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The Silvertown Tunnel is a proposed road tunnel under the Thames from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks.
Instead of following the route of the existing two Blackwall Tunnels, the four-lane tunnel would leave the A102 just north of the Blackwall Lane/ Tunnel Avenue junction, pass under the Thames Cable Car and emerge north of the river at Tidal Basin Roundabout. Transport for London has applied for planning powers to build it.
The proposal was first put forward by former mayor Boris Johnson and is still supported by Greenwich Council. They claim it will help reduce traffic congestion in east and south-east London.
But you don’t need to be a traffic expert to see the Silvertown Tunnel will actually make congestion worse, not better, as building new roads attracts new traffic. With extra congestion comes extra pollution. Air quality around the A102 and its approach roads already breaks legal limits, putting our health at risk. The same applies to the proposed tunnel’s approach roads north of the river, such as Aspen Way, Lower Lea Crossing and North Woolwich Road.
Indeed, several London boroughs oppose the Silvertown Tunnel, or have expressed serious reservations, including Lewisham, Hackney and Southwark. Newham Council, which originally supported the scheme, changed its stance in 2015.
Already, the A102 and A2 can’t cope with the volume of traffic from the existing southbound Blackwall Tunnel, with queues through Eltham, Kidbrooke, Blackheath, Charlton and Greenwich. A new tunnel will generate extra traffic – making an already intolerable situation far worse.
Studies show new roads generate extra traffic. Think of the way the M25 filled up as soon as it was built, and keeps filling up each time it’s widened. The building of the second Blackwall Tunnel in the late 1960s saw traffic double within a year – and its new approach roads were jammed within a decade. The Silvertown Tunnel would be no different.
Supporters say a Silvertown Tunnel would bring economic benefits – but creating traffic jams does not create jobs. It’s actually increased public transport that’s brought employment to east and south-east London in recent years. The second Blackwall Tunnel’s arrival in 1967 did not stop the Greenwich Peninsula and the Docklands going into decades of decline – it was the arrival of the Docklands Light Railway in 1987, and the Jubilee Line 12 years later, that helped turned things around.
If traffic jams annoy, pollution kills. The effects of poor air contributed to the deaths of 150 people in Greenwich borough in 2008, together with 102 in Tower Hamlets and 121 in Newham. Government statistics show these numbers are repeated year after year.
Pollution also ruins lives. Children who grow up within 500m of polluted roads are likely to have their lungs damaged for life. We’ve carried out our own tests on key locations that are likely to be affected by increased tunnel traffic. The results are shocking.
At best, the Silvertown Tunnel will be an expensive waste of money. At worst, it’ll blight the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
You can help stop Transport for London turning the Royal Docks and Greenwich into a dumping ground for congestion and pollution.