Council says ‘no’ to Silvertown Tunnel

Pic: Alli Schultes

Lewisham council believe that new plans will increase the poor air quality in the area. Pic: Alli Shultes

The construction of Silvertown Tunnel has been criticised by Lewisham council which says it is “simply not good enough.” The council has unanimously called on its mayor to oppose the plans.

TfL’s proposed four-lane tunnel will connect Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docklands, doubling the road capacity crossing the Thames in east London, if approved by Patrick McLoughlin, secretary of state for transport.

Councillor Kevin Bonavia, who introduced the motion, criticised the lack of improvement for public transport. He said: “We do want improvement in transport, of all modes of transport, but we particularly want to encourage public transport. This proposal will only harm the already poor congestion and poor air quality that our residents face.”

The plans for Silvertown Tunnel were also opposed by Hackney Council in July of this year.

The proposed tunnel is in response to high congestion at Blackwall, which connects Greenwich and Tower Hamlets. The crossing is the only one in the area that runs north and south. As a result, if an accident occurs in the tunnel congestion worsens as there are no alternative routes.

TfL found that Blackwall has nearly four times as many closures as similar tunnels, like the Rotherhithe Tunnel and Limehouse Link.

Councillor Susan Wise said: “One thing that we must remember is that east London is very, very poorly served by river crossings. If anyone crashes into the Blackwall Tunnel or the Rotherhithe Tunnel, southeast London and east London are completely gridlocked — and believe me, I’ve been stuck in it more than once.”

The Blackwall Tunnel was listed by the Greater London Authority as an air quality focus area two years ago because of high emissions of nitrogen dioxide — the air pollution produced by cars — and high human exposure to air toxins.

TfL predicts that traffic will be reduced if tolls are in place — and the tolls would fund the project’s £1 billion price tag. By spreading traffic across two tunnels and discouraging car commuters with tolls, it hopes to reduce overall emissions.

Councillor Rachel Onikoski said: “I believe that TfL are overrating their proposals as an outright congestion-killer when in fact the proposed position of the tunnel will run southeast heading north, relying on the same network of roads between Lewisham and North Greenwich, networks which we currently use at the moment in accessing Blackwall Tunnel.”

“Building the proposed Silvertown Tunnel in the way described will only increase the concentration of toxic air at a time when robust air quality mechanisms should be looked at as an integral part of transport and construction policy.” She added.

While the council supports increasing transportation links across the river, it proposes that crossings be built further east and take London’s air quality into consideration.

Local campaign groups have opposed construction as outlined in TfL’s consultation, citing inconclusive research on potential repercussions to health.

Members of the organisations No to Silvertown Tunnel and Don’t Dump on Deptford’s Heart teamed up with Network for Clean Air to investigate levels of nitrogen dioxide along the tunnel’s routes.

They found that levels of the toxin were already over that of EU emissions standards — and in some places it was double the recommended level.

Nikki Coates, chair of No to Silvertown Tunnel, said: “We’re pleased Lewisham has become the second borough to pass a motion against the Silvertown Tunnel. It shows it’s not just a parochial issue in Greenwich and Newham – by generating more traffic, the Silvertown Tunnel will affect people’s lives across south and east London.”

Public consultation on the project ends on Sunday, November 29.

At the time of publication, ELL is still awaiting comment from TfL.

Follow Alli Shultes on Twitter: @alli_shultes92

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