Fight this toxic tunnel: TfL launches new consultation into polluting, congesting Silvertown Tunnel

Smog and traffic which can only get heavier: Charlton Road, 5pm on 2 April

A typical evening rush hour on the southbound A102 – a jam the Silvertown Tunnel will only exacerbate

Transport for London is launching a new consultation into its Silvertown Tunnel proposals this week, and has released images of what the scheme, which it’s already spent £2.5 million on, could look like if built.

Strangely enough, they don’t show the southbound traffic jam that traffic exiting the tunnel would hit on the A102 – so we’ve included a picture above, which also shows the smog that blights air quality around the tunnel approaches.

In Greenwich, a new flyover would be constructed just north of the remaining gas-holder, to allow traffic leaving the Blackwall Tunnel to cross that heading into the Silvertown Tunnel, which would run roughly under the line of the Thames Cable Car.

Silvertown Tunnel south proposal

The northbound image is slightly harder to fathom out, but at the Silvertown end, the tunnel would emerge at the Lower Lea Crossing roundabout, allowing easy access for Kent car commuters to access Canary Wharf as well as to the Royal Docks.


It’s worth noting that Canary Wharf Group – recently identified as being behind an anonymous campaign against new cycling lanes in central London – is one of the firms backing the Silvertown Tunnel.

Here’s TfL’s video, showing a seamless journey through a computer-generated tunnel.

But this is the current reality, with events at ExCeL already clogging up the Lower Lea Crossing and bringing this part of east London to a standstill. This video was shot by a Royal Docks resident in February during the Cycle Show. Remember, this is traffic that’s already there, and it isn’t looking to cross the river. The Silvertown Tunnel would make this congestion far, far worse.

The consultation will be published at on Wednesday.

Transport for London claims there’s overwhelming public backing for the tunnel – but this has to be taken with a big pinch of salt. Nobody’s been given the full facts about the Silvertown Tunnel. And we’re finding many people simply aren’t aware, or believe the plans have been superseded by proposals for other crossings further down the river.

Current Greenwich Council leader Denise Hyland supporting the Silvertown Tunnel in January 2013. Strangely, the council didn't hand out any of its pro-tunnel postcards in the areas that would be affected by the tunnel...

Current Greenwich Council leader Denise Hyland supporting the Silvertown Tunnel in January 2013. We hope Greenwich will change its mind and back residents rather than big businesses

Indeed, in December 2012, Greenwich Council and Newham Council encouraged residents to support Silvertown with a misleading “Bridge The Gap” campaign – with Greenwich’s weekly newspaper, delivered to every home in the borough, carrying eight consecutive issues of pro-tunnel propaganda, tapping into the frustrations of those who get stuck in morning queues on the A102. (Greenwich later shelved a report from Hyder Consulting that pointed out the Silvertown Tunnel would quickly overwhelm local traffic.)

There’s no data to back up TfL’s claims that it’ll be some kind of economic shot in the arm. And promised traffic and environmental studies haven’t been done.

What we do know is that building new roads merely increases traffic – this 1994 Government report, Trunk Roads and the Generation of Traffic, is the most authoritative study into the matter. So the Silvertown Tunnel threatens to reverse the long-term decline in car use in the area.

And it’s increased public transport provision – the Jubilee Line, East London Line, Docklands Light Railway and Crossrail – that’s driven growth in east and south-east London. The Greenwich Peninsula would still be a wasteland if a third Blackwall Tunnel had been built, and the Jubilee Line had skipped it, as was seriously considered in the 1990s.

Nobody likes wasting time sitting in traffic jams. If we give people alternative ways to cross the river, people will use them.

Throwing £753m (and rising) at building a road tunnel that’ll only fill up within a couple of years is a shocking waste of money when schemes like the Barking-Thamesmead Overground link and the Bakerloo Line extension to Lewisham and Catford need funding. To put it in perspective, scrapping the Silvertown Tunnel would pay for Woolwich Arsenal station to be moved into zone 3 – making cross-river transport easier and cheaper for millions – for up to 750 years.

Newham Waterfront Festival

We talked to residents at the Newham Waterfront Festival in September – and found many simply weren’t aware of the tunnel proposals

Over the past two years, the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign has launched the first petition against the tunnel, held a public meeting outlining the case against the tunnel, talked to locals at summer events, and revealed the shocking levels of air quality along the southbound approaches through two citizen science surveys. Committee members Darryl Chamberlain and Stewart Christie were given Clean Air in Cities awards to recognise our work in highlighting an issue which is killing people in communities north and south of the Thames – one our politicians will only make worse with a new tunnel.

We’ve also contributed to MPs’ questioning of Mayor Boris Johnson on air pollution issues, responded to the last crossings consultation, met local politicians to outline our concerns, and launched a petition to make one of those alternative public transport links – a Barking to Thamesmead and Abbey Wood London Overground extension – a reality.

It’s time to step up the fight against this toxic tunnel. Our politicians need to realise that the Silvertown Tunnel will be lethal for communities on both sides of the Thames. Our committee’s already working hard against the tunnel, but the more you can do to help us, the more of a chance we have of seeing this off.

Please tell your neighbours, lobby your local politicians, come to one of our open meetings – or email if you can offer any help.

Here’s the quote we’ve sent the press today…

“Once again, Transport for London’s pushing its toxic tunnel with no evidence to back up its wild claims that it’ll reduce traffic congestion or boost our economy. TfL and the mayor think this is a done deal – we’ll fight this mad plan all the way.

“The surrounding traffic network in Greenwich, Newham, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets can’t cope with a doubling in capacity – the Lower Lea Crossing won’t be able to cope, the A206 won’t be able to cope, and nor will the A2 a couple of miles south of the tunnel. Southbound queues on the A102 are horrendous in rush hour – why add to them?

“There’s already a body of evidence about road-building that points to the Silvertown Tunnel causing worse queues, worse congestion, and making life miserable for residents on both sides of the Thames. Air pollution is killing people in communities north and south of the river – yet our politicians seem content to make it worse.

“This is the traffic equivalent of moving the deckchairs on the Titanic. Transport for London is deluded if it thinks the Silvertown Tunnel will cure congestion. There’s nothing in this for locals – it’ll just encourage Kent car commuters to drive to Canary Wharf.

“This £753m waste of money needs to be binned – and the money put towards proper crossings for public transport, walking and cycling instead.”