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Big Debate: Newham councillor and Tower Hamlets resident argue for and against more river crossings

PUBLISHED: 09:53 26 January 2013 | UPDATED: 09:53 26 January 2013

Protesters gathered along the river bank in protest when Newham and Grenwich councils launched their campaign for more river crossings.

Protesters gathered along the river bank in protest when Newham and Grenwich councils launched their campaign for more river crossings.

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Newham and Greenwich councils recently launched a campaign for more river crossings. Here a Tower Hamlets campaigner against the crossings and a Newham councillor debate the issue.

Alan Haughton, who lives in Poplar, said:

“The 2011 census showed a rapidly changing east London. Its people are younger, communities have become denser and more diverse and, significantly, we have become less car-dependent.

“Of all households in inner boroughs like Tower Hamlets, 46 per cent do not have a car.

“We are seeing a revolution in how London commutes. Public transport use has increased. Cycling has increased. Car use is bucking that trend – it’s on the decrease.

“The Silvertown Tunnel is in effect a third Blackwall Tunnel on the boundary of Tower Hamlets. The Gallions Reach ferry is the foundations to a new Thames Gateway Bridge.

“Newham and Greenwich councils have launched an evidence-free campaign to support a tunnel they claim will bring jobs and opportunity. The evidence is better use of public transport, repairing existing roads and tunnels, and making walking and cycling easier is the best way to create jobs.

“The danger is it’s the already-stretched local NHS that will see the need to create jobs. Air pollution around the Blackwall Tunnel on both sides are among the highest in London.

“Risks to health from vehicle emissions include asthma, impaired fetal development and cancer.

“Air pollution will be the biggest environmental cause of premature deaths in coming decades.

“Funding for a tunnel is non-existent. Instead, tolls will be charged on Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels to cover costs and reduce congestion. Let’s put a toll on the Blackwall Tunnel now. Let’s ring-fence that money for Tower Hamlets and Greenwich to spend on transport that positively benefits their residents – they, after all, suffer the greatest negative impacts from the Blackwall Tunnel.

Of all households in inner boroughs like Tower Hamlets, 46 per cent do not have a car.

We are seeing a revolution in how London commutes. Public Transport use has increased. Cycling has increased. Car use is bucking that trend - It’s on the decrease.

The Silvertown Tunnel is in effect a third Blackwall Tunnel on the boundary of Tower Hamlets. The Gallions Reach Ferry is the foundations to a new Thames Gateway Bridge.

Greenwich and Newham Councils have launched an evidence-free campaign to support a Tunnel they claim, will bring jobs and opportunity to the area. If jobs is the objective, the evidence is that better use of public transport, repairing existing roads and tunnels and making walking and cycling easier is the best way to create those jobs.

The danger is that it’s the already-stretched local NHS that will see the need to create jobs. Air pollution around the Blackwall Tunnel on both sides of the Thames are among the highest in London. Risks to health from vehicle emissions include asthma, impaired fetal development and cancer. Air pollution will be the biggest environmental cause of premature deaths in the coming decades.

Funding for the Tunnel is non-existent. Instead, tolls will be charged on the Blackwall and Silvertown Tunnels to cover costs and reduce congestion.Let’s put a toll on the Blackwall Tunnel now. Let’s ring-fence that money for Tower Hamlets and Greenwich to spend on transport that positively benefits their residents - they, after all, suffer the greatest negative impacts from the Blackwall Tunnel.

Newham’s executive member for regeneration and planning, Cllr Conor McAuley, said:

“For too long the river has proved a barrier, separating residents and businesses in east and south east London. Over the last 10 years, investment in public transport has made it easier for passengers to cross the river and this will improve with Crossrail’s arrival in 2018.

“However, for road vehicles the river is crossed with great difficulty – resulting in congestion, reduced access to employment and limited growth and regeneration.

“From Tower Bridge to Hammersmith Bridge there are 14 uncharged road bridges, with a further 11 crossings within the M25 to the west. To the East of Tower Bridge there are just four fixed river crossings.

“The Blackwall Tunnel alone has more than a thousand unscheduled closures each year which, coupled with scheduled repair work, adds to traffic on our streets. This is why we are asking residents to support the council’s Bridge the Gap Campaign for more fixed river crossings.

“The Mayor of London’s proposal for a ferry at Gallions rather than a bridge won’t deliver the extra capacity needed and, at £150million, it’s an expensive sticking plaster.

“A bridge could unlock the regeneration of 40 key brownfield sites where tens of thousands of jobs could be created.

“All the evidence, including the latest modelling results from TfL, shows that a fixed crossing at Gallions Reach would attract the greatest usage of any new crossing, relieving pressure on a new Silvertown Tunnel, helping the local road network so traffic flows more freely and pollution and congestion fall.

“The informal consultation by TfL highlighted support from residents and local businesses for fixed river crossings in east and south east London.

“They argued the crossings are vital to accommodate the large increases in jobs, homes and population forecast in the London Plan.”

A bridge at Gallions and a new Silvertown Tunnel are the only viable solutions to delivering the long term growth and regeneration of this part of the Capital.”

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