Residents call for discount on planned tunnel tolls

Southern approach road entrance for Blackwall tunnel. Pic: Stephen Craven

Tower Hamlets residents are expressing their concern following plans to implement tolls for both Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels.  

Mayor of London Sadiq Kahn announced that tolls will be introduced on the tunnels in 2025, although the toll amount has not been officially stated. 

Some signs spotted by local residents around Blackwall Tunnel appeared to advertise a £4 car charge, but they subsequently disappeared.

One resident Alan Greenfield is petitioning to stop what he refers to as a “tax on residents”.  His petition refers to the Blackwall tunnel as a “vital artery in our community” and has over 360 signatures. He plans to take it to TfL in a bid for the tolling of Blackwall tunnel to be abandoned. If that fails, he aims for clarification over potential residential discounts. 

London Assembly reported that approximately 100,000 cars crossed the Blackwall Tunnel every day in 2021. Those travelling from the Southern approach road would enter beside Greenwich tube station and exit in Blackwall. 

Vehicles exiting the tunnel onto the Northern approach road, can continue North toward Greater London, West, and further East. This allows traffic to disperse through the city. 

Greenfield said: “Anyone wishing to get to Greenwich, or the other side of the river will try and avoid the £5.25 charge by going through Rotherhithe tunnel”. He believes this will increase gridlock traffic and pollution in Tower Hamlets.

Southern approach road entrance to Rotherhithe Tunnel Pic: Mike Peel

Freddie Downing, Conservative candidate for City and East in the London Assembly, referred to tolls as an “equity argument”, where East Londoner’s are disproportionately burdened with charges to cross the river. 

Trust for London reports that 39% of residents in Tower Hamlets fall below the poverty line. Downing notes that the toll, which is likely to be a fixed charge, will have a “disproportionate impact on those with low income”. 

MP Louie French, who represents Old Bexley and Sidcup, has also started a petition in attempts to stop the toll from being implemented. In a recent GB News interview, French claimed those in the South East have been consistently: “unfairly under-served” by TfL. French also notes the inequity of the distribution of tolls on bridges West of Tower Bridge.  

Mayor of London and TfL Chair Sadiq Kahn defended plans for the tolls in an interview with The Standard. He said: “the tunnel wasn’t paid for using tax-payers money or the TfL budget. It’s been paid for by borrowed against future receipts coming through the tunnel”.  

He also said in reference to the Blackwall Tunnel: “A few minutes closure leads to minutes and minutes of tailback going back miles, which leads to congestion and poor-quality air” and “South East London should have river crosses”.  

Downing doubts the mayor’s environmental incentives. He instead refers to them as: “revenue raisers which rely on people continuing to use their vehicles”. He insists that by “increasing capacity”, TfL will encourage new users to the tunnels.  

He has written two letters to the mayor seeking commitment to the discount residents will receive, and confirmation that the: “TfL has assessed what impact user charge might have on traffic levels at other crossings”. 

A Transport for London (TfL) spokesperson said: “The plan to introduce a charge for using the Blackwall Tunnel as part of the Silvertown Tunnel scheme was proposed in 2012 and formally approved by government ministers in 2018.

“The level of user charge has not yet been agreed, and TfL are working on proposals for a set of discounts and exemptions for people in the local area.”

Map of Silvertown and Blackwall tunnels Pic: Cnbrb

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