Campaigners slam new East London transport links

Pic: Friends of the Earth

Local environmental activist groups have launched a campaign opposing TfL’s plans for two new crossings between east and south London.

Friends of the Earth have been holding a series of public meetings to address the consequences of the proposed Silvertown dual carriageway and the Gallions Reach ferry.

Residents of Greenwich and Tower Hamlets were invited to a meeting on January 28 at The Forum at Greenwich, to discuss air pollution, congestion, pedestrian safety and logistics surrounding the plans.

The Silvertown Tunnel has been proposed by TfL to help alleviate congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel, which suffers an average of 20-minute delays. It would connect Greenwich Penninsula with Silvertown, and would hold six lanes, two of which would be dedicated to public transport.

The Gallions Reach ferry would be a vehicle and pedestrian ferry connecting Thamesmead and Beckton. It may replace the current Woolwich Ferry.

Jenny Bates, chair of the Friends of Earth campaign said: “The more the population grows the more important it is to build more public transportation.  Not more roads.  We’ve been investing in public transportation and it works.”

John Elliott, transport consultant and previous city planning engineer, said: “Roads don’t relieve traffic.  They move it around but it’s going to be worse overall congestion.

“All the logic says that, widen the roads, and congestion will go away.  There’s so much evidence to show it doesn’t, and there’s so little evidence to show the traditional civil engineer’s argument: you deprive all capacity you relieve congestion – you’ll never solve congestion problems in London without reducing traffic.”

Dr Ian Mudway, lecturer in Respiratory Toxicology at Kings College, presented on the current state of air pollution in Hackney and Tower Hamlets, saying that East London would suffer from further air pollution:

“Tower Hamlets and Hackney have the highest rates of air pollution in London.  The danger is that children’s lungs develop up to the age of 15 years old and inhaling the rates of pollution that linger in the area will result in long-term, irreversible damage.

“We can not lose sight of a health agenda. There are potential victims of increasing the number of roads. We all breathe the air in the city, we don’t get a choice.

Mudway added: “Every single child living in Tower Hamlets lives within 500 metres of a major road.  They are, technically speaking, in harm’s way. People north of the river don’t need any more exposure.”

TfL said: “If the river crossing proposals are taken forward, TfL would conduct full environmental-impact assessments on the options suggested, and would seek to mitigate any negative impacts.

“Approximately 4,000 people responded to a previous consultation on this matter, in which 90 per cent agreed there was a need for more river crossings in East London.”

The current consultation period for the proposals started in October 2012 and close on February 1. If the scheme is approved it is predicted to reach completion in 2021.

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