of the project, it has been designated a ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project’.”

A queue of traffic on the approach to Blackwall Tunnel

A queue of traffic on the approach to Blackwall Tunnel

The old Blackwall tunnel bores will remain in use. There would be a charge to use both the old tunnel and the new Silvertown Tunnel which is likely to be (at today’s prices – no doubt more when built), of £1 off peak and £3 at peak times (the latter being 06.00 to 10.00 northbound and 16.00 to 19.00 southbound) – it will be free before 06.00 and after 22.00 hours.

The charge will be collected and enforced by cameras as with the Dartford crossing (i.e. it will be a free flow system with no toll booths, which of course means that there will be enormous numbers of fines incurred). There may be discounts for account holders and 100% discount for blue badge holders, low emission vehicles, taxis, private hire vehicles, buses and a few other categories.

Environmental impacts seem to be either minimal, or positive.

This writer is certainly in favour of this proposal and considers that the sooner it is progressed the better. But I do not like the charging scheme.

If you use the Blackwall Tunnel, please be sure to submit your comments to the public consultation a.s.a.p. at this web address:

Roger Lawson