Murky Depths

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Greenwich, Greenwich borough

Greenwich Labour call for a halt to Silvertown Tunnel

News is out tonight that the Greenwich Labour group have called for the Silvertown Tunnel to be paused for a “full review of options to reduce pollution and congestion”.

If Greenwich pull support they will join Newham, Lewisham and Southwark councils in opposing the scheme. Could TfL proceed with both boroughs directly affected opposed?

The tunnel was originally promoted as part of a “package of crossings” including Thamesmead and Belvedere yet that has whittled down to just a single crossing using the same road network south of the Thames already at capacity.

Silvertown traffic will meet numerous traffic lights over the Thames unlike Blackwall

Opponents state Silvertown wouldn’t be so bad if other crossings for vehicles or public transport such as the DLR were underway, but as none are (or anywhere near being funded) it’s placing all eggs in one basket.

While proponents have often talked of a tunnel helping northbound morning traffic there has been far less talk about southbound evening congestion getting worse.

Courtesy TfL. Afternoon southbound traffic heading away from Blackwall to Kent and local roads

On a daily basis traffic now crawls from Falconwood back five miles to Greenwich. Traffic projections see those jams getting worse with a new tunnel and additional traffic, including lorries currently banned from Blackwall, heading onto the same road network.

TfL traffic modelling. Green = improvement. red = worsening. Greenwich borough doesn’t come out well

Each local Labour constituency party had previously called for the scheme to be halted. At the last local election the Labour party’s vote share in Greenwich Peninsula fell sharply.

Just today Greenwich Peninsula Labour Cllr Denise Scott McDonald announced she was looking to become MP for Erith and Belvedere. She holds the brief for both transport and air quality and supported the tunnel.

Southbound traffic backs up to Greenwich most days

Other Labour councillors have become more vocal in opposition in recent months, and former councillors have complained about decisions made years ago leading to this point.

A former Labour councillor Alex Grant stated that in 2014 councillors were told to “shut up”. He has also previously lifted the lid on bullying in the ruling Labour group at that time.

Alex Grant makes a good point above; is it now too late? Has this change happened with the scheme now a formality? Is it just so the ruling Labour party are now able to state they are doing something when the chance for real change has passed?

Public space near Blackwall Tunnel. Silvertown mitigation measures do little for this area

The opposition Tories still support the tunnel with some claiming it will help congestion in their Eltham heartland. However traffic modelling states it will be worse. Given the A2 through Eltham towards Kent is already bumper to bumper each afternoon it is forecast that more vehicles will transfer onto the A20.

Sadiq Khan still supports the project, though appears an increasingly isolated voice in the Labour party along with deputy Heidi Alexander. Both continue to state a beneficial impact on northbound traffic while not commenting on southbound traffic. Legal action by a bidder to construct the tunnel means it’s currently on hold.

Three tier lorry park planned by Silvertown Tunnel

And will the three-tier lorry depot planned north of the Thames be halted?

So what happens now? Can a tunnel go ahead with little support from boroughs on either side?

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1 Comment

  1. GreenwichRes

    Wow, that TfL traffic modelling map is shocking, Greenwich doesn’t come out well at all! How could the people who are supposed to represent us allow that?!

    Something I’ve been wondering about are the risks associated with digging under the peninsula. I thought that land was still pretty toxic, the clean up that occured in the 90s being limited to the top surface?

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