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Using the Silvertown Tunnel

One of the benefits to be brought about by the opening of the Silvertown Tunnel is the opportunity presented for improving public transport connections between north and south London. In January TfL’s Silvertown Tunnel Implementation Group proposed five new bus routes through the tunnel. One was an extension of route 129 to run from Greenwich to Beckton and another was an extension of 309 to run from Bethnal Green to North Greenwich. Another route is described as route 104a although it would no doubt be allocated another number if it were to be introduced. It would run from Stratford to North Greenwich. New routes suggested to penetrate further into south London linked Grove Park with Canary Wharf and Eltham with Beckton. Curiously the 108 is to continue to use Blackwall Tunnel meaning it will remain a single-deck route and be subject to serious delays.

These proposals have now been substantially watered down. Only two routes will use the tunnel with 108 continuing to use Blackwall Tunnel. The proposal for route 129 will remain, terminating at London City Airport, and the other will be an express route labelled X239 linking Grove Park with Canary Wharf. The plans envisage 20 buses an hour using the tunnel in the peak hours although there is an aspiration to increase that to 37 in due course.

Cllr David Gardner, chair of Greenwich Highways Committee, deplores the fact that none of the buses connect with Woolwich or Eltham. He proposes that there should be a route from Canary Wharf to Eltham via Woolwich.

Meanwhile Sian Berry, GLA Green Party member, proposes radical new ideas for using the tunnel. She suggests that the second bore should be cancelled and the one now nearing completion should be used only for sustainable transport. Suggestions include a tram link continuing to Greenwich and Woolwich, an extension of the DLR or for a high quality walking and cycling link.

Future Transport London proposes that the northbound bore of the Blackwall Tunnel with its restricted dimensions making it unsuitable for modern traffic, should be repurposed for cyclists and pedestrians. One of the three remaining bores should then be reserved for buses in both directions, leaving the remaining two bore for general traffic.

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