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Silvertown tunnel plans approved

PUBLISHED: 12:29 10 May 2018 | UPDATED: 17:26 10 May 2018

One of the planned entrances for the Silvertown tunnel Picture: TfL

One of the planned entrances for the Silvertown tunnel Picture: TfL

TfL

The Silvertown tunnel has been given the go-ahead by the Department for Transport.

The area around where the Silvertown tunnel portal will be built. Picture: Ken MearsThe area around where the Silvertown tunnel portal will be built. Picture: Ken Mears

The government has announced that the controversial tunnel, which will run from Silvertown to Greenwich, will be built under the Thames.

A development and consent order (DCO) - a formal process for giving the green light to a development of this size - was granted by the Department for Transport to create the twin-bore tunnel.

A decision on the tunnel was set to be made in October, before being delayed until November, and then again for six months for an air quality impact assessment to be carried out.

Prior to this, a consultation period took place, including representations to the planning inspectorate during a series of hearings at the ExCeL.

The 1.4km long tunnel was proposed to help reduce congestion in Blackwall tunnel and provide another river crossing in east London. Construction is set to begin in 2019 and it is due to open in 2023.

A letter issued on behalf of the transport secretary Chris Grayling stated that he agreed with findings that “once operational with the user charge in place, the scheme should help reduce congestion and provide resilience for vehicles currently using the Blackwall Tunnel”.

It added that “a number of concerns were raised in relation to air quality” and explained that “the impact of the construction stage on air quality including dust emissions and odours would be kept to a minimum”.

The tunnel had attracted criticism from campaigners, including the No to Silvertown Tunnel group.

The proposed road layout changes at the Silvertown portal Picture: TfLThe proposed road layout changes at the Silvertown portal Picture: TfL

Chairman Anne Robbins said: “We’re disappointed, but we are proud to have spoken up for communities on both sides of the Thames who objected to having more traffic imposed on them.”

Bridget Fox, sustainable transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, added: ”This is a bad decision for Londoners and sets a poor precedent for the rest of the country.

“Permission to build is not obligation to build: we urge the Mayor and TfL to think again and abandon these damaging plans.”

But the announcement was welcomed by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, whose chief executive Colin Stanbridge said: “To know that the Silvertown Tunnel will finally go ahead is a cause for celebration and relief.

“As London grows towards megacity status, we need more fixed river crossings in London as a step towards solving so many of the capital’s issues and going ahead Silvertown at the soonest possible opportunity is big step in the right direction.”

Up to 37 buses an hour will be able to use the new tunnel once it opens, improving public transport connections between both sides of the river - currently, only the 108 is the only bus to pass under the Thames on its route between Stratford and Lewisham. There will also be a bespoke cycle-bus to carry cyclists and their bikes through the tunnel on a turn up and go basis.

Transport for London has said that work will be carried out on the areas surrounding the two entrances and create new walking and cycling routes in the Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula areas.

It wlill also be working with Newham and Greenwich councils, landowners and other stakeholders to understand the implications of the conditions imposed by Mr Grayling.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “I’m delighted that the green light has been given to progress with the Silvertown tunnel. “New river crossings are vital for the future prosperity of east London, and the scheme will have a substantial impact unlocking new jobs and economic growth, while easing congestion and poor air quality in the area.”

Road users will have to pay a toll to use the new tunnel, but low-income working residents in Greenwich, Newham and Tower Hamlets will be given a discount.

Mike Brown, London’s transport commissioner, said: “East London is in desperate need of more river crossings to provide better public transport links across the Thames and support the delivery of new jobs and homes.

“Now that this nationally significant project has been given the go ahead, we are working closely with local boroughs and others to ensure this vital new infrastructure is delivered with minimal impact to local residents and businesses.”

A spokesman for the National Infrastructure Commission added: “The Silvertown Tunnel is essential if we are to tackle congestion, and continue to support the development of east London.

“Today’s decision will at last bring certainty for communities and businesses in the area, and means work can start as early as next year to get this much-needed extra Thames crossing in place.”

But the mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, has raised concerns about the impact it would have on residents.

She said: “This tunnel will only make air quality in the borough worse”

“The tunnel will also attract extra traffic into to the borough, leading to increases in noise and congestion for our residents, especially those living in the south of the borough.”

“At a cost of over £1 billion, this money could be better spent on other transport and infrastructure uses, especially those that promote sustainable transport and unlock other areas of regeneration in east London.

“We will continue to put pressure on the government to look at alternatives.”

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