Politicians in Greenwich and Newham need to “get the sand out of their eyes”, and accept that building new roads will only make air pollution worse, says the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign.
Dust from a sandstorm in the Sahara has all too visibly contributed this week to air pollution in London and elsewhere, but by far the biggest airborne hazard to our and our children’s health is invisible. This pollution is man-made, and comes in the form of vehicle exhaust emissions.
Children, walkers, joggers and cyclists eager to enjoy the welcome spring warmth and sunshine have been advised to stay indoors, but no politician has so far had the courage to warn people against driving in London during the latest pollution incident. Contrast this with Paris, which imposes temporary driving restrictions to protect the population.
London mayor Boris Johnson, supported by borough councils in Greenwich, Newham and Bexley, is enthusiastically backing plans for a Silvertown road tunnel linking Greenwich and the Royal Docks. Unashamedly dubbed by Johnson “Blackwall 2”, the proposed Silvertown Tunnel will bring more yet traffic to the already highly congested Blackwall Tunnel approaches and Lower Lea Crossing.
It will blight local communities, worsening the quality of life in areas such as Greenwich, Eltham, Charlton, Blackheath, Kidbrooke, Canning Town, Poplar and beyond.
A wealth of traffic engineering studies show that roadbuilding tends to increase traffic levels and congestion rather than smooth existing traffic flow. Increased air pollution then follows, and as a result we all suffer, with our children experiencing the worst of it. Their bodies are still forming, and are thus especially susceptible to long-term damage from the environmental toxins in motor vehicle exhausts.
Other London boroughs, including Lewisham and Tower Hamlets, have expressed grave concerns about the effect of a Silvertown Tunnel. However, Greenwich and Newham councils are strongly in favour of a new road tunnel.
The No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign says locals should be quizzing candidates in next month’s council election about whether they back a road-building project which will blight their neighbourhoods.
No to Silvertown Tunnel spokesman Darryl Chamberlain says: “The Saharan dust cloud is natural, but the pollution caused by traffic is man-made.
“Joggers have been told not to take their exercise, but nobody is addressing the root cause of air pollution. That is motor traffic.
“Instead, we have local politicians who want to make matters worse by building a Silvertown road tunnel, even though there is not a shred of evidence that it will bring real economic benefits. A Silvertown Tunnel will only add to traffic congestion which is already unbearable.
“Politicians need to get the sand out of their eyes. A Silvertown tunnel is no solution to our pollution.”