No to Silvertown Tunnel

Don’t fall for TfL’s Silvertown Tunnel myths

In the lead-up to its October 2015 consultation, TfL’s social media team was busy conjuring up tweets trying to justify why it’s planning to waste £1bn on the Silvertown Tunnel.

Unfortunately for TfL, all they do is demonstrate just how weak the case for the toxic tunnel really is.

Most of the arguments fall down with a few seconds’ thought. Here are the lines pursued by TfL – and the truth behind them.

“Silvertown Tunnel would allow more reliable journeys for local residents and businesses.”

Reducing traffic is the only way to bring about more reliable journeys. Unfortunately, studies show new roads simply generate new traffic. For the Silvertown Tunnel, that means any relief for northbound trips is likely to be short-lived. Soutbound journeys are likely to get worse as the Silvertown Tunnel feeds into the existing A102/A2 route. Tolling won’t stop congestion – just ask regular users of the Dartford Crossing. It’ll also lead to more traffic heading to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, a flaw TfL admits to.

“Silvertown Tunnel would support east London’s continued population growth.”

Most Londoners commute to work on public transport, yet all TfL can offer is a new road scheme. And while tens of thousands of new homes are planned for areas such as Greenwich Peninsula over the next decade, they won’t be coming with tens of thousands of new car parking spaces.

The best way to support the continued population growth in east and south-east London is by investing in new public transport – such as extending the London Overground from Barking to Abbey Wood – and making it easier for people who’ll live in these new homes to walk or cycle to work, including building a walking and cycling link between North Greenwich and Canary Wharf.

“Silvertown Tunnel would provide better road connections to and from Docklands and east London from south London.”

The Silvertown Tunnel is essentially just a doubling in size of the existing Blackwall Tunnel link. On the north side, it would deposit drivers at the Tidal Basin Roundabout, which provides access to local roads through Silvertown, and the Lower Lea Crossing towards Canary Wharf. These roads are already under pressure – particularly during rush hours and when there are events on at ExCeL.

At best, it’s likely you’d exchange a traffic jam at Blackwall for one at Tidal Basin Roundabout. At worst, you’d get both. And of course, heading south, the new tunnel would feed into the A102, so you’d get worse jams heading southbound each evening.

“Just one bus route currently crosses the river in east London. Silvertown Tunnel would create the opportunity for more cross-river routes.”

Nothing’s stopping TfL introducing new buses now. New routes are welcome, but TfL doesn’t need to blow a billion pounds on a new tunnel for that to happen. Since 1970, only one service has used Blackwall Tunnel – the 108. The only thing blocking TfL from introducing new buses is TfL itself.

Don’t let TfL try to tell you the new tunnel will have a dedicated bus lane – buses will have to share that lane with HGVs.

Providing direct services across the river hasn’t been a priority for TfL in recent years. The 108 has had to endure a lengthy diversion via North Greenwich station for many years, eroding its usefulness as a cross-river link. The only service through the Rotherhithe Tunnel, the 395, was scrapped in 2006.

“Silvertown Tunnel would help reduce queuing traffic at Blackwall Tunnel.”

Only a fool would deny that traffic jams at Blackwall Tunnel aren’t a problem. But reducing those jams won’t happen by doubling the amount of road space.

The extra traffic the Silvertown Tunnel would continue to generate jams. Cars would still be queuing back down the A102 each morning.

Southbound queues on the A102 heading away from the Blackwall Tunnel each evening are often as bad as those approaching the tunnel in the morning, meaning slow journeys for drivers negotiating the A2 into Kent.

More traffic from a new tunnel would slow these journeys down further, generating more traffic and more pollution through Kidbrooke, Eltham and Bexleyheath.

A new tunnel would do nothing about southbound queues on the A12 through Bow and Poplar – meaning continued misery for those living next to the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach.

A tolled tunnel also risks sending traffic further into central London, generating new jams on routes to the free Rotherhithe Tunnel through Greenwich town centre, Deptford, New Cross, Stepney and Mile End.

“River crossings are about 2km apart in the west, 1km apart centrally but 8km in the east. That’s why we need Silvertown Tunnel in the east.”

Building the Silvertown Tunnel won’t do anything about the lack of road connectivity between east and south-east London – it’d share the same congested approach road as Blackwall Tunnel, and the huge gap between the Woolwich Ferry and Dartford Crossing would remain.

All those bridges in the west aren’t free of traffic either – in fact, they’re just as clogged up as Blackwall.

Even if you do believe building new roads would help, the Silvertown Tunnel offers nothing new, and threatens to make the existing situation worse.

“Vehicles create 60% more NOx sitting in congested traffic. Silvertown Tunnel would reduce queuing at Blackwall Tunnel & improve air quality.”

The Silvertown Tunnel won’t reduce queuing at Blackwall, so pollution won’t be cut. And it’ll generate new traffic and pollution elsewhere. TfL has even admitted this in past consultations.

Tolling isn’t an answer either – the Dartford Crossing is regularly congested, despite its steady expansion into two tunnels and a bridge.

And again, the Silvertown Tunnel would do little to help those who already suffer from pollution around the southbound route through Blackwall – down from the A12 in Bow and Poplar through to the A2 in Kidbrooke and Eltham.

Even though the Silvertown Tunnel has been proposed throughout most of Boris Johnson’s mayoralty, TfL still hasn’t completed any form of comprehensive environmental assessment on its plans – the current proposals merely contain “preliminary” assessments. Considering the levels of pollution we are exposed to from roads, this is unacceptable.

“Roads are vital to London with 90% of all goods, such as food, transported this way. Silvertown Tunnel is vital to help London grow.”

Building the Silvertown Tunnel would lead to more HGVs coming into inner London. At present, the northbound Blackwall Tunnel is too small and twisty to take huge lorries, so TfL wants to spend £1 billion to accommodate these – even though lorries leaving the Silvertown Tunnel at Tidal Basin Roundabout would have to take a contorted route to reach the A12 to continue heading north or A13 east.

The threat posed to local residents by HGVs was one of the reasons why Hackney Council resolved to oppose the Silvertown Tunnel this summer.

Long distance lorries from, say, Canterbury to Cambridge should not be coming through inner London – yet the Silvertown Tunnel will encourage this.

Of course roads are vital to London. But why would you spend a billion pounds on a new road that would only make the wider network less reliable?

“Silvertown Tunnel would improve local access to the area helping create more local jobs.”

“Silvertown Tunnel would open up new opportunities for local businesses.”

What employers and residents are really crying out for is new public transport connections – this came up in surveys conducted by TfL itself. Think of the boost Thamesmead would get from a London Overground connection across the Thames.

Or how Greenwich Peninsula would become an attractive place to work if it didn’t rely so heavily on the Jubilee Line.

All London’s big regeneration schemes have been boosted by new public transport – think of the effects the Docklands Light Railway, Jubilee Line and London Overground have had. But the Silvertown Tunnel would offer very little. It’d also make its immediate surroundings less attractive.

As for creating new access for tradespeople who use vans and trucks – they’ll be the only people in London to rely on a toll road to cross the river. A plumber heading home from Barking to Bexleyheath would find southbound jams worse than today.

Here are two other tweets that show how the Silvertown Tunnel risks overloading the traffic network south of the river:

Some of these incidents are far away from the tunnel – but think how bad these queues would be with extra cars and HGVs using these roads.

A short history of Greenwich Peninsula river crossings

2015 No to Silvertown Tunnel pollution study results

Campaigner Chris Taylor gets to grips with a pollution tube in our citizen science study

Campaigner Chris Taylor gets to grips with a pollution tube in our citizen science study

Our third study, in February 2015, measured nitrogen dioxide levels at 25 locations in Poplar, Canning Town and Silvertown, across the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham. Once again, we used tubes attached to lamp posts.

Most readings were above the EU legal limit of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre, with some near double the level.

Dots indicate where we placed tubes. The star indicates the northern exit from the Siilvertown Tunnel.

Dots indicate where we placed tubes. The star indicates the northern exit from the Siilvertown Tunnel.

Nitrogen dioxide pollution at the tunnel’s proposed northern exit at Tidal Basin Roundabout is already at 65µg/m³, while the junction of East India Dock Road and Leamouth Road – which will see extra HGVs heading to the A12 – saw readings of 75µg/m³.

We also recorded 71µg/m³ where Newham Way meets Butchers Road in Canning Town, close to Kier Hardie Primary School.

Nitrogen dioxide levels at North Woolwich Road, by the Britannia Village housing development, reached 63µg/m³, while levels outside Hadlow Primary School in Canning Town break EU limits at 44µg/m³.

On Poplar’s Aberfeldy Estate, we found levels of 63µg/m³ on Abbott Road.

Mapping For Change, a charity which helps local communities campaign on issues relating to their neighbourhoods, funded this study.

Backers of the Silvertown Tunnel include Newham’s elected mayor Sir Robin Wales, who admitted to MPs earlier this year that his borough would see more congestion as a result of the scheme.

“The Silvertown Tunnel is being sold as a silver bullet for pollution and congestion, but in fact it’ll make matters worse by making it easier for heavy lorries to come into east London from Kent and the Channel ports,” No to Silvertown Tunnel chair Nikki Coates said.

“We’re being told it’s needed to relieve Blackwall Tunnel congestion, but existing routes north of the river such as the Lower Lea Crossing and East India Dock Road already struggle to cope with traffic levels.

“We shouldn’t be encouraging HGVs to use east and south-east London as a bypass – the consequences will reach far and wide. Instead we need better measures to deal with oversized lorries before they reach Blackwall Tunnel, and more investment in better walking, cycling and rail connections across the Thames.”

What we did
2014 No to Silvertown Tunnel pollution study results

2014 No to Silvertown Tunnel pollution study results

2014 No to Silvertown Tunnel pollution study results

People across south-east London are living with air pollution levels of as much as two-and-a-half times over European legal limits – and this is set to get worse if plans for two huge construction projects get the go-ahead.

Local campaigners joined forces to monitor nitrogen dioxide levels at 150 sites across south-east and east London during January, in what’s believed to be the largest “citizen science” air pollution study ever seen in the capital.

Pollution testing in Greenwich town centre

The readings, which were taken at sites across five London boroughs, show horrifying pollution levels right where people live, work, shop, and go to school.

Prolonged exposure to air pollution causes respiratory problems and can lead to cancer. Pollution from motor vehicles can also affect the development of children’s lungs.

Yet plans to build the Silvertown road tunnel between Greenwich and the Royal Docks, piling more pressure onto the local road network as more road capacity encourages more traffic, will make pollution worse in the long term.

Meanwhile, Thames Water’s proposal to build a 17m wide shaft on Deptford Church Street as part of its “super sewer” plans involve the partial closure of a major road artery for over a year, causing chaos on all major roads in the area.

Results included:

  • A nitrogen dioxide level of 110 microgrammes per cubic metre was recorded at the New Cross one-way system – well over two and a half times the EU legal limit of 40µg/m³, and blighting homes, student halls and Goldsmiths College. In total, five sites on the A2 from Deptford to New Cross recorded levels over double the EU limit.
  • Lee High Road, in Lewisham town centre, recorded a score of 109 µg/m³. The road network here will come under extra pressure if the Silvertown Tunnel is built.
  • Children walking to school in Charlton face a level of 104 µg/m³ at the Bramshot Avenue underpass, underneath the congested A102, which is expected to cope with extra traffic from the Silvertown Tunnel, which Boris Johnson has said will double the capacity of traffic to cross the river.
  • Levels of twice the EU limit on Millennium Way, Greenwich Peninsula, where Greenwich Council plans to build a new primary school. Levels well above the the EU limit were also recorded outside the Royal Greenwich University Technical College, Windrush and Fossdene primary schools in Charlton, as well as Deptford Park primary school and Deptford Green and Addey & Stanhope secondary schools.
  • Our tube on the Catford one-way system recorded a figure of 88 µg/m³ – more than twice the EU limit.
  • Greenwich’s historic town centre, a world heritage site, is blighted by air pollution at almost twice the EU limit.
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The study was carried out between 6 January and 7 February 2014. If it hadn’t been the wettest January since records began, it’s likely the results would have been far worse.

Recent media coverage of the Saharan dust cloud over London brought air pollution issues into the spotlight – but the dust cloud only made the capital’s poor air quality more visible.

The campaigners now plan to combine their figures with local authority data to get a full picture of air pollution across the area.

The groups behind the study were No To Silvertown Tunnel and Don’t Dump on Deptford’s Heart, with backing from Network For Clean Air, which helps citizens carry out pollution studies in their communities.

No To Silvertown Tunnel conducted tests across the borough of Greenwich, as well as locations in Lewisham, Catford, Welling, Bexleyheath, and in parts of Newham borough. Many of these locations will see increased traffic levels if the Silvertown Tunnel gets the go-ahead, putting increased pressure on the A2/A102 and surrounding main roads. It follows an earlier No To Silvertown Tunnel study carried out in summer 2013.

Don’t Dump on Deptford’s Heart tested sites in Deptford, New Cross, Rotherhithe and Greenwich. Thames Water’s plans include a big rise in HGV movements from Deptford Church Street to the A2, on top of massively increased HGV traffic from other new developments such as Convoys Wharf, recently approved by Boris Johnson, where 3,500 luxury flats will be built.

Darryl Chamberlain from No To Silvertown Tunnel says:

“Local politicians are backing dangerous plans for the Silvertown Tunnel rather than taking a stand against the lethal air pollution that blights our communities, and the traffic that causes it. A new tunnel will only bring extra traffic – it won’t bring relief from congestion or pollution.

“Generations of local people have paid the price for their lack of investment in new public transport, walking and cycling facilities, while politicians prioritise the profits of property developers over people.

“It’s time we took a stand and worked together to reduce the traffic on our roads, instead of encouraging more vehicles from Kent and Essex to clog up our roads and pollute our neighbourhoods. Greenwich Council, Newham Council and the Mayor of London must rethink their support for the Silvertown Tunnel before it’s too late.”

Sue Lawes from Don’t Dump on Deptford’s Heart says:

“The Thames Water plan includes 17,400 HGV movements over three years from Deptford Church Street to the A2. Reducing Church Street to two lanes will result in slower and potentially stationary traffic, causing rat running on local roads such as Creekside and Deptford High Street, where levels are already above EU limits.

“At the same time 90 HGVs a day will be coming from a new development on Creekside, whilst the 10-year construction at Convoys will introduce unimaginable numbers of HGVs onto Creek Road, Deptford Church Street and the A2.

“Thames Water originally chose a site by the river where pollution levels are low and which didn’t involve any road closures, but changed their minds because it was less expensive to dump on Deptford Church Street.”

Andrew Wood of Network for Clean Air says:

“These results bear out what we know: the failure of Boris Johnson to address air pollution is damaging health and London’s economic development.

“The Mayor of London needs to immediately appoint a Commissioner for Air Quality with a task force to knock heads together; bring forward the start date of the proposed Ultra Low Emission Zone, and extend it to at least all the inner London boroughs – including Greenwich and Lewisham – which have harmful and unlawful levels of air pollution.”

With many thanks to our army of volunteers including Jill Austen, Anthony Austin, Jenny Bates, Adam Bienkov, Ian Blore, Darryl Chamberlain, Stewart Christie, Nikki Coates, Richard Dinkeldein, Sally Edwards, Barbara Gill, Terry Grant, Clare Griffiths, Clay Harris, Alan Haughton, Annie Keys, Jenny O’Keefe, Mike O’Keefe, Clem Riches, Francis Sedgemore, Dave Sharman, Alan Shaw, Chris Smith, Joe Swift and Chris Taylor. Apologies if we’ve missed anybody.

We’d also like to acknowledge the contribution of our corporate sponsor, independent DevOps consultancy Scale Factory, which sponsored tubes in the Catford and Woolwich areas. We’d also like thank our other donors: Paul Megson, Stuart Mayell, Deborah Corcoran and Anthony Austin.

Thanks also to the Don’t Dump on Deptford’s Heart volunteers, including Nick Williams, Sue Lawes, Emma Redstone, Harry Richardson, Helena Russell, Keith Tillman, Joe Dromey, Brenda Dacres and Peter Hill.

2015 No to Silvertown Tunnel pollution study results

4 thoughts on “2014 No to Silvertown Tunnel pollution study results

  1. Clare

    Bearing in mind the bit of Hither Green Lane where we had the tube was closed to all traffic for two weeks of the time we had the tubes up, that reading of 52 is appalling.

    1. Marie

      How can I get in touch with someone who knows about this in Lee. The proposed Leegate redevelopment is only going to add to the existing problems.

  2. Pingback: A102 fire shows why the Silvertown Tunnel's an insane idea | No to Silvertown Tunnel

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Donate to No to Silvertown Tunnel

Donate to No to Silvertown Tunnel

Donate to No to Silvertown Tunnel

Unlike the backers of the Silvertown Tunnel, we’re not rich housebuilders or construction companies. And unlike Transport for London, Greenwich Council and Newham Council, we don’t have millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to draw upon.

Our activities so far – air quality studies and last year’s public meeting – have been funded out of our organisers’ own pockets, while we’ve also had some outside funding for the air quality experiments (thanks to Network for Clean Air and Lush).

But we need help to spread the word. Donations to help us pay for publicity materials and further studies into pollution and congestion would mean our message reaches more people.

Please send any donations to:

Sort code: 08-92-99
Account number: 65714195

The last thing London needs is this new road tunnel. If you can spare some money, we’d be very grateful – and we think future generations of Londoners will be grateful too. Thanks for your time in reading this site.

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Committee meetings schedule

Committee meetings schedule

Committee meetings schedule

We hold our committee meetings at Mycenae House, Mycenae Road, Blackheath.

Our committee meetings start at 8pm on these dates:

4 February, 18 February (AGM), 10 March, 14 April, 12 May, 9 June, 14 July, 11 August.

Any member can attend a committee meeting. So we can be sure of numbers, if you plan to attend, please complete the form below to let us know you’ll be there.

Our committee members

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  1. Pingback: March update | No to Silvertown Tunnel

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Our committee members

Our committee members

Our committee members

There are nine of us on the campaign committee, four of whom are officers. Here’s a bit more about us:

Chair: Nikki Coates has lived in Charlton for seven years and hopes to live there for many more years to come. She worked in business analysis and project management for a large bank for 14 years but is currently taking a career break.  She is a committee member of the Charlton Society, and is working on a handful of local campaigns at time of writing.

Secretary: Clare Griffiths lives in Catford and has two school-age children. She has recently been campaigning for the borough of Lewisham to adopt a 20mph zone across its roads. She is vice chair of governors at a local primary school and involved in the Friends of Mountsfield Park. When she’s not busy with all of that Clare is a project manager in public health research.

Treasurer: Chris Taylor joined the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign after taking part in our first citizen science experiment, when he realised just how dangerous the proposed tunnel is. He has lived in South East London for about ten years.  By day he works in project finance, dealing with companies that specialise in renewable energy.  Outside work he is a keen cyclist – so the state of London’s roads impacts him directly – and was a founder member and treasurer of Fridays FC, a local football team.

Membership Secretary:  Darryl Chamberlain lived next to the Woolwich Road flyover for more than 20 years after his family moved to Greenwich in the mid-1970s. He knows from personal experience the cost of having such high levels of traffic in the local area, which spurred him onto help start the original anti-Silvertown Tunnel petition in December 2012. He is a journalist who also writes about local issues on his 853 blog and contributes to the Charlton Champion website.

Jill Austen has lived in south-east London all her life and in Charlton for the past 35 years.  She is a teacher and governor at a local school and a committee member of a local branch of a teachers’ union.  Other interests include local history, walking, gardening and lots more.

Adam Bienkov was one of the two original co-founders of our group, and is a journalist for He has contributed to a wide range of newspapers, magazines and websites including The Guardian, MSN News, New Statesman, and Snipe magazine.

Hayley Fletcher has lived in Woolwich all her life and was a local councillor, representing Kidbrooke with Hornfair, between 2010 and 2014. While a councillor she chaired the Sustainable Communities and Transport Scrutiny Panel and served on local planning committees. She works for a regulator and is working hard to become a better cyclist.

Anne Robbins lives in Westcombe Park, and is a member of both the Westcombe Society environment committee and the Friends of East Greenwich Pleasaunce committee.  She is part of PiP! (Planting in the Pleasaunce), which is growing a small orchard, and she is also supports the Edge Fund.  A former bookseller, Anne has an MA in Medieval History and loves to plant trees.

Stewart Christie is a local campaigner on many issues, including the Woolwich Grand theatre and the No to Gallions Campaign.


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Press coverage

Press coverage

Press coverage

Since the original No to Silvertown Tunnel petition was launched in December 2012, we’ve been lucky enough to get good coverage in the media. Here’s a selection of stories featuring our campaign.

Greenwich Mercury, 17 September

Greenwich Mercury, 17 Sep 2012

Thames Tunnel from Silvertown to Greenwich: Whose side are you on? (News Shopper, 4 Jan 2013)
Labour mayoral hopeful Christian Wolmar attacks plans for third Blackwall Tunnel (Snipe, 9 Jan 2013)
Newham Council launches campaign for river crossings (East London Advertiser, 4 Jan 2013)
Divisions deep in London’s river crossings debate (The Wharf, 17 Jan 2013)
What can Londoners expect from new Thames tunnel? Lethal pollution (The Guardian, 24 Jan 2013)
Greenwich Silvertown Tunnel campaigners in pollution danger warning (News Shopper, 23 Sep 2013)
River crossings ‘could make pollution worse’ in London (BBC London News, 4 October 2013)
Silvertown Tunnel campaigners reveal pollution hotspots (News Shopper, 14 Oct 2013)
Silvertown Tunnel ‘would create a motorway in Greenwich’ (News Shopper, 17 Oct 2013)
Greenwich Liberal Democrats come out against Silvertown Tunnel (News Shopper, 6 Nov 2013)
Campaign against Silvertown Tunnel steps up (Newham Recorder, 18 Mar 2014)
‘Secret’ Silvertown Tunnel report revealed as congestion and pollution fears mount (News Shopper, 11 May 2014)
Call to bring London Overground to Thamesmead (News Shopper, 22 September 2014)
Call for four new Thames crossings (Financial Times, 14 October 2014)
Thames crossings proposals unveiled (BBC News, 14 October 2014)
Jill Austen talks about air pollution on Greenwich Peninsula (ITV News London, 8 December 2014)
Campaigners urge council to intervene on ‘toxic’ tunnel (News Shopper, 10 Dec 2014)
Why Silvertown Tunnel should never be built, according to roads expert (The Wharf, 22 January 2015)
Anti-Silvertown Tunnel group appeal for air quality help (The Wharf, 27 January 2015)

If you’re a journalist looking to cover our campaign, feel free to get in touch:

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