Coalition calls on Khan to cancel £1bn Silvertown Tunnel scheme

A coalition of academics, politicians and campaigners have written an open letter to London Mayor Sadiq Khan asking him to cancel the proposed £1bn Silvertown Tunnel in Greenwich.

Transport for London (TfL) says the development would reduce congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel and improve the reliability and resilience of the wider road network in London.

However, the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition (SSTC), say the project will encourage more traffic and increase air pollution in the area.

‘Allowing TfL to build the Silvertown Tunnel would threaten much of your good work on improving air quality, and position London’s carbon emissions on a pathway that is not consistent with the Paris agreement and contributes directly to climate breakdown,’ reads the letter.

Earlier this summer, TfL named Riverlinx as its preferred bidder to build the project but Silver Thames Connect, a losing bidder, is now taking legal action against TfL which could see the contract signing delayed by several months.

London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon told AirQualityNews that this has created a ‘window of opportunity’ for the Mayor to review the scheme.

‘I hope he uses this opportunity wisely and changes his mind.  We will only reduce congestion and air pollution in London by investing in public transport, not an expensive road tunnel,’ she said.

‘Sadiq Khan needs to face up to the facts and accept that this is a project that should not have his backing.’

The tunnel will be funded under the private finance initiative (PFI), where the preferred bidder will build and maintain the tunnel which will be paid back through tolls.

It means money raised from the tolls will not be spent on local transport initiatives, as it would be if it was a solely TfL-funded project.

To cut congestion, the coalition is also calling on the Mayor to introduce a system of a ‘smart’ road charging scheme that would charge motorists for every mile they drive, as proposed earlier this year by Centre for London.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London told AirQualityNews: ‘The Silvertown Tunnel will tackle congestion, reduce idling cars standing in traffic, and importantly increase cross-river bus services.

‘Bus crossings are currently severely restricted by the Blackwall Tunnel, built over 100 years ago.

Plans for the Silvertown Tunnel have a clear focus on cleaner transport, with buses using the tunnel expected to be zero-emission from launch, and the crossing being located within the extended Ultra Low Emission Zone.’