The growl of revved engines echoes around the tunnel, as one by one by the high-end sports cars roar off into the darkness. Drivers and vehicles line up to take their turn. This could be Monaco: status symbols racing along public roads, ‘car club’ members showing off their latest toy to anyone who cares to look.
Only this isn’t Monaco. This is Blackwall Tunnel on a Saturday night, and these roads have not been closed for the event.
‘Tunnel runs’, as they are called, have been taking place in the east end of the capital for several years, with participants often meeting at Westferry Circus before heading off around a route that takes them through some of east London’s busiest thoroughfares.
Yet the runs have now grown so popular that they are becoming disruptive for residents, who have started approaching local MP Jim Fitzpatrick to ask if anything can be done to stop them.
Fitzpatrick has now written letters to both Tower Hamlets police and the council to demand action. He said: “These cars use the tunnels and the route for no other purpose than to showcase the sound and speed of their cars.,
“Videos posted online show dangerous and loud street car racing which belongs in a Hollywood movie and not the streets of east London.”
According to the MP’s office, what used to be an occasional nuisance has become a monthly occurrence. Constituents have raised concerns about the late night noise, as tunnel runs usually start between 12am and 1am. They have also complained about being unable to use the tunnel.
Fitzpatrick said that a dispersal zone has already been instigated by Essex police to prevent similar events from happening there. He said: “As well as causing a disturbance to residents, the fast cars endanger motorists on the road.
“We need these tunnel runs off the road which means a dispersal zone and barriers on race nights.”
The runs have become an online phenomenon, with blogs, videos and Twitter hashtags capturing the attention of a world wide audience. A search for ‘Blackwall tunnel run’ on Youtube gives more than 100 results, with the most popular video having received over 20,000 views.
The Twitter account @MissBanzai has been set up to alert fans of when ‘Japanese only’ runs are taking place, and on 20 October tweeted “Well, another Tunnel Run draws to a close. 3hrs from Start to Finish for most, 10 Tunnels, 265 Jap Motors woke up London one more time”.
Organisers of the tunnel runs have argued that the events are legal and are often used to raise money for charity. They also make it clear on their Facebook group that they do not promote dangerous driving.
The Metropolitan Police said the letter had been received but that a response had not yet been prepared. The next tunnel run is planned for November 17.