Greenwich councillors must reject Boris’s toxic tunnel to protect new school

John Harrison Way

St Mary Magdalene school is taking shape behind these hoardings on John Harrison Way, in Greenwich Millennium Village

Greenwich Council should reject plans to build a new road tunnel from the Royal Docks to Greenwich Peninsula to protect children attending a new school it is building close to one of London’s most congested roads, campaigners said today.

The No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign spoke out after MPs recommended that new schools should not be built close to main roads, as the pollution caused by traffic damages children’s lungs for life.

The Environmental Audit Committee recommended that new schools, hospitals and care homes should not be built on main roads, and existing schools by main roads should have air filtration systems included. No to Silvertown Tunnel contributed to the inquiry.

Despite Greenwich Council building a new school on the Greenwich Peninsula – St Mary Magdalene, due to fully open in 2015 – Transport for London plans to build the Silvertown Tunnel, feeding extra traffic into the A102, which passes the school site.

The Silvertown Tunnel will generate new traffic on the existing Blackwall Tunnel approaches, failing to clear northbound congestion, exacerbating southbound queues, and putting the wider road network under heavier strain.

A citizen science study carried out by No to Silvertown Tunnel in January showed high levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air close to the St Mary Magdalene site, which is opposite the existing Millennium Primary School.

Other schools close to roads affected by the Silvertown Tunnel scheme include Halstow Primary in Greenwich and Invicta Primary in Blackheath.

Greenwich Millennium Village pollution

Nitrogen dioxide levels at Greenwich Millennium Village, recorded in January 2014. The St Mary Magdalene school will open on the site marked “coach park”, between Millennium Way and John Harrison Way. Figures over 40 microgrammes per cubic metre break European legal limits.

“The Environmental Audit Committee report underlines that it is insanity to build new roads through urban areas such as ours,” No to Silvertown Tunnel campaigner Jill Austen said.

“This report should be a wake-up call for policymakers and councillors across London and the rest of the UK – they can’t keep on demanding new roads when the effects of those roads damage children’s health.

“The only way you will deal with congestion is by taking traffic off the roads. Expanding capacity has been proved time and time again to be counterproductive.”

On the specific proposals in Greenwich, Jill added:

“Greenwich Council is right to be opening a much-needed new school on the peninsula. But if it’s to follow this policy through properly, it has to oppose a road project that will put the health of children across the borough at risk.

“Councillors can’t cross their fingers and hope there’ll be a magic road tunnel that won’t cause extra traffic or pollution – because that simply won’t happen.

“They need to face up to their responsibilities to children at St Mary Magdalene, Millennium Primary and other schools across the borough and oppose this dangerous scheme. Future generations deserve better than to have their health blighted by this toxic tunnel.”

Transport for London’s latest Silvertown Tunnel consultation closes on 19 December. To respond, please visit Please also tell your local councillors, MP and London Assembly members what you think – get their details at

Tell TfL: No to Silvertown Tunnel! Some tips on filling out the consultation

Another southbound A102 jam

Transport for London’s consultation into the Silvertown Tunnel is ongoing. You can find out more about why the tunnel’s such a bad idea on the rest of our webpages. We’ve already submitted our response – and you should submit yours too at

If you’re looking for some ideas, here are our suggested responses. Everyone will have a slightly different views, so feel free to add your own comments, or amend ours as you see fit.

Wherever you live, please also tell your local councillors, London Assembly members and MP you object to the Silvertown Tunnel. Find them at

6. What do you think about the consultation itself? (leaflets, websites, publicity, etc)

  • More assessment of traffic flows and environmental and economic impact is required. Much of the evidence I need to reach a final decision on the merits of the Silvertown Tunnel is not available at this stage.
  • The timing of this consultation, and that of the previous consultation into a replacement for the Woolwich Ferry, has been confusing. The Woolwich Ferry consultation assumed that Silvertown would be built, and this consultation assumes there will be some replacement of the current ferry that allows for 30% more volume of traffic. This makes it impossible to deal with each case on its merits, and to have confidence in what the aim of this consultation is.
  • Publicity for this consultation has been inconsistent and has missed key affected areas. Drop-in consultation clinics are not advertised or signposted in the local area.
  • Misleading information was released in conjunction with the launch of this consultation. TfL claimed 98% of those surveyed in the Woolwich Ferry consultation were in favour of ‘new river crossings’, when this figure included those who merely wanted to see the Woolwich Ferry continue with new vessels.

7. We consider that a new crossing is needed to improve the resilience of the road network in east London, relieve congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel and beyond and to support growth in London’s population. Do you agree that a new crossing is needed and could successfully address these issues?


  • In the last decade, London’s population has grown while car use has dropped.
    Resilience will not be improved by adding additional traffic to the pinch points north and south of the tunnel.
  • As TfL’s modelling is not open to scrutiny, we are asked to take assurances that there will be less congestion on trust. I demand greater openness on how TfL models traffic – after all, it us who face living with greater congestion and pollution if you get it wrong.

8. Would you support a user charge that was similar to Dartford charges levels, and during peak periods slightly higher, to help pay for the new crossing and resulting in more reliable journey times and less overall delays?

  • TfL has no evidence that tolling set at Dartford levels would adequately manage demand for the crossing.
  • Greenwich, Deptford, Poplar and Limehouse will be burdened with extra traffic from drivers diverting to the free Rotherhithe Tunnel.
  • If the toll is more expensive at peak times, traffic will mill around areas close to the tunnel until the price for crossing has fallen: this effect can already be seen with the congestion charging zone.
  • Charging tolls for a tunnel (as opposed to a London-wide charging system, for example), will act as a disincentive for businesses to move to areas close to it.

9. Would you sign-up to an account system, with the benefits of auto-pay and a charge that would be lower than what non-account holders would pay?


10. The Silvertown Tunnel would create an opportunity for new cross-river bus connections. What sort of new bus connections do you think are important?

Additional bus routes could cross the Blackwall Tunnel now without the need to build a new tunnel. Commercial operators already use the tunnel for coach services to and from Kent.

11. We will link the new tunnel to the existing road network with new junctions in the Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula areas. Do you agree that the new junction in the Royal Docks area on the north side provides the right connections?


12. We will link the new tunnel to the existing road network with new junctions in the Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula areas. Do you agree that the new junction at the Greenwich Peninsula on the south side provides the right connections?


13. Please use the space below to let us know any additional comments you may have on our proposals for new junctions to link the tunnel to the existing road network:

I am particularly concerned about the impact of increased traffic volume on junctions on the A102 and A2, and on the Lower Lea Crossing, which already struggles to cope with traffic to events at Excel.

14. What are the key issues TfL should address as we continue to develop our proposals for the Silvertown Tunnel? Please feel free to select as many issues as you wish.

[We suggest ticking all available options]
15. We have published a large number of technical reports. These deal with a number of disciplines, including traffic, the environment, optioneering and engineering, amongst others. If you have any comments on our methodology or approach to any of these disciplines, please let us know in the space below.

TfL needs to make these documents more accessible to the interested lay reader. Guidance upon best order to read and a summary of key assumptions and the contents of each document would be helpful.

Please use the space below to let us know any other thoughts you may have.

I strongly feel East and South East London should be better connected. But spending £753 million on this solution that provides only for road transport is a backwards step: this money could be invested in public transport to give us choice and relieve pressure on the roads, meaning less congestion and delays for those that really must drive.

Further information on question 14:

Proposals for a new user charge: I expect to see a full analysis of the impact of user charging on demand for the Silvertown Tunnel.

Construction impacts: What disruption to the road network will building the Silvertown Tunnel cause? What impact will it have on the environment?

Environment impacts: There should be a full investigation into both air and noise pollution impacts, and proof that TfL has been working with local boroughs on these issues.

Traffic impacts of the Silvertown Tunnel and design of new junctions: TfL needs to open its traffic modelling and explain the assumptions used.

Economic benefits of the Silvertown Tunnel: Full economic cases, both for and against the tunnel, should be provided.

Can you help fight the toxic Silvertown Tunnel? Come to our open meeting at Britannia Village Hall

Britannia Village

The Britannia Village development will be directly affected if the Silvertown Tunnel is built, adding traffic to the adjacent A1020 road

Transport for London’s proposed Silvertown Tunnel will hurt communities on the north side of the river Thames – despite what some politicians in the area would have you believe.

It’ll bring more traffic to Silvertown and the Royal Docks, while it’ll encourage Kent commuters to drive to Canary Wharf and the City, adding to congestion through Limehouse and Wapping.

On top of this, it won’t do a thing to solve the poisonous traffic jams on the Blackwall Tunnel northern approach through Bow and Poplar, spewing out pollution past homes and schools.

It’s not just the boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets that are threatened by the Silvertown Tunnel; Hackney Council has voiced its concerns about the effects the tunnel would have on its own residents.

Can you help us fight this toxic tunnel? We held an open meeting south of the river last month, now it’s the turn of the north side of the Thames.

We’ll be at Britannia Village Hall, 65 Evelyn Road, London E16 1TU, from 8pm on Tuesday 18 November. It’s a short walk from West Silvertown DLR station and the 474 bus. The Britannia Village development in Silvertown will be one of the areas most affected by the new tunnel, with traffic planned to pour out onto the A1020 which runs past it.

We’ll explain what we’ve done so far, what we’ll be doing in the future, and how you can help us. So we know how many people are coming along, it’d be great if you could register through this link.

Whether you’re from Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, or from south of the Thames, it’d be great to see you. Got any questions? Drop us a line on

Video: Why TfL’s Silvertown Tunnel won’t cure Blackwall Tunnel congestion

Transport for London constantly claims the Silvertown Tunnel will cure congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel. That’s simply not true. It’ll do nothing to relieve the queues heading south on the A12 through Bow and Poplar, while additional traffic will merely exacerbate the congestion on the A102 and A2 through Greenwich, Kidbrooke, Eltham, Bexleyheath and beyond.

Don’t believe us? We took a Friday rush hour road trip to find out. Unlike TfL’s video, ours contains real traffic…

Fight this toxic tunnel: TfL launches new consultation into polluting, congesting Silvertown Tunnel

Smog and traffic which can only get heavier: Charlton Road, 5pm on 2 April

A typical evening rush hour on the southbound A102 – a jam the Silvertown Tunnel will only exacerbate

Transport for London is launching a new consultation into its Silvertown Tunnel proposals this week, and has released images of what the scheme, which it’s already spent £2.5 million on, could look like if built.

Strangely enough, they don’t show the southbound traffic jam that traffic exiting the tunnel would hit on the A102 – so we’ve included a picture above, which also shows the smog that blights air quality around the tunnel approaches.

In Greenwich, a new flyover would be constructed just north of the remaining gas-holder, to allow traffic leaving the Blackwall Tunnel to cross that heading into the Silvertown Tunnel, which would run roughly under the line of the Thames Cable Car.

Silvertown Tunnel south proposal

The northbound image is slightly harder to fathom out, but at the Silvertown end, the tunnel would emerge at the Lower Lea Crossing roundabout, allowing easy access for Kent car commuters to access Canary Wharf as well as to the Royal Docks.


It’s worth noting that Canary Wharf Group – recently identified as being behind an anonymous campaign against new cycling lanes in central London – is one of the firms backing the Silvertown Tunnel.

Here’s TfL’s video, showing a seamless journey through a computer-generated tunnel.

But this is the current reality, with events at ExCeL already clogging up the Lower Lea Crossing and bringing this part of east London to a standstill. This video was shot by a Royal Docks resident in February during the Cycle Show. Remember, this is traffic that’s already there, and it isn’t looking to cross the river. The Silvertown Tunnel would make this congestion far, far worse.

The consultation will be published at on Wednesday.

Transport for London claims there’s overwhelming public backing for the tunnel – but this has to be taken with a big pinch of salt. Nobody’s been given the full facts about the Silvertown Tunnel. And we’re finding many people simply aren’t aware, or believe the plans have been superseded by proposals for other crossings further down the river.

Current Greenwich Council leader Denise Hyland supporting the Silvertown Tunnel in January 2013. Strangely, the council didn't hand out any of its pro-tunnel postcards in the areas that would be affected by the tunnel...

Current Greenwich Council leader Denise Hyland supporting the Silvertown Tunnel in January 2013. We hope Greenwich will change its mind and back residents rather than big businesses

Indeed, in December 2012, Greenwich Council and Newham Council encouraged residents to support Silvertown with a misleading “Bridge The Gap” campaign – with Greenwich’s weekly newspaper, delivered to every home in the borough, carrying eight consecutive issues of pro-tunnel propaganda, tapping into the frustrations of those who get stuck in morning queues on the A102. (Greenwich later shelved a report from Hyder Consulting that pointed out the Silvertown Tunnel would quickly overwhelm local traffic.)

There’s no data to back up TfL’s claims that it’ll be some kind of economic shot in the arm. And promised traffic and environmental studies haven’t been done.

What we do know is that building new roads merely increases traffic – this 1994 Government report, Trunk Roads and the Generation of Traffic, is the most authoritative study into the matter. So the Silvertown Tunnel threatens to reverse the long-term decline in car use in the area.

And it’s increased public transport provision – the Jubilee Line, East London Line, Docklands Light Railway and Crossrail – that’s driven growth in east and south-east London. The Greenwich Peninsula would still be a wasteland if a third Blackwall Tunnel had been built, and the Jubilee Line had skipped it, as was seriously considered in the 1990s.

Nobody likes wasting time sitting in traffic jams. If we give people alternative ways to cross the river, people will use them.

Throwing £753m (and rising) at building a road tunnel that’ll only fill up within a couple of years is a shocking waste of money when schemes like the Barking-Thamesmead Overground link and the Bakerloo Line extension to Lewisham and Catford need funding. To put it in perspective, scrapping the Silvertown Tunnel would pay for Woolwich Arsenal station to be moved into zone 3 – making cross-river transport easier and cheaper for millions – for up to 750 years.

Newham Waterfront Festival

We talked to residents at the Newham Waterfront Festival in September – and found many simply weren’t aware of the tunnel proposals

Over the past two years, the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign has launched the first petition against the tunnel, held a public meeting outlining the case against the tunnel, talked to locals at summer events, and revealed the shocking levels of air quality along the southbound approaches through two citizen science surveys. Committee members Darryl Chamberlain and Stewart Christie were given Clean Air in Cities awards to recognise our work in highlighting an issue which is killing people in communities north and south of the Thames – one our politicians will only make worse with a new tunnel.

We’ve also contributed to MPs’ questioning of Mayor Boris Johnson on air pollution issues, responded to the last crossings consultation, met local politicians to outline our concerns, and launched a petition to make one of those alternative public transport links – a Barking to Thamesmead and Abbey Wood London Overground extension – a reality.

It’s time to step up the fight against this toxic tunnel. Our politicians need to realise that the Silvertown Tunnel will be lethal for communities on both sides of the Thames. Our committee’s already working hard against the tunnel, but the more you can do to help us, the more of a chance we have of seeing this off.

Please tell your neighbours, lobby your local politicians, come to one of our open meetings – or email if you can offer any help.

Here’s the quote we’ve sent the press today…

“Once again, Transport for London’s pushing its toxic tunnel with no evidence to back up its wild claims that it’ll reduce traffic congestion or boost our economy. TfL and the mayor think this is a done deal – we’ll fight this mad plan all the way.

“The surrounding traffic network in Greenwich, Newham, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets can’t cope with a doubling in capacity – the Lower Lea Crossing won’t be able to cope, the A206 won’t be able to cope, and nor will the A2 a couple of miles south of the tunnel. Southbound queues on the A102 are horrendous in rush hour – why add to them?

“There’s already a body of evidence about road-building that points to the Silvertown Tunnel causing worse queues, worse congestion, and making life miserable for residents on both sides of the Thames. Air pollution is killing people in communities north and south of the river – yet our politicians seem content to make it worse.

“This is the traffic equivalent of moving the deckchairs on the Titanic. Transport for London is deluded if it thinks the Silvertown Tunnel will cure congestion. There’s nothing in this for locals – it’ll just encourage Kent car commuters to drive to Canary Wharf.

“This £753m waste of money needs to be binned – and the money put towards proper crossings for public transport, walking and cycling instead.”

We’re holding open meetings in October and November

A Silvertown Tunnel won't cure these jams, despite what Transport for London claim

A Silvertown Tunnel won’t cure these jams, despite what Transport for London claim

We’re holding two open meetings for No to Silvertown Tunnel supporters in the next few weeks, where you can find out more about what we’ve been doing and what we’re thinking of doing next. If we met you at events during the summer, we’d especially like to see you there. If you’d like to help us, please feel free to come and share your ideas.

So we know how many people are coming along, please let us know you’re coming by registering using the links below.

Mycenae House, Mycenae Road, London SE3 7SE from 8pm on Monday 20 October.
(53, 54, 108, 202, 286, 386 buses, or train to Westcombe Park)
Register here for the south of the river meeting

Britannia Village Hall, 65 Evelyn Road, London E16 1TU from 8pm on Tuesday 18 November.
(474 bus or DLR to West Silvertown)
This date could move – but please sign up now and we’ll let you know if anything does change.
Register here for the north of the river meeting

What else is happening?

We’re expecting a new consultation into the Silvertown Tunnel (and possible Blackwall Tunnel tolling) to come very soon. We’ll be in touch when it comes out, and we’ll also be in touch with ideas for what you can put in any response.

We’ve launched a petition for TfL to extend the London Overground from Barking to Abbey Wood and Thamesmead – the kind of new river crossing east and south east London is crying out for. Sign up here and please respond to the consultation too.

We responded to TfL’s proposals for road bridges at Gallions Reach and Belvedere. (See also Green Assembly member Darren Johnson’s demolition of the schemes, Liberal Democrat Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon’s opposition; plus responses from GreenwichBexley and Tower Hamlets councils.)

Finally, especially if you’re in south-east London, please add your support to a Bakerloo Line extension to Lewisham, Catford and Hayes – we badly need more public transport, and we feel these plans should be brought forward.

To find out more about what we’re up to, and how you can help us, please come along to one of our meetings.

TfL’s Gallions Reach/ Belvedere crossings consultation: How we responded

TfL website
During the summer, Transport for London launched a consultation into two possible new road bridges across the Thames at Gallions Reach and Belvedere, along with the possible scrapping of the Woolwich Ferry.

While this consultation did not directly involve the proposed Silvertown Tunnel, it did assume that the tunnel was going ahead – a reminder that the Silvertown Tunnel is no solution for east and south-east London’s traffic problems. We also believe Transport for London exaggerated the extent of recent improvements to public transport, and excluded from its assessments the effect of the M11 link road, which opened in the late 1990s, on demand for the Blackwall Tunnel.

We understand many of those who are opposed to the Silvertown Tunnel would prefer to see new road river crossings further down the Thames. However, we believe action should be taken to enhance public transport connections across the Thames, clearing road space for those who do need to drive, before any road-based links are considered.

Here’s how we responded to the consultation.

Option 1: A new ferry at Woolwich. – STRONGLY SUPPORT

A free ferry at Woolwich is part of the history and identity of the immediate area, one which is enshrined in legislation. The removal of the Woolwich Ferry and its replacement with fixed road crossings removes one of the already-limited options for cyclists and pedestrians in east and south-east London. Women in particular will be deterred from making short journeys across the river at the point as the only other free option is the unattractive and unstaffed foot tunnel. It also reduces the flexibility of the local road network in Woolwich and the Royal Docks, including the ability to carry the restricted freight materials that cannot travel through the Blackwall Tunnel. Furthermore, we believe the possibility of closing or charging for a river crossing that is held in much affection by its neighbours has been deliberately downplayed by this scheme. As Woolwich is a key regeneration area which has recently attracted many new residents, and Greenwich Council plans to replace small business accommodation at Charlton riverside with new housing, we believe scrapping the Woolwich Ferry would be folly.

Option 2: A new ferry at Gallions by the early 2020s – OPPOSE

Under the terms of this consultation, the establishment of a ferry at Gallions Reach would mean the removal of a ferry at Woolwich. While we are in favour of free passage across the river, if there is to be a single service which caters for pedestrians and cyclists, then it should be at Woolwich. It appears to us that a ferry at Gallions would simply be an interim measure before a fixed crossing was introduced.

We would be more inclined to support a ferry at Gallions if it operated without charge, if the free ferry at Woolwich was to continue, and a fixed road-based crossing was permanently ruled out.

Option 3: Gallions Reach Bridge – OPPOSE

We object to the Silvertown Tunnel on the basis that it will increase traffic and pollution in south-east and east London. We believe the same failing applies to the Gallions Reach Bridge proposal, and so would not wish to see our neighbours suffer this fate. A study prepared for Newham Council last year shows huge increases in traffic generated by the Gallions proposals through Woolwich, Plumstead, Abbey Wood and Bexleyheath – particularly along side streets such as Knee Hill, Abbey Wood and Griffin Road, Plumstead. Such congestion may tempt future administrations to link a bridge to the A2 at Falconwood, threatening homes in Plumstead and natural habitats at Oxleas Woods. These site-specific proposals mean a bridge at Gallions Reach would threaten the future sustainability of the immediate area. Providing a road-based crossing as a replacement for the Woolwich Ferry would remove a realistic crossing for pedestrians and cyclists – nobody will want to walk or cycle across a long, high bridge on a wet, windy day. Indeed, the consultation documents admit this.

Option 4: A bridge at Belvedere – OPPOSE

As with the Gallions Reach Bridge proposal, we believe this will bring congestion and pollution to Belvedere, Erith and Crayford. A recent study into the widening of the A206 through Crayford shows it led to higher levels traffic and a degradation in air quality in the area; while a road-based crossing here would be even less attractive to pedestrians and cyclists than a bridge at Gallions Reach. The public would also need to be reassured about any impact on Rainham Marshes.

Which of these options should we proceed with? WOOLWICH FERRY

We note this consultation assumes the Silvertown Tunnel will be built. This hardly gives the public confidence that issues surrounding the construction of a road-based connection between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks are being dealt with in a sensible manner.

We also note that the previous Silvertown consultation was misleading because – unlike this consultation – it downplayed the plan to toll both the Silvertown and Blackwall tunnels, while the Bridge The Gap campaign, which was heavily promoted by both Greenwich and Newham councils, did not mention tolling at all.

Indeed, question 9 is a leading question. We would prefer to have been able to tick a box that supported further river crossings – but ones for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists, rather than boxes that supported further road-building.

If improving public transport infrastructure is leading to growth in the east sub-region, it seems clear that further investment in public transport would provide greater returns. Public transport appears to be a blind spot in the consultation document. The traffic impact report does not address modal shift in detail as no bus routes are planned to be added. Neither is it clear that the increased capacity from Crossrail has been taken into account.

We are instead presented with a futile set of choices. Because of the historic lack of public transport connectivity across the Thames, many people choose to drive. Instead of improving public transport to give drivers different options and to ease pressure on the road network, TfL is instead proposing to build new roads, which will make driving a more attractive option, eventually compounding the problem of congestion.

Indeed, recent improvements to public transport are not as impressive as the consultation documents make out. While the benefits in areas such as Brockley and Shoreditch cannot be denied, it is laughable to suggest the East London Railway is a new development – trains between Rotherhithe and Wapping have run since 1869. The Emirates Air Line is little more than a tourist attraction. It is not strategically positioned, charges premium fares and last October was found to carry no more than four regular users.

While the Docklands Light Railway extension to Woolwich is welcome, it is limited in reach and lacks the capacity for further extension. The huge popularity of this route is proof of the demand for better public transport links across the Thames.

It is insulting to suggest that “there has been a period of sustained investment in public transport capacity across the whole of east London over the past 20 years”. There remains a greater density of public transport provision in west London that cannot be merely explained by the radial nature of London’s transport network.

Even when Crossrail opens, there will remain no local public transport connection across the Thames between Woolwich and the limited X80 bus service at the Dartford Crossing. The HS2 rail service is not an option for residents in south-east London, and charges premium fares for those travelling from Kent. Indeed, driving to North Greenwich and using the Jubilee Line from there is a cheaper alternative.

In fact, the loss of two public transport crossings have been ignored – the 395 bus through the Rotherhithe Tunnel was axed in 2006, while the Ford Motor Company’s ferry service between Belvedere and Dagenham ended in 2003.

With the exception of London Overground and the tourist attraction that is the Emirates Air Line, all the public transport improvements have been focused on trips that eventually start and finish in central London, or Canary Wharf. It remains difficult to make purely cross-river trips. Even when the option’s built in, it remains unavailable – the Woolwich DLR service does not normally run to Stratford International, forcing passengers to make an awkward and unattractive change at Canning Town.

Instead of encouraging people to take to their cars, TfL should be increasing the density of public transport connections between east and south-east London, giving people a choice and clearing road space for those who do need to make journeys by car, van, truck or lorry.

We would also question the exclusion of the boroughs of Hackney, Waltham Forest and Redbridge from this study. These boroughs had massive road investment in the 1990s with the construction of the M11 link road. This new road has had long-term consequences, as it has made the Blackwall Tunnel more attractive to drivers heading north than the tolled Dartford Crossing.

We note that demand for a fixed crossing comes from medium-sized firms in the construction industry. Their needs could be accommodated if east and south-east London had a public transport network dense enough to release new capacity on the roads. We also note that firms involved in road-dependent sectors were over-sampled at the expense of those who are less reliant on highways. This indicates to us that the business survey is not representative of the true nature true of east and south-east London’s businesses – especially as land becomes more expensive following regeneration (for example, Greenwich Council’s Charlton Riverside masterplan envisages replacing industry with housing).

No to Silvertown Tunnel: What we’ve learned after a summer of campaigning

Nikki Coates and Clare Griffiths at Royal Victoria Dock

Nikki Coates and Clare Griffiths show off children’s drawings of pollution at Royal Victoria Dock

We spent Saturday by the Royal Victoria Dock, taking our stall out for the fourth time this year at the Newham Waterfront Festival.

Technically speaking, we weren’t part of the festival and Newham Council weren’t happy about us being there. But we were invited by residents of the Britannia Village housing development, which is just a few hundred yards from the proposed Silvertown Tunnel’s northern entrance.

The festival uses land owned by the development, so Britannia Village’s management gave us a prime spot to catch people as they walked in and out of the event. We’re really grateful to Britannia Village for being our hosts for the day. And in the end, Newham’s security guards came and picked up badges and leaflets too.

We’re also really grateful to Lewisham Council for hosting us at Lewisham People’s Day, Greenwich Council for the Charlton Horn Fayre, and the Plumstead Make Merry team for having us at their event back in May.

Newham Waterfront Festival

Thanks to Britannia Village residents, we secured a prime spot alongside the Newham Waterfront Festival

It’s easy to sit in meeting rooms, or on the internet, and decide you know exactly how you need to fight a campaign. But actually, there’s nothing like getting out and talking to people. Here’s what we’ve picked up in between blowing up balloons, pointing at maps and handing out leaflets:

Many people still have no idea what the Silvertown Tunnel is. Despite two public consultations, and a PR campaign led by Greenwich and Newham councils to back it, many simply aren’t aware of the proposals. Even in Silvertown itself, it was instructive to watch people’s faces when they were told a four lane road tunnel would soon be emerging yards from their homes. Perhaps it’s because fewer people see local media these days, and there’s been a lack of coverage in the London media. But there’s still a lot of work to do to get the message out there. Have you told your neighbours about the Silvertown Tunnel?

People are worried about the Silvertown Tunnel. No amount of spin or bluster from Mayor Johnson on LBC phone-ins can disguise this. People are rightly concerned and angry about what’s being proposed. Of the hundreds of people we’ve spoken to, very few gave us a hard time. They know air pollution is a major issue in London, and the existence of plans like the Silvertown Tunnel show that too many of our politicians simply aren’t interested in doing anything about it.

Chris Taylor and Jill Austen talk to visitors at Royal Victoria Dock

Chris Taylor and Jill Austen talk to visitors at Royal Victoria Dock

Some people wrongly think it’s been scrapped. To an extent, coverage of the Silvertown Tunnel has been overshadowed by the furore over the Gallions Reach bridge proposals. Looking back at some of the media coverage of the last consultation, you’d easily think the Silvertown Tunnel had fallen off the agenda. It hasn’t – and it needs fighting.

“So, what would you like to see done instead?” Ah, yes. If you’re opposing something, surely you must have an alternative plan, right? Well, we’re not transport planners or engineers, but we’re worried that £750m spent on a hole in the ground that’ll just fill up with even more traffic, and make the air even worse, isn’t the wisest use of public funds. We simply think that public transport, pedestrian and cycling links across the Thames should be massively improved before any new road links are considered. That’s why we’ve begun a petition to get a London Overground extension to Abbey Wood onto the agenda – because that’s one of the schemes that will be needed if people are to have a real choice in how they get across the river.

Tunnel supporters get stuck in the most jams. Of the people we’ve spoken to who support the tunnel, most are professional drivers or are regular Blackwall Tunnel users. Which is fair enough – if something’s been the bane of your life for years, then you’d want to reach for the first “solution” in sight. But they become less keen when they’re told of current plans to toll Blackwall Tunnel as well as the Silvertown Tunnel – and most people accept the fact that building more roads simply generates more traffic. While these people may want to see a road crossing elsewhere, most do accept the the £750m Silvertown Tunnel is a poor idea for drivers too.

South of the river: We also spoke to locals at Charlton's Horn Fayre

South of the river: We also spoke to locals at Charlton’s Horn Fayre

“But if you build more roads and traffic starts moving, pollution levels will drop.” An old chestnut that’s continually pushed by the politicians who are trying to force the tunnel onto east and south-east London. Studies show that if you increase capacity on the roads, it will be filled by more traffic – and Mayor Johnson has admitted this will be the case with Silvertown. Just think of all the things you could spend £750m on – you wouldn’t want to spend it on a new traffic jam under the Thames.

Most importantly, though, we’ve found the public are ahead of the politicians on this. People know the damage caused by pollution and congestion because they suffer it themselves. And when they’re given the real story about the Silvertown Tunnel – and told how and why it’ll only exacerbate congestion, they’re against it.

When Greenwich’s Labour councillors were told to support Silvertown back in 2012, they were told that “environmental groups are rehearsing previous arguments”. We can’t speak for the environmental groups, but the only people we’ve seen rehearsing previous arguments are the politicians.

So we’ve come away from the summer energised and ready to face down these arguments. But as a committee we can only do so much.

If you can help us with air or noise pollution studies, or can donate money to help fund our work, we’d love to hear from you – contact

Mayor Johnson’s air quality claims are worthless while he’s planning new roads, Silvertown Tunnel campaigners say

Boris Johnson

Mayor Boris Johnson’s claims to be cleaning up London’s air are meaningless while he’s proposing to build polluting new roads in east and south-east London, campaigners against his Silvertown Tunnel have told MPs.

Johnson will give evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, which is investigating the capital’s poor air quality, on Wednesday.

While the mayor talks up his plans for a low-emissions zone in a limited area of central London, the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign warns the mayor is “failing to see the connection between traffic levels and air pollution in London’s inner and outer suburbs”.

Johnson’s submission also ignores his lack of action in transport and planning policies, including proposing to load more traffic onto the A102 and A2 through south-east London by building a road crossing between Greenwich Peninsula and Silvertown.

Traffic generated by the Silvertown Tunnel would blight communities south of the river from Eltham to Greenwich, and from Wapping to Silvertown and Canning Town north of the Thames.

The No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign has responded by asking MPs to quiz Johnson on why boroughs such as Tower Hamlets, Lewisham, Greenwich and Newham aren’t in his “ultra-low emissions zone”, and to ask why he is embarking on a road-building programme when studies have shown that building roads simply generates extra traffic and pollution.

The campaign has already undertaken two studies of air pollution in the area, to demonstrate just how bad the situation is currently.

“If the mayor was serious about cutting air pollution, he would be scrapping his road-building programme and expanding public transport connections between east and south-east London so residents did not have to resort to their cars to make relatively short journeys,” campaign spokesman Darryl Chamberlain says.

Transport for London is expected to launch a new consultation on the Silvertown Tunnel later this year. Currently, TfL is consulting on separate plans to build bridges at Gallions Reach and Belvedere, which the campaign is advising supporters to vote against.

The No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign is continuing to spread its message, and will have a stall at Britannia Village, Royal Victoria Dock for the Newham Waterfront Festival on Saturday 20 September.


Full text of our submission to the Environmental Audit Committee:

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to make observations on City Hall’s written submission to the Committee. As campaigners against a new road tunnel between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks, we note that once again, the Mayor is failing to see the connection between traffic levels and air pollution in London’s inner and outer suburbs. Indeed, while his Ultra Low Emission Zone is welcome news for central London, it risks merely exporting pollution to residential districts which are already blighted by illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere.

The mayor’s submission ignores his lack of action in transport and planning policies, which we will deal with in the answers to your questions.

1) How effective have GLA policies on air pollution been so far?
We believe that as long as the Greater London Authority plans to build new road-based river crossings to the east of London, many of City Hall’s policies on air pollution will be rendered worthless in boroughs such as Greenwich, Bexley, Newham and beyond. These areas in particular are threatened by his proposals for the Silvertown Tunnel, a vehicle-only crossing between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks which will add extra traffic to the approaches to the Blackwall Tunnel, which are already congested in both directions.

In particular, nobody at City Hall has been able to say how the four-lane southbound A2, which is congested most evenings, will be able to cope with extra traffic from the Silvertown Tunnel. The existing congestion contributes to nitrogren dioxide levels of 104µg/m3 at the Bramshot Avenue subway in Charlton, a route used by children attending local schools.

It has been proven that building new roads generates new traffic, which leads to higher pollution levels on the roads. A study by Hyder Consulting conducted for Greenwich Council says the Silvertown Tunnel will quickly overwhelm local roads. The mayor himself even told LBC radio on 1 April 2014 that the Silvertown Tunnel “would [put] much more pressure on that area”.

A more recent study of the widening of the A206 in Crayford – a scheme promoted by the previous mayor – bears this out, this mayor plans to compound the error by adding a nearby river crossing to Rainham. And a study for Newham Council reveals huge increases in traffic through Woolwich, Plumstead, Abbey Wood and Bexleyheath if a road bridge at Gallions Reach goes ahead.

If the mayor was serious about cutting air pollution, he would be scrapping his road-building programme, and expanding public transport connections between east and south-east London so residents did not have to resort to their cars to make relatively short journeys.

The mayor’s planning decisions also reveal a less-than-scrupulous approach to air quality issues, and a disinclination to challenge boroughs in areas where pollution is high. Earlier this year, Mr Johnson waved through a decision by Greenwich Council to allow an Ikea store at Greenwich – despite it being adjacent to one of his own Air Quality Focus Areas, at the Woolwich Road flyover.

Indeed, the mayor appears to be putting too much trust in boroughs on air quality issues. The worst air pollution in Greenwich borough is in the area by Plumstead station, yet that does not appear on his list of focus areas. Nor does Woolwich Road in Charlton, another area blighted by poor air, and one that will suffer if the Silvertown Tunnel is built. It is also surprising to discover that Bexley has just one air quality focus area, in Erith – despite frequent traffic congestion in areas such as Welling.

2) What are the pros and cons of the proposed ultra-low emission zone?
Clearly, the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) is great news for those who live in central London. But in practice, it will make little difference to the vast majority of Londoners. Indeed, it risks exporting the problem further out, rather than dealing with the problem. If the mayor wishes to make a tangible difference to Londoners’ lives, he should be extending the ULEZ far beyond central London. But instead, he is happy to encourage polluting traffic from Kent and Essex to use inner London as a rat run, by pressing for the Silvertown Tunnel.

3) What questions should we be asking the mayor?
– Why have you not included the boroughs of Southwark, Lewisham, Greenwich, Tower Hamlets and Newham in the ULEZ?

– What effect would including the boroughs of Southwark, Lewisham, Greenwich, Tower Hamlets and Newham in the ULEZ have on your plans to build road crossings at Silvertown and Gallions Reach?

– Why do you continue to push a road-building programme when studies have proved that building new roads generates more traffic?

– Do you accept studies that show building more roads generates more traffic?

– What are you doing to challenge London boroughs to up their game when it comes to dealing with issues surrounding air pollution?

– What consideration do you give to air quality when assessing planning applications?

– What have you done to address poor air quality outside central London?

We hope the committee finds these observations and questions useful.

Come and see us at the Newham Waterfront Festival on 20 September

Britannia Village from the Thames Cable Car

If you’re coming from south of the river, you could take the cable car to the Newham Waterfront Festival

We’ll be in Silvertown itself on Saturday 20 September, meeting people at the Newham Waterfront Festival, which begins at 2pm at the Royal Victoria Dock.

There’ll be fun for all the family, with free, themed children’s activities including an interactive bubble show, storytelling and a mermaid dancing show. There’ll be live music from 70s band The Real Thing, and walking tours of the Royal Docks with historian Kathy Chater, before the day ends with a fireworks display at 7.45pm.

You’ll also be able to meet us and talk about the threat to the Royal Docks posed by the Silvertown Tunnel, which would emerge just a few hundred yards from the festival site. We’ll be on land that’s been kindly given to us for the day by the directors of Britannia Village, the housing development that faces onto the dock.

Much has been said about the threat the Silvertown Tunnel poses to communities south of the river, but increased traffic flows generated by the tunnel would also blight areas through Wapping, Limehouse, Poplar, Silvertown and Canning Town.

Britannia Village residents are among those under threat from TfL’s plans for the tunnel, which have been endorsed by Newham Council and its elected mayor Sir Robin Wales. We’re grateful to the BV management for allowing us to join them for the afternoon.

If you’re coming from north of the river, take the DLR to Royal Victoria or buses 147 or 241. If you’re coming from south of the Thames, we’ll be right underneath the cable car – Greenwich and Newham residents can get half-price return tickets.