Campaign groups in east London are opposing the London Mayor’s proposals for more Thames river crossings, while local councillors launch campaign in favour, writes Michael Holder
Proposals for two Thames road crossings in east London would increase traffic, congestion and air pollution, according to environmental campaigners.
Transport for London (TfL) and Mayor of London Boris Johnson are currently consulting with the public on proposals to build a new traffic tunnel under the Thames river at Greenwich as well as either a vehicle ferry route or bridge at Gallions Reach.
The ‘Silvertown Tunnel’ would run between Greenwich Peninsula and Silvertown, while the ‘Gallions Reach’ ferry or bridge would cross between Thamesmead and Beckton. The two proposals come as part of a package of infrastructure plans for the area that also includes the now completed Emirates Air Line cable car Thames crossing at Greenwich.
However, although both Greenwich and Newham borough councils have launched a campaign in favour of the plans, the proposed crossings have met with opposition from campaign group Friends of the Earth.
Speaking on Friday (January 4), Friends of the Earth London campaigner, Jenny Bates, said: “New Thames road crossings would just add to traffic, congestion and exacerbate air pollution which is already a health hazard. The priority should be to make our streets safer to walk and cycle and provide better public transport – which would help free up space on existing river crossings.â€?
An online petition has also been launched against the “damagingâ€? Silvertown Tunnel proposals by Greenwich residents, which calls for the plans to be “withdrawn immediatelyâ€?.
The petition states: “The area has long suffered from poor air quality, which led to 150 deaths across Greenwich borough in 2008, and any road-building will only make this worse.”
It adds: “The Woolwich Road flyover is already one of the most polluted spots in London. This can only get worse, along with the congestion, as the new tunnel gets busier.â€?
According to TfL, however, more crossings are necessary to improve traffic levels and bring new development to the area.
The TfL website states: “The existing vehicle crossings – the Blackwall Tunnel, Rotherhithe Tunnel and the Woolwich Ferry – are already under strain. We need to put in place more ways to cross the river so that both people and goods traffic can move efficiently now and in the future.â€?
Councillors from both Newham and Greenwich borough councils officially launched their support for the river crossings proposals on Friday (January 4) with their ‘Bridge the Gap’ campaign. They said that the crossings would bring much needed development to the area and create around 20,000 jobs – as well as easing congestion.
Cllr Chris Roberts, leader of Greenwich borough council, said: “For far too long we have put up with congestion, pollution and this barrier to growth. We badly need these long term solutions to ease the pressure on the Blackwall Tunnel and the Woolwich Ferry. The people of south-east London have been short-changed for too long while we wait for this issue to be addressed – and properly solved.â€?
The Tfl and Mayor of London consultation began in October 2012 and runs until the 1 February 2013. It follows another consultation on Thames river crossing proposals that ran in February and March 2012, which received nearly 4,000 responses.
According to TfL, more than 90% of the respondents felt there was a need for more river crossings in east and south east London. Meanwhile, more than 80% supported the Silvertown Tunnel proposal and more than 60% supported plans for a ferry at Gallions Reach.
A six-lane Thames Gateway road bridge has also previously been proposed by the London Mayor, but plans were later scrapped in 2008 after opposition from environmental and anti-traffic campaigners.
Jenny Bates was also opposed to the Thames Gateway road bridge. She said: “A year-long public inquiry into the Thames Gateway road bridge at Gallions Reach found the extra traffic would be likely to increase congestion and that Transport for London’s regeneration claims did not stand up.â€?
The London Assembly Transport Committee is holding a public seminar featuring speakers and experts from relevant organisations on proposals for Thames river crossings on 9 January from 2-4pm. More information on the seminar and the proposals are on the London Assembly website.
Friends of the Earth will host public meetings with air pollution and transport experts to discuss the Thames crossings proposals at venues in east London on 21 and 28 January.