Greenwich bus betrayal? Few service improvements through Silvertown tunnel shown by TfL

If you still believed the Silvertown tunnel would offer much to public transport users you’ll be disappointed as Transport for London have revealed limited new journey opportunities through the tunnel upon completion.

And it’s worse for those in Greenwich borough, with almost no improvements for many areas shown during a Regeneration and Transport meeting last night.

TfL’s proposals would see the 129 extend across the river with an express bus named x239 running from Grove Park to Canary Wharf alongside the existing 108 from Lewisham to Stratford.

Two new routes and one existing

And, err, that’s it.

Many areas that would have hoped to see direct links across the Thames such as a rapidly growing Kidbrooke and Eltham see earlier bus proposals dropped.

Change needed

Residents must continue to take trains or buses and then change to reach areas such as Canary Wharf.

335 from Kidbrooke to Greenwich. No plans for any extension

The 129 currently runs from Lewisham to Greenwich passing many DLR stations, and thus many places served by it already have direct links via the DLR to areas north of the river.

North of the river it will not serve major areas of employment and leisure such as Canary Wharf, but instead head east to Beckton.

108 runs through Blackwall tunnel

Bus improvements for towns some way from existing direct links across the Thames were expected to benefit with links to Canary Wharf – but not if these draft plans become adopted.

Earlier plans

When tunnel plans were being drafted an oft-heard claim was 37.5 buses would run each way. Since then 20 per hour each way has become the default level.

Given that included the existing 108 route across the river which operates six per hour, 14 per hour really left little chance for more than two routes.

However even earlier this year Transport for London were still presenting a number of routes to local council’s and stakeholders in Silvertown Tunnel Implementation Group meetings.

Route options from early 2022 report

Routes serving areas of Greenwich borough such as Eltham, Kidbrooke and Charlton were shown.

The Charlton route would serve potentially thousands of homes set to be built at the Charlton Riverside masterplan area, while Kidbrooke is seeing over 6,000 new homes built.

That’s 5,300 from Berkeley Homes, 600 from TfL themselves and over 300 from Greenwich Council.

New homes in Kidbrooke

They have a rail station, but that still requires a change at congested Lewisham for the DLR to reach east London.

Many of the tunnel’s main supporters in Greenwich Labour came from areas in the south of the borough around Eltham.

TfL predict an increase in afternoon traffic along A102 and A2 in Greenwich

If these plans are adopted they gain no new bus route, and also some of the largest increases in congestion according to TfL’s traffic modelling.

Large number of Charlton sites have proposals, with some now approved

Many in Eltham amongst tunnel supporters in both Labour and Tory long pushed for a DLR extension which no one who has looked into it ever took seriously.

It was almost never going to happen even if TfL were flush with cash. It’ll certainly not happen now with projects on the drawing board for decades such as a Bakerloo line extension deemed far more important for when funds ever return for major capital projects.

Work now underway on new estate in Woolwich Dockyard. No direct bus route through the tunnel will now run near this site

Then again will many use buses as congestion is likely to worsen south of the river according to TfL themselves?

Transport for London have been very keen to highlight northbound AM traffic reduction at the mouth of the river but reticent about highlighting PM southbound congestion increases.

The new tunnel does contain a bus and HGV lane, though all plans so far revealed show the lane immediately ending at the tunnel portal, where buses will meet much traffic in Greenwich.

Silvertown Tunnel exit meets Blackwall Tunnel (Click to enlarge)

If buses had a specific lane all the way to the Peninsula slip road they would avoid much traffic, but so far there’s no indication this will happen.

The road layout will also see those exiting the Blackwall tunnel having to traverse traffic exiting Silvertown tunnel to reach the Greenwich Peninsula slip road.

Red dots indicates increased congestion. Eltham and Kidbrooke see some of the greatest increases

It’s also worth noting traffic levels to the Peninsula will grow in coming years. Over 20,000 homes are planned, and many plots remain unbuilt.

Latest GMV phase now being built

Though a steady stream are now underway, including Greenwich Millennium Village’s latest phases, Knight Dragon’s plot 19.05 and Plot 18.02 beside St Mary Magdalene school.

Far from all are car-free. Even with low ratio of car parking to new homes, the sheer number ensures sizable increases of vehicles for residents alongside services and deliveries.

Work now underway on plot 18.02

The Peninsula housing total excludes other substantial plans including 1,290 homes on Ikea’s car park (with car parking retained below) alongside new distribution depots.

Homes planned on Ikea car park and B&Q site

Pinch points

All traffic heading south via both tunnels converge on the same existing road network unlike north of the Thames where Silvertown’s portal is a few hundred metres from the Blackwall tunnel.

For all the PR, the Silvertown tunnel does next to nothing for sustainable travel on foot or cycle and it sees minimal sums for public realm improvements either side given the mitigation fund is tiny at around £700k, which is less than the average small development brings in.

It also appears to do almost nothing for many areas that will see extra congestion with residents given minimal new routes and a lack of dedicated bus lane upon existing the tunnel in Greenwich.

To compound matters, existing east-west buses through Greenwich are likely to encounter greater congestion at junctions such as those that pass junctions in east Greenwich and Sun in the Sands serving the A102 and A2.

Consultation begins in November for future bus routes, though unless TfL gain a sizable uplift in funding any improvements beyond the meagre levels now shown could be some way off.

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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

    3 thoughts on “Greenwich bus betrayal? Few service improvements through Silvertown tunnel shown by TfL

    • Don’t forget the National Express new setvice 260 from Canterbury to Stansted which calls at Bexleyheath (Danson) and Stratford and will have a stop in Eltham from the New Year

    • Not at all surprised this is what we have come to expect from the Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Greenwich Borough has always had a Raw deal when it comes to bus service improvements. As pointed out by John the original plans showed more bus routes serving the Silvertown Tunnel from areas of the Borough including Eltham, Charlton and Kidbrooke which are all seeing thousands of new homes built. With thousands of more new homes planned in and around Thamesmead, Abbey Wood and Woolwich. This is not good news for the residents of Greenwich Borough who will see a major in reade in traffic congestion as people continue to drive as existing services struggle to cope.

    • Sadiq was a ray of normalcy compared to the tory nutter at the last election but he really couldn’t give a toss about SE London and river connections. Remember the passenger service between the o2 and canary wharf side? Remember the two bridges in thamesmead and Erith? Note the woolwich ferry basically never works and doesn’t run weekends? The woolwich foot tunnel has had a broken north lift for MONTHS and no sign of repair.

      There is not strategy for alleviating the issues crossing the river by foot/bike, public transport or car. Sadiq REALLY needs to start pulling his finger out or I’m just voting green for the rest of time after all the pollution the new tunnel will create.


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