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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New Thames River Crossing at Rotherhithe?

Transport for London (TfL) are proposing a new river crossing between Rotherhithe (Canada Water) and Canary Wharf. Before you get too excited, this would be for pedestrians and cyclists only. Their preferred option is a bridge, although they have also considered a tunnel (more expensive even if done as a submerged tube), or a ferry (much cheaper).

The bridge would cost as much as £300 million but they estimate as many as a milllion pedestrian trips and 340,000 cycling trips per year would use the crossing. But recovering the cost over ten years would require the users to pay over £20 per trip. Needless to say, they are not being asked to pay for that as there would be no tolls or charges for use – at least they are not mentioned in the consultation documents.

Comment: the only option that makes any financial sense in my view is a ferry which is much cheaper and more flexible to cope with demand variation and inaccurate forecasts of usage. The Rotherhithe Tunnel can be used by pedestrians and cyclists but demand there is minimal so even TfL’s forecasts of usage seem optimistic to say the least.

Such large expenditure being considered for this project would surely be better spent on a proper road crossing (bridge/tunnel) further downstream which has been wanted for many years but gets continually delayed.

This could likely be another vanity project like Boris Johnson’s Emirates Cable Car, or the recently cancelled “Garden Bridge”. The cable car has over a million users a year and covers its operating costs at least, but is mainly used by tourists. At a return trip cost of £9, you can see why. It’s questionable whether it will ever recover its capital costs. Perhaps Mayor Sadiq Khan wants a bridge they can name after him as a legacy when he departs? There seems no good reason to build it otherwise. 

But it’s a good example of the financial profligacy to pander to the London electorate beloved by the current Mayor.

For more details or to respond to the public consultation on these proposals, please go to:

Roger Lawson


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