Featured in the Future Transport London Newsletter September 2022
The State of London debate is the annual opportunity for Londoners to question Mayor Sadiq Khan about issues that matter. This year it was held in Indigo at the O2, North Greenwich on 28th June. The most contentious question concerned the Silvertown Tunnel. This is particularly an issue for residents who live near the venue and protesters had already been prevented from entering the centre. One questioner complained of the unfairness that poorer Greenwich residents will have to pay to cross the Thames while residents of other London boroughs, who are probably more affluent, will not. He suggested that it would be fairer if all river crossings in London had tolls, not just Silvertown and Blackwall as has been proposed, to avoid diversion of traffic to other river crossings in London. It could also be a source of funding for repairs, for example to Hammersmith Bridge.
Sadiq Khan dismissed studies which had concluded the Silvertown Tunnel would worsen air pollution in deprived parts of London and stated that other studies had shown it would be a solution to the air pollution problem. Seb Dance (Deputy Mayor for Transport and Vice-Chair of TfL) justified the Silvertown Tunnel as a remedy for the infrequency and unreliability of bus route 108 caused by frequent Blackwall Tunnel closures and tailbacks. The current scheduled six buses per hour (single-deckers because of the height of the northbound Blackwall Tunnel) would increase to 22 double-deck buses per hour when the Silvertown Tunnel opens with maybe more buses later.
The tunnel boring machine is starting to dig the first bore of the Silvertown Tunnel and it’s too late to stop it, but all is not lost. Sian Berry, Green Party GLA member, hosted an event in City Hall on 11th August encouraging participants to use their creativity to reimagine the Silvertown Road Tunnel as a space for good, green, clean transport, perhaps including a tram, although there are doubts about what route the tram would follow either side of the tunnel. Having failed to stop the tunnel completely the Greens are now hoping to reduce the scheme to a single bore.