Blackwall Tunnel ‘London’s worst nightmare’ by 2012, MP warns

Toll charge increases of up to 70 per cent planned at the Dartford Thames river crossing could mean East London facing massive traffic gridlock which an MP says will trap many families forced to suffer yet more pollution.

The already-congested Blackwall Tunnel which is toll-free could be “London’s worst nightmare” by the time the 2012 Olympics are staged next summer, says Poplar & Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick.

Roads Minister Mike Penning has announced an increase in the �1.50 Dartford toll to �2 in September—after public consultation—followed by another 50p next spring, bringing it to �2.50 every time you drive across.

That, says a furious Mr Fitzpatrick, will throw more traffic into East London.

“Blackwall Tunnel will be London’s worst nightmare as the Dartford charges start to bite,” he told the East London Advertiser. “Higher tolls will have a mega effect as drivers switch and add to already-critical pollution.”

The Minister’s shock announcement on tolls was cushioned with a pledge that they would be lifted temporarily to keep traffic flowing when the Dartford crossing became congested.

The move has revived calls for another river crossing which was dropped when Boris Johnson became London’s Mayor.

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The London Assembly’s budget chairman John Biggs challenges whether the Dartford toll is justified at all.

“The Dartford crossing is now paid for and maintenance costs are low,” he pointed out.

“The toll is just used to fill the coffers, which holds drivers to ransom and pushes more traffic into East London with serous consequences for public health.

“Lifting tolls to keep traffic moving when needed shows what a ‘cash cow’ they are.”

He added: “Pensioners and families anywhere near the Blackwall Tunnel are trapped where they live, breathing more polluted air—all because of the failure of politicians.”

The Assembly member is urging Boris Johnson to “stand up for London” over the toll hype and to revive plans for another river crossing, backed in his demand by the MP.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: “Half of London lives east of Tower Bridge—four million people who have only three road crossings, with East London’s massive expansion such as the Olympics legacy, Royal Docks regeneration, jobs in Canary Wharf rising to 160,000 and the Thames Gateway development.”

Tower Hamlets council is contacting the Transport Department to find out “whether they have considered the effect that a toll increase could have on traffic using Blackwall Tunnel.”

A spokesman said: “We’re concerned that increased charges at Dartford could put pressure on toll-free routes, increasing traffic, pollution and noise.”

A Parliamentary Question was tabled in the Commons to the Roads Minister yesterday (Tues) about another Thames crossing. A review would take up to 18 months, MPs were told, then go to public consultation.

The Government put forward plans 20 years ago for eight new Thames crossings, six rail and two road.

The rail projects have gone ahead with the Jubilee Line crossing three times, the DLR twice and soon Crossrail, plus the revamped East London Line making a total of seven criss-crossing north and south.

But the road links have faltered, never popular with the ‘green’ lobby—yet ironically politicians now recognising the alternative congestion being far worse.