TfL show latest bus route plans through Silvertown Tunnel

A meeting of the Silvertown Tunnel monitoring group in late January shows the latest thinking from TfL on potential bus routes through the Silvertown Tunnel.

They are early drafts and would see route 129 extended to Beckton with two possible new routes from Eltham to Beckton and Grove Park to Canary Wharf. It seems very similar to plans seen seven years ago.

Ideas for future routes

Route 104 would be extended from Beckton to North Greenwich and Route 309 from Silvertown to North Greenwich.

Route 108 already runs through the Blackwall Tunnel.


They’ll be debate as to whether many of these proposed routes much use to south east London given they head to an area with relatively little employment at Beckton. Why do so many head to Beckton anyway? If moving into one of a possible 8,000 homes in Charlton, direct buses to Stratford would be appealing. For many, the DLR remains a better bet to reach major centres of employment. I doubt many in Eltham will be impressed with a bus to Beckton. Surely Canary Wharf or Stratford would appeal and offer much more north of the river.

Some routes appear convoluted and meandering, and it’s hard to see why people would use it to any great degree south of the river.

It should also be noted that the bus lane in the new tunnel will be shared with lorries, and ends as soon as it emerges into daylight. This is the view in Greenwich:

Silvertown tunnel in Greenwich where two tunnels converge onto existing road network

Where’s the bus lane you may ask? Well, in the above image it’s already ended. This shows how meagre it is:

Bus lane ends very shortly after exit of tunnel

Then we factor in increased congestion south of the river as two tunnels converge on the same road layout each evening and how many would use those routes?

The report states an “initial 20bph bus network has been used for new Refreshed Assessment – however by running further sensitivities it is expected this initial bus network will evolve”.

Does that 20 buses per hour include 108 which already runs, as if so that immediately brings down potential buses to a possible maximum of just two new routes or even one. The 108 currently has six buses per hour in each direction.

Bus approaching North Greenwich station

TfL have often mentioned 37.5 buses per hour, though as the meeting presentation shows, only 20 is required to meet the condition of the Consent Order:

“TfL must secure a cross-river bus service provision using the tunnels which delivers the same or greater levels of public transport benefits (as quantified in the pre-Scheme Refreshed Case modelling) as those identified in the Assessed Case, as set out in the environmental statement, without any reduction in any other user benefits generated by the scheme and in any event the provision of not less than 20 buses per hour during peak periods in each direction through the tunnels for the duration of the monitoring period”

Traffic levels

There’s also some odd assumptions shown in the latest meeting which predict reduced traffic heading southbound on the A102 when another tunnel is added onto the existing road, with reduced traffic on Blackwall Lane also seen under the Annual Average Daily Traffic measure. Part of the meeting covers changes to assumptions made in 2018-19 and seeks to revise to current conditions. But does it do a good job?

Does the latest update factor in, for example, recent plans such as at least 1,290 homes on Bugsby’s Way opposite Ikea?

Housing plans near Ikea Greenwich

Even if car-free, delivery vehicles, cabs and food deliveries will bring additional vehicles. 660 car parking will remain.

Housing plans

There’s other odd measures such as a stated reduction in Bugsby’s Way traffic. Whether comparing against existing conditions or forecasts made in recent years, this makes little sense. See the green lines here:

Are they aware of a distribution centre planned off it which has only just come to light? Even the drive-throughs (another was submitted last month) will bring extra traffic. Greenwich Millennium Village is seeing hundreds of homes go up. The final phase, for example, has over 200 parking spaces. Then add in Morden Wharf approved last year (1,750 homes), and Morris Walk estate rebuild (also approved last year) with a doubling of homes and no parking restrictions. It goes on.

It’s curious and hard to believe how another tunnel’s worth of traffic adding onto existing vehicles, plus thousands of homes and distribution centres, will see less congestion in areas such as Bugsby’s Way in the TfL presentation.

Morden Wharf approved in 2021

There also doesn’t appear to be much thought about Tunnel Avenue. As stated, plans for 1,750 homes were approved last year at Morden Wharf facing onto Tunnel Avenue. Silvertown Tunnel plans see the bus-only gate become open to all traffic:

Extract from 2019 consent order

TfL’s modelling also mentions “slower growth, higher unemployment, more working from home in office jobs, more online shopping, lower trip rates. Higher car ownership due to some hesitancy to return to Public Transport”.

Yet while public transport has lagged vehicle use since March 2020, congestion on the A2 and A102 has remained a constant for some time. Long queues are evident almost every single afternoon southbound.

Southbound traffic having exited Blackwall Tunnel.

Southbound traffic is the critical pinch point that will hit traffic and bus routes across south east London – including east-west routes such as the 177 as traffic from two tunnels disperses onto local roads in Greenwich – and those southbound queues extend way beyond north Greenwich down to Sun in the Sands in Blackheath and the Kidbrooke junction where 6,500 homes are built or planned. Kidbrooke Village has increased from 4,800 to 5,300, TfL themselves are building 619 flats (now well underway), Greenwich Council submitted plans for 119 last year and in recent weeks plans for another 322.

Kidbrooke homes now rising directly next to A2 Kidbrooke junction

TfL measure the peak travel time on roads as 5-6pm, though delays start building southbound on the A2 and A102 from 4pm. Check TfL traffic cameras every day at that time and it’s clearly evident from Falconwood, through Eltham, Kidbrooke, Blackheath and Greenwich.

Next steps

Transport for London state they will now look to “understand potential junction impacts” and “understand potential environmental impacts”.

The TfL presentation ends by stating that early indications using refreshed measurements show “lower public transport user benefits from the Assessed Case 37.5bph bus network [compared to 2018] – the quantified forecast benefits (journey time savings) will be different”. That’s using a 37.5bph measurement, which may not even be seen upon opening.

They claim this is because:

  • DfT Transport Assessment Guidance (TAG) input parameters (value of time for some users has fallen by 43%)
  • Delayed opening year (from 2021 to 2025) reducing level of benefits due to discounting
  • Updated assumptions on other public transport enhancements (e.g. DLR upgrades)

Greenwich Council’s Scrutiny Panel are due to look at the tunnel next week.



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6 thoughts on “TfL show latest bus route plans through Silvertown Tunnel

  • If we are serious about reducing air pollution traffic congestion and private vehicle usage and encourage more walking cycling and use of public transport there would be a need for all these bus routes..

    Taking in to account the amount of new homes that are still in the planning both south and east of the river. Wich will provide thousands of new homes. I am surprised one of the new bus routes. May not have operated from Thamesmead ..

  • @ CDT Totally agree . However, I would like to see TFL restoring the cuts already made to services.

    I think all the new bus routes will be required by the time the Silverton Tunnel opens. As traffic congestion in Greenwich and neighbouring Boroughs will be an absolute nightmare by then.

  • That bus route map originally appeared as “Silvertown Indicative Future Cross River Bus Network” in a pack of papers for a Programmes and Investment Committee meeting on 8th March 2017, so I wouldn’t assume it’s indicative of current plans.

    For example the 108 doesn’t go via that route any more, and there are separate imminent plans to reshape the network in south Newham for Crossrail.

  • @ Kevin. You are so right. Traffic will be a nightmare on both sides of the Silvertown Tunnel when the tunnel finally opens. It is bad enough now with the Blackwall Tunnel with the area getting grid locked with traffic on a regular basis. The population in Greater London is growing almost by the day. Seeing a lot more congestion.

    We will need major investment in public transport in London including all of the proposed bus routes and mote. Along with improved train, DLR and underground service before people will ditch their cars and use public transport which can be currently unreliable. We have seen cuts to services over the last few years. With bus routes axed and frequencies reduced.

    We now have the Mayor For London threatening to withdraw mote bus services and underground services unless he gets more funding. What the Mayor Of London should have done is axed the Silvertown Tunnel saving millions upon millions of pounds.

    However.It is too late to stop the Silvertown Tunnel now as to do so will be a great waste of public money which would be unacceptable.

    So the Government need to work with Transport For London. Regardless of who the Mayor is to strike a deal to better invest in public transport in London. If everyone is really serious about encouraging more people to walk cycle and use public transport rather than private cars.

  • @Kevim I agree traffic congestion both south and east of the Silvertown Tunnel will be a absolute nightmare
    We already see traffic gridlocked in the area due to incidents with the Blackwall Tunnel.

    We will need all these bus routes and many more along with services improvements to train DLR and underground services to serve an ever growing London Population.

    Car usage will continue unless we see major improvements to public transport in London.

    The Silvertown Tunnel I’d here to stay as to cancel the project now will be a huge waste of public money and will be unacceptable and unforgivable

  • Pingback: Tunnelling work begins on new Silvertown road link under Thames - OnLondon

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