Murky Depths

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Greenwich, Transport

The view from Greenwich: Work underway on Silvertown Tunnel

Preliminary work on the Silvertown Tunnel has become more apparent in recent weeks on the Thames beside Greenwich.

In addition, a number of further planning applications have been submitted to Greenwich Council and uploaded to the authority’s planning portal last week.

With other public transport projects such as a Bakerloo Line extension to Lewisham and DLR extension to Thamesmead slipping from a slim chance to almost none given current financial strain, the tunnel continues on.

Mayor Sadiq Khan and his Transport Deputy Heidi Alexander continue to avoid questions and have entered radio silence. Woolwich and Greenwich MP Matt Pennycook has again called for it to be stopped. Greenwich Council’s leadership say little. Greenwich council supported for many years despite very little benefit to the borough according to TfL themselves.

Red dots indicate extra congestion post tunnel completion. Very few points see improvement south of the Thames as existing network already stretched.

Other changes to be seen in future include closing car parks on Greenwich Peninsula for construction work with the removal of a number of trees. Following that is work on a new southern tunnel bore linking the tunnel to the existing road network south of the Thames causing years of disruption and closures.

Greenwich entrance to Silvertown closely entwined with Blackwall Tunnel approach. Flyovers needed

North of the Thames, the tunnel portal will mainly be constructed away from existing roads causing relatively little disruption.

Northern portal is some way from Blackwall

Links to the existing road network south of the Thames for traffic exiting the new tunnel is where many benefits fall apart – for those in Greenwich at least. More traffic is to be funnelled immediately out of Silvertown into the same roads in Greenwich that currently take Blackwall traffic which explain TfL forecasts of numerous areas of increased congestion from 2025.

Courtesy TfL. Thirty per cent more traffic projected to head to daily southbound evening congestion

Arguments in favour of the tunnel come from additional bus routes which falls apart if buses are stuck in heavier congestion across Greenwich borough – as TfL expect. Who would use buses given a choice – assuming current funding problems does not decimate the bus network in coming years?

Additional traffic will extend across Greenwich hampering routes running east-west such as the 177 which serves deprived areas such as Thamesmead, Abbey Wood and Plumstead – and further queues will extend south to Kidbrooke hampering new and existing routes serving Kidbrooke Village. The biggest increase in congestion is centred at Kidbrooke junction where thousands more homes are are planned.

Site of forecasted traffic interest in Kidbrooke

It’s got to the point now that most politicians who supported for years are trying to avoid the project even exists – and hope to be higher up the career ladder when it opens. No longer their problem.

Although much of the funding cost of a tunnel is via a PFI deal to keep costs off the books, this does mean TfL are now on the hook for an increase in traffic across Greenwich borough. At a time when the authority continue making cuts to many other projects, timing couldn’t look worse – and makes a bit of a mockery of all their current PR.

Current levels of traffic versus post Silvertown levels according to TfL. Clear increase south of the Thames

TfL argue that the ULEZ will help with traffic levels – though in five years time the vast, vast majority of vehicles will be ULEZ compliant. Everything could be electric (spoiler: it wont) and increased congestion would still hit business and reliability of public transport.

They also continue to state it alleviates Blackwall queuing traffic – which as we’ve seen from their own projections mainly benefits areas north of the Thames (initially at least) and does nothing for southbound afternoon queues along the A2 through Greenwich borough from Eltham through Kidbrooke to Greenwich.

37 Comments

  1. Derek Small

    Ohh murkydepths I despair. Is everybody now resigned to acceptance of this catastrophe for locals. Maybe if we told them all that their property values will be hit (which they will be, who wants to move into a dirty construction zone which will only eventually generate more traffic and pollution when the rest of London is becoming more car free??) There will doubtless be local protests once the works start to affect us all, which of course will all be too late, as they have the usual excuse of ‘it will cost more to stop than carry on’. Local politicians will as you say have either moved on politically (away from Greenwich in the sense too most likely) or deny any responsibility stating they were ‘always opposed in principle’, maybe blaming the mayor, who in turn will blame central Govt. Same old same old pass the buck whilst the environmental problems compound. There is a MASSIVE community here now who SHOULD BE STANDING UP AGAINST THIS. For their own sake, their children’s sake, and for sanity’s sake. Your piece as usual is excellent. Shame the same cannot be said for the ‘arseholes’ in charge of our environment, or I’m afraid to say, the lacklustre opposition offered from our local politicians. Guess there are those who will profit from this, there always are, haulage contractors i suppose, and the billionaires behind them, who will live of course in leafy areas unaffected, whilst we suffer the blight. And whosoever reads my piece, please do not attempt to change my mind on this with your counter arguments, it was set long long ago, in the 70’s. We were powerless to effect major change then too. Now its up to the younger generation, if you lead, I’ll follow. People power can make change, it needs large numbers to show they REALLY care, just as is happening now with BLM.

    • mave

      Couldn’t agree with you more. Whilst admiring Matthew Pennycook I can’t understand how our locally elected representatives have allowed this. There is absolutely no reason why Peninsula, Charlton, Kidbrooke councillors should support this, they should have their constituents interests at heart not power playing to greater interests.

  2. Greenwich Park Fan

    I don’t understand who this tunnel is for. Who does it benefit?

    In my opinion, a bus, black cab, bike and pedestrian bridge from the Peninsula to Canary Wharf would be a fantastic link for the residents of Greenwich though.

  3. HK

    Don’t vote for Khan would be the first step – terrible mayor!

    • That is, of course, your unbiased opinion – eyeroll. You are perhaps thinking of knife crime, but this was a problem in Johnson’s time which he did nothing to address and lest you forget, it was Home secretary Theresa May that scrapped stop and search. Khan has at least set up the Violence reduction unit which is modelled on the Glasgow initiative that saw a reduction in knife crime over a 10 year period.

      Khan has been no worse then his predecessors and none of them – Labour or Conservative – escaped criticism. Whomever is the next mayor, expect them to have feet of clay.

      • HK

        I never claimed to be unbiased, just voicing my opinion that he has been terrible. Personally I think we should scrap the London Mayor altogether!

        • Derek Small

          Oh NO HK you can’t mean that?? If you live in London (i guess you do) it’s the ONLY chance of a voice, just like other cities in UK are getting too. General Elections are heavily biased in favour of Tories and they know it with current boundaries and no proportional representation as Germany has successfully utilised. Decentralise away from the imbeciles running the country at the moment, and pray that the local imbeciles are slightly less ‘imbecilic’ towards Londoners! It’s also the only chance of getting maybe a voice for Greens (with the increasingly young and professional climate aware population here) or Lib Dems in the centre ground or in a useful coalition to counter Tory right wing (controversial opinion i know-student loans weigh heavy on them still, the idiots!!). Or at the very least a Labour control, though in Greenwich I think they have had their day-a shambles with attempts at changes to our environment in the lockdown, and in getting funding for such things (pocket parks are great but scratch the surface only). They’re leaving it until they get tfl funding unlike other boroughs locally who are making changes from their own budgets. We just get the huge developments of tower blocks without the supposed benefits from funding associated. No mayor is ever gonna please everyone, but at least they’re locally accountable, to US!

          • HK

            Yes I really do mean that.
            You are making this a party political issue when I don’t trust any of the major parties.
            I don’t believe it’s given me a real voice at all, just another layer of bureaucracy with very little value for money.
            I do agree we need more decentralisation but our current system isn’t working in my opinion

          • Derek Small

            Yes HK, I accept your points on that, think we have some common ground. Not sure what the answer is for London efficient representation though if you remove the politics. Maybe some kind of consumer panel, part volunteer part salaried. Needs some thought. Good points about Silvertown with the travel east to west to get north.

    • Derek Small

      HK you do have your absolute right to make a political comment on Silvertown, but I think it should be cross party, neither mayor can be 100% trusted to do whats right for ‘locals’ or the environment. I do believe a Labour mayor backed up by a Labour central Govt could help (with Sir Keir at the helm of course!), but I also have always doubted the sincerity of the local Labour council in this matter. They have had too much control in Greenwich in the same way as Tories have had too much their own way in Bromley, for too long. It makes a national election vote pretty useless if you live in either borough and oppose local councils abilities, as I did in Bromley in terms of cycling initiatives and i do now in Greenwich in terms of the same and more general environmental concerns. Pretty sure there’s an argument for what Lib Dems have always advocated, proportional representation.(though i still regret their stance on tuition fees as they do themselves) At least Greens and LIb Dems would have a fighting chance here. But if you doubt Khan just on Silvertown HK i tend to agree, but i also agree Johnson was an arse in having a tourists crossing locally by swiss cable car rather than as previous comments here about a sensible crossing for locals! There too he and they said it would be used by cyclists (they never said how many haha!) and now they say Silvertown will be a boon for buses, and buses carrying bikes! Really?
      We’ve been hoodwinked just as we have by Messr Dominic (untruth) Cummings. And we allow it. With luck the Labour ‘Barrister will keep attacking the Tory ‘barista’ on this. But thats for another time on this column.

      • HK

        I agree it is a cross-party issue. We have a few people who make these important decisions with little real oversight or accountability.
        I’d be interested to see if those pushing the Silvertown project have any financial links or end up on the boards or doing ‘consultancy’ work for the construction & other associatied companies in the future.
        You’ll find that some council members and planners end up being employed by home builders after they leave their council role! Surely that would raise an issue of conflict of interest?

        • Derek Small

          With you on that HK big time, consultancy jobs for the boys and handy bonus apartments from builders for influential supporters, thought it was how this corrupt world went round! How many Silvertown commentators voicing support throughout have a vested interest one wonders.

  4. Build it and they will come and when the tunnel and surrounding roads become choked up in less than no time, there will be no blinding flashes of insight on the part of the advocates and yet another ‘solution’ will be proposed.

    Murky you are probably right that the Bakerloo line will never be built and I share your view.

  5. John Norman

    Commuter times most the traffic along the A102 seems to be transit vans – I guess various workers going to the building sites and businesses. I assume these people need their vans.
    I wouldn’t begrudge a charge to go through all river crossings at peak hours. Similarly to the 5p plastic bags a £2 charge (no exemptions) would cut traffic. Also close the Greenwich side of the Blackwall Lane/A102 junction to stop people coming off at the A102/Woolwich junction/rat running and trying to go back on at Blackwall lane and vice versa (depending on the traffic).

    I will always look for an opportunity to say foot/cycle bridge across the Thames at North Greenwiich on near the foot tunnel (previous plan?) would be a massive boost to cycling, jogging in the area – and further east as well.

    • Derek Small

      John I’m not convinced all the transits are for ‘productive workers’, but many for the new trend of online shopping, ( which i guess also employs someone). somebody ought to do a survey and tell us all. I hope people will consider the pollution locally when they order their next bangla-deshi underage child made essential t-shirt or amazon essential plate hook coming in a 2 mtr box?

  6. Chris L

    I have said before the problem with the A102 is the 2 and 3 lane stretches. Make the inside lane of the the three lane stretches into bus lanes. This would reduce the overall delays.

    The new tunnels will have a bus/lorry lane on the inside.

    Tolls on all tunnels will reduce the number of vehicles.

    Non moving traffic on the A102 results is air pollution for the borough.

  7. CDT

    Sadly all the Silvertown Tunnel with do is choke up the roads in the Borough of Greenwich and neighbouring Boroughs like Lewisham and Bexley that already see a lot of traffic heading to and from the existing Blackwall Tunnel.on a daily basis.

    Sadly we will also see a lot more residents suffering from Respiratory diseases due to an increase in pollution.

    • Graham

      That is true. A lot of the people currently off work shielding have Respiratory diseases. More children are also developing Respiratory illnesses.

      When i read some of these comments I always think of the little 9 year old girl Ella Kissi-Debrah who lost her young life to a fatal asthma attack in 2013 who lived 25 metres from the South Circular in Lewisham.

      Sadiq Khan Mayor Of London visited Hamio School close to the very busy Westhorne Aveue in Eltham and got ome children to weareqipment to monitor pollution on their walk to and from school.

      Westhorne Avenue which is already nose to tail with traffic most of the day will be one of the roads affected with extra traffic when the Silvertown Tunnel opens.

      A lot more needs to be done to be done to tackle traffic pollution.

  8. Jack

    The crossing is actually needed – however that doesn’t mean that traffic on the roads etc doesn’t need to be managed. The opportunity for stopping the project has passed, TfL and the Mayor have entered into various agreements, that they’ll need to stick with. However, for all those that blame the current Mayor it’s actually a Boris project and was signed off by a Conservative government.

    The original labour plan when Ken was in power before Boris came in, was to cover the Blackwall Tunnel as part of a congestion zone to reduce traffic impacts. That was a non-starter under Boris.

    If you want traffic volumes to fall, buy online less, have less things delivered to your home, buy less etc etc. The greatest increase in traffic in recent years has been HGVs and vans, rather than cars.

  9. Graham

    Actually it was Sadiq Khan who finally gave the final go ahead to the Silvertown Tunnel despite very strong objections from local residents, Local MP’s and Lewisham and Newham Councils who will also be affected by the Silvertown Tunnels extra traffic congestion and Pollution.

    I do agree that a walking cycling foot bridge across the River Thames would also be a great idea and welcomed by many people. Along with better cross river bus services using new electric or hydrogen single decker buses.

    • Jack

      https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/projects/london/silvertown-tunnel/

      The Secretary of State for Transport has granted development consent for this application
      10 May 2018

      Decision on whether or not to accept the application for examination
      31 May 2016

      Mayoral Elections
      5 May 2016

      Did Khan stop the project, no. Is it a Boris project and signed off by a Conservative Government? Yes.

      One of the biggest issues for over some 20 odd years if not more is that people recognise issues with Blackwall Tunnel and even Rotherhithe Tunnel, but want to avoid the annoyance and negative impacts associated with the new infrastructure, even if it provides benefits.

      It is possible to get better infrastructure and tone down the negative impacts further through other mechanisms. Rather than trying to run an economy and society on victorian and older infrastructure.

      • Derek Small

        Jack,totally agree about the buying online less to reduce traffic, and buying less too. But its possible to improve infrastructure without disrupting locals lives for 5 years. In China they don’t care about that, they just do it for the sake of what they call progress and economic growth but at the expense of their peoples welfare and our planet. We’re not China, not yet anyway thank god. There are solutions which can improve lives without extra road space, and without extracting masses of materials for the concrete and tarmac to build them. Big city society and it’s working economy is already changing, speeded up by the pandemic too, but not in a way that will require more roads for more HGV’s and more pollution. Even electric vehicles don’t stop all the pollution, its mostly particulates which damage our lungs just as coal dust did to the miners, coming also from tyre wear and brake wear. Electric vehicles also require extraction of materials for the ever improving batteries required, by dredging sea beds and disrupting our ecosystem. Its not as simple as ‘stopping progress if you stop road building’. Eventually the Blackwall Tunnel itself may not be needed either, and the blight caused in the 60’s with communities split in two by the new approach road could be reversed. Greenwich becomes a whole again. You build a society which benefits local people, which doesnt need to build something at vast expense to simply encourage more traffic (money from tariffs on Blackwall and Rotherhithe which are already built could be spent on desperately needed new hospitals and social care homes instead of repaying a tunnel contractor for Silvertown ad infinitum. And since Boris’s NHS extra funding from leaving the EU was a lie, we’ll need the extra money.
        Europe is already planning for the future of cities in this way. We’re already behind, as usual. Cities are changing, we need to plan with thinking ‘outside the box’ for a city where the best and the cleverest want to work because its green, its clean, its healthy, and its cool., to attract especially the young emerging entrepreneurs, or we become an ‘also ran’. Your’e right that Victorian infrastructure is old hat, but in the 21st century, so is a city planned around more roads and not people.

        • Jack

          Given the manner in which London, the South East in general and England as a whole has developed over time. It’s not possible to introduce infrastructure without upsetting communities somewhere. The reality is that this infrastructure should have come before the wider development of the peninsula and a long time ago. Short term political decisions, rather than long term planning i’m afraid…. results in the current mess. We as a country should be planning for and putting into place infrastructure needed over the medium to long term, not just infrastructure needed to resolve current issues.

          Silvertown Tunnel, Lower Thames Crossing etc are projects to resolve current capacity and operational constraints, they are needed as well as billions of pounds of investment in public transport, cycling etc.

          Walking and cycling is fine for meeting the needs of local movements (subject to weather), better public transport and roads are needed to move people and goods especially over greater distances. Given the way we consume goods and services, unless there is direction from the top (rather than political cycles), we’ll be stuck in the present conundrum we find ourselves in.

  10. Paul SuperUnknown

    I don’t understand why two tunnels will be situated adjacent to one another. Can’t the powers that be see a new tunnel should be placed further east? Perhaps through the Thamesmead/Erith area? If one thinks rationally, crossings should be spread evenly as possible up/down the length of the Thames so as to spread traffic evenly as possible.
    Sorry if my ignorance shows, but I just don’t get it.

    • Jack

      There were plans for a bridge further downstream connecting Beckton and Thamesmead (roughly), planning matters resulted in it not being progressed, followed by Boris replacing Ken. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thames_Gateway_Bridge

      • Derek Small

        Hi Jack, with Silvertown, assuming we cast aside past mistakes and decisions made by respective London mayors and central Govt involvements, and ignore for now the ‘blame game’ (or we’ll be here all day!) and the ‘the way it should have happened/been timed or sequenced is’, do you consider that the potential benefits to the local community in Greenwich Borough and nearby boroughs will outweigh the negative effects of 5 years (or more) of construction works, taking into consideration the potential effects on traffic flows both short term (during construction period) and longer term once operational? If so for what reason/s? Or should we be accepting this even if negatively affecting us, as being ‘for the good of the nations infrastructure improvements and traffic flow/heavy goods flow north to south’? I am unsure as to your stance on this. Mine is pretty clear as an environmentalist, do you have any personal involvement in the construction or spin off businesses? (I only ask since you have an obvious in depth knowledge here).
        And secondly, if you don’t mind me asking (and just ignore if you do!) do you live ‘predominantly’ locally or within a few miles of the works? Would your children/family be affected in any likely way? I ask out of interest just to confirm whether individuals who express support for the scheme (of which there are many) are all likely to suffer any potential negatives themselves, but are willing to accept them ‘for progress’, or simply consider there will be no negatives, or live mainly outside of the locality and will hopefully just enjoy for a few years at least a slightly improved traffic flow across the river? I hope you do not find my questions too intrusive, you could of course do a ‘Boris’ and simply avoid the questions as in PMQ’s! The choice is yours.

        • Jack

          I live in the Borough and on a road that will see increased traffic as a result of this, despite comments made to both TfL and RBG, neither mitigated the impact of increased movements on the road network around where my family and I live. Is that disappointing, yes.

          Does that make me opposed to the scheme, no.

          Do I live on the peninsula and will I be impacted by construction works, no.

          Will I make any money from this scheme or any scheme in RBG, no.

          Do I work in fields where I’m exposed to infrastructure projects etc… guilty as charged.

          Honestly, Blackwall Tunnel (original bore) was never designed for the kind of traffic that goes through it at present. The second bore, in that location was the mistake. At that time they should have built a crossing similar to the scale of Silvertown.

          Should there be more links between RBG / Newham and Tower Hamlets and further downfield. Absolutely.

          One of the biggest mistakes of the A2 was that it effectively shoved motorway levels of traffic into an area never designed to take it, without all those additional crossings, traffic routes are limited, so more comes the way of the A102 and Blackwall.

          Just look at what happens when the current tunnel is blocked or if Dartford Crossing is blocked. Is that environmentally friendly and good for residents of the Borough….

          The reason why Silvertown induces more traffic is because its free flowing… RBG need to work with TfL and contractors to ensure works don’t cause undue harm to residents and RBG also needs to work on a plan to manage the road network in the Borough better to stop rat running etc. Red routes might be TfL but the rest are RBG.

          Any development will harm someone or something, we can’t just say stop and no more. Nobody at the top has the capacity to have honest discussions with the wider public – so people and places are pitted against each other… not in my backyard, shove it someone else’s approach….

    • HK

      I’ve previously mentioned that there should have been a crossing further easy (between Blackwall tunnel & Dartford crossing).
      Area’s around Blackwall are a bottleneck. especially if you need only need to go on the north circular or east on the north side of the river – you have to drive further into london, use Blackwall tunnel then go back out east!

  11. Graham

    Totally agree HK. I think the new tunnel would have been better located at Thamesmead or Erith for the reasons you mentioned above.

    A lot of people who opposed the Cruise Liner Terminal at Enderby Whaf in Greenwich which would have supported both the local economy and the London economy through tourism. Actually went on to support the Silvertown Tunnel which just does not make sense to me. As it will cause just as much pollution surely ?

    • Jack

      The cruise liner was sitting in one place churning out fumes to keep itself powered. The impact of a tunnel compared to that is different and you can mitigate pollution levels from the tunnel (as the DCO sets out) but you can’t do the same thing when it comes to the cruise liner. Cost effective solution further down = bridges not tunnels. Unless you get near Dartford / Gravesend and Thurrock due to the port uses around there.

  12. yandex

    ‘Greenwich council supported for many years despite very little benefit to the borough according to TfL themselves.’

    They didn’t care about the cruise liner terminal causing pollution

    They didn’t care about the new IKEA causing pollution

    Follow the money

    • Graham

      And Greenwich Council certainly do not care about the Silvertown Tunnel causing pollution either.

    • Jack

      The problem with Ikea, Sainsbury’s (Charlton) and the M&S (Charlton) together with Primark etc is that they all follow the Government’s approach to modelling highway impacts which give TfL and RBG little room for manoeuvre or to expect more.

    • Derek Small

      Spot on Yandex, question is how do we rid ourselves of this uncaring local ‘Govt’? People keep voting Labour back in here year after year, (and I actually like Starmer as a potential leader, but locally its a mess.) And now a 37 story tower proposed Morden wharf amongst others surrounding, Once again probably cut us off the Thames path for a few years, constructing a conveyor belt above for offloading materials and in doing so removing a really great corner of Thameside quite unique to the area, beautiful willow trees drooping over a yellow (yes yellow!) sand beach. (see Murkys great coverage) And will we see any benefit to residents?, probably just another dire shortage of community facilities for the current and future thousands of residents, so developers make a cash grab. Enough is enough.

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