Campaigners met outside St Mary Magdalene school in Greenwich this morning seeking a halt to Silvertown Tunnel construction between Greenwich and the Royal Docks.
However Mayor Sadiq Khan shows no sign of doing so, and a look at construction sites this week shows work well underway.
On the north bank of the river, a large hole is appearing to assist with constructing the tunnel shaft.
To the south a glimpse at the Greenwich construction site showed piling continues.
I also took a look at pedestrian routes in the area given new house building on the Peninsula continues apace alongside new hotels such as Radisson Red.
It’s still dire.
People in wheelchairs don’t even have a dropped kerb if heading from east Greenwich to the o2 and north Greenwich station on one of the few routes between the two.
This is basic stuff not being done.
Greenwich Highways have spent far more on street clutter in the area rather than usable paths for vulnerable pedestrians.
The other route is under a flyover, and well, look at it:
Greenwich Council have a vested interest in the Silvertown Tunnel project continuing after agreeing with major Peninsula landowner Knight Dragon in November 2020 that if the tunnel is delayed beyond 2025, the developer can build 525 fewer “affordable” homes.
The tunnel itself also permanently reduces land for housing in Greenwich by around 400 units due to land take for various approach roads and widening, and north of the Thames the project delays work on thousands of homes at Thames Wharf including a new DLR station.
Despite that, many new homes are still being built in east Greenwich and the Peninsula with little thought to pedestrians walking between the two.
With construction work well underway, it may be time for campaigners to ensure promises are kept.
Those promises are pretty meagre mind, with a small amount of money for public realm work in Greenwich. After much haggling Greenwich will see an extra £350,000. Not much in the context of a £2 billion project.
It really is a small amount, and the equivalent of what a mid-size housing development would give the authority.
Greenwich have already had Section 106 income from some relatively small developments in the area. For example:
- 3-5 Tunnel Avenue, Greenwich, SE10 0SL = £86,306
- Land West of the O2 (Plot N0301), Greenwich Peninsula, SE10 = £82,731
- 2-12 Blackwall Lane, Greenwich, London, SE10 0AN = £59,379
None of that money seems to have improved pedestrian links.
The other aspect is buses through the tunnel. This seems to be the big thing Khan and some in Greenwich have stated as a key improvement.
Buses will share a lane through the tunnel with HGVs, though the bus lane ends promptly upon exiting the tunnel. In the image above it’s already stopped at this vantage point with buses amongst general traffic.
The area where two tunnels converge looks a prime site for congestion as cars from Blackwall heading for the Peninsula junction exit must dive across traffic arriving from Silvertown.
It looks likely that the existing 108 cross-river route may be joined by an extra 2 or 3 bus routes.
With TfL’s poor finances and heavy cuts to buses possible, it could be substantial cuts in other areas are made to keep that commitment.
In addition, buses heading through the tunnel are likely to meet extra congestion across Greenwich borough as they continue south.
With two tunnels converging on one existing road, TfL expect more traffic to exit at junctions onto local roads:
In TfL’s words, “release of queues, re-distribution and different route choices of existing highway journeys” are likely.
Redistribution means more traffic at a number of junctions used by bus routes, so it’ll slow them down acting as a disincentive for passengers.
That will apply at junctions on the Peninsula, east Greenwich at Angerstein roundabout, Sun in the Sands in Blackheath, Kidbrooke and Eltham.
Some of these junctions are beside the site of thousands of new homes.
If a bus route goes near any of those areas, extra delays are likely.
Hence the argument that Silvertown alleviates congestion at the tunnel mouth made so often by Sadiq Khan conveniently ignores impacts miles away.
The intention of extra traffic to disperse also explains why road layouts akin to rural A-roads are being retained in areas of mass-housebuilding:
With construction now well underway, those list of meagre improvements are all campaigners can hope for.
As for drivers, extra congestion south of the river in various areas is the expected result upon completion.
Yesterday Labour leader and London MP (Holborn and St Pancras) Kier Starmer claimed he didn’t know about the £2 billion project. It’s probable he doesn’t want to get involved in something that has deeply divided Labour in London.
Either that or he genuinely doesn’t have a clue about major infrastructure in the city he represents.