Ambitious plans for two new road tunnels under London have been unveiled by the Mayor’s Office and one of them is coming to Hackney.
The first 18-kilometre tunnel, the Northern City Cross Corridor, would provide a direct route from the A12 at Hackney Wick in the east to the A40 at Park Royal. According to the plans, it could be open in 20 years, and would be funded by tolls on drivers using the tunnel.
London Mayor Boris Johnson MP said: “London is booming and, as our great capital thrives, our ambitions for the veins and arteries that keep our city alive must grow with it. Around eight of every ten journeys in London are made using our roads – whether by car, taxi, motorbike, bus, cycle, foot, or freight – which is why it is vital that we think big.
“We must deliver long-term solutions that will not just make the most of the space we have for road users, but bring environmental and amenity improvements to local areas.”
The Mayor’s focus on road building has attracted some criticism from opponents. Sian Berry, Green Party candidate in this year’s mayoral election, told Eastlondonlines: “At a time when car use in central London is actually falling, it defies belief that the outgoing mayor is trying to bequeath two hideously expensive road projects on London.
“Building new roads always leads to more traffic, just look at the M25, which was billed as the answer to London’s traffic problems and is now derisively known as Britain’s largest car park.”
The announcement also brought confirmation that Transport for London plans to begin construction on the proposed Silvertown road tunnel between Greenwich and Newham as soon as 2018.
Berry said of the two projects: “Frankly I don’t think there’s much danger of these two east-west tunnels ever being built. The enormous financial costs, the planning hurdles and widespread public opposition would see to that. I wish I could say the same about the Silvertown tunnel, which took another step forward last week and would generate extra traffic and pollution in places where the levels of life-threatening nitrogen dioxide are already illegal.”
TfL’s Managing Director of Planning Richard de Cani defended the tunnelling plans, saying: “With London’s population set to soar over the next few decades we need to take a different long term approach to how we use London’s road space, to manage capacity and better utilise valuable land for housing and creating public spaces.”
London would not be the world’s first major city to build a large-scale road tunnel. Between 1991 and 2006 Boston saw a major project to bury inner-city highways in tunnels, known locally as the Big Dig. The Swedish capital Stockholm is currently embarking on its own tunnelling project, burying the E4 motorway in an 18-kilometre long tunnel under the city’s western suburbs.