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Silvertown Tunnel ‘not compatible’ with GLA’s net-zero goal, says report

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The Silvertown Tunnel is incompatible with the Greater London Authority’s aim to become carbon-neutral by 2030, according to a new report by a senior researcher at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies

The £1.2 billion twin-bore tunnel is set to contain double-lane roads stretching 1.4km beneath the River Thames from Silvertown to the Greenwich Peninsula.

It is being developed by Transport for London (TfL), with a contract for design, building and 25 years of maintenance having been won by the RiverLinx, a consortium which includes architect dRMM as well as contractor BAM Nuttall.

But politicians, residents’ groups, academics and unions have demanded the Silvertown Tunnel is scrapped following a report, published today (22 June), which says the project would likely increase greenhouse gases and ‘at best redistribute lethal air pollution rather than cutting it’.

The report, entitled The Silvertown Tunnel is in a hole, so STOP DIGGING, is co-published by Transport Action Network, Stop the Silvertown Tunnel coalition, Speak Out Woolwich and Extinction Rebellion Greenwich. 

It questions TfL’s prediction that long term traffic levels around the area will increase, given the sharp reduction in traffic – and boost to walking and cycling infrastructure – which has taken place during lockdown.

And it disputes the Greater London Authority’s argument that a new tunnel would not attract more traffic than there currently is.

The report was written by Oxford-based researcher Simon Pirani and backed by academics including Kevin Anderson, a professor of climate change at the University of Manchester, Phil Goodwin, emeritus professor of transport policy at UCL and UWE, and Frank Kelly, chair of environment and health at Imperial University.

Pirani said: ‘In one breath the Greater London Authority claims to be leading the world on climate change, and taking action on air pollution. In the next, it is backing a climate-wrecking, pollution-generating roads project.

‘It needs to stop pretending that it is possible to carry on building new roads, and paving the way for more traffic, in a climate emergency.’

In response, a spokesperson for the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said it is ‘essential that we continue with our plan to build a new tunnel at Silvertown as the existing infrastructure is both antiquated and worn-out’.

She added: ‘It’s just wrong to suggest you can’t reduce congestion and improve river crossings in the east of London while also tackling the climate emergency.

‘Sadiq has been clear that he doesn’t want to replace one health crisis with another, and he is determined that our city’s recovery from coronavirus will be clean, green and sustainable.’

dRMM declined to comment on the report, but practice co-founder Alex de Rijke has previously told the AJ he believes their involvement in the Silvertown Tunnel ‘is an opportunity […] to influence the engineering of vital infrastructure, actively making it more sustainable and contribute more positively to the urban realm’.

Signatories calling for Silvertown Tunnel to be scrapped 

  • East Greenwich Residents’ Association
  • East London SERA/Labour’s Environment Campaign
  • Eltham Enviros
  • Greenwich & Bexley Trade Union Council
  • National Education Union, Greenwich District
  • New Economics Foundation
  • South East London Labour for a Green New Deal
  • Unite the Union, Greenwich branch
  • Waltham Forest Labour for a Green New Deal
  • Westcombe Society Environment Committee
  • Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change, University of Manchester
  • Majella Anning, chair, Greenwich West Labour Party
  • Siobhan Benita, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Mayor of London 2021
  • Sian Berry AM, Green Party London Assembly Member and candidate for Mayor of London
  • Dr Andrew Boswell, Consultant in Climate Emergency Planning and Policy
  • Matt Browne, Greenwich Green Party
  • Stewart Christie, Greenwich Liberal Democrats
  • Audrey de Nazelle, Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College
  • Phil Goodwin, Emeritus Professor of Transport Policy, UCL & UWE
  • Tim Gopsill, chair, Coldharbour Ward branch of the Dulwich and West Norwood Constituency Labour Party
  • Tom Greenwood, Environment Officer, Leyton and Wanstead Labour Party (personal capacity)
  • Joanna Haigh, Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Physics, Imperial College
  • Tim Harris, Secretary, Leyton and Wanstead Labour Party (personal capacity)
  • Alan Haughton, Stop City Airport
  • Izzy Hickmet, Vice-chair-elect, National Education Union, London Region
  • Jenny Jones (Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb), Green Party, former London Assembly member
  • Professor Frank Kelly, Director, Environmental Research Group, Imperial College London
  • Dr Jaise Kuriakose, Lecturer in Energy and Climate Change, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester
  • Richard Kuper, Holborn and St Pancras Labour Party
  • Clare Loops, Greenwich Green Party
  • Richard Lufkin, Councillor, Shacklewell Ward, Hackney
  • Samantha Mason, Walthamstow Labour Party and PCS policy officer
  • Carol O’Toole, Green Party member, retired Immunologist
  • Ramesh Perera-Delcourt, Chair, Greenwich Borough Liberal Democrats
  • Gordon Peters, Haringey Over 50s Forum and Unite the Union, Haringey Community branch
  • Laurence Pinturault, Environment Officer, Erith & Thamesmead Constituency Labour Party
  • Pat Quigley, secretary of Victoria branch of Hackney South & Shoreditch Constituency Labour Party
  • Rupert Read, Extinction Rebellion national spokesperson, Reader in Philosophy at University of East Anglia
  • Jonathan Rosenhead, chair, Hoxton West branch of Hackney South & Shoreditch Constituency Labour Party
  • Caroline Russell, London Assembly member, Green party
  • Dee Searle, Climate Emergency Camden
  • Dr Ashok Sinha, Chief Executive, London Cycling Campaign
  • Peter Strachan, Professor of Energy Policy, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen
  • Matthew Stratford, coordinator, Greenwich Green Party
  • Marc Tuft, Political Education Officer, Erith & Thamesmead Constituency Labour Party, chair of Abbey Wood Labour Party branch
  • Professor John Whitelegg, Professor of Sustainable Transport, Liverpool John Moores University
  • Christian Wolmar, writer and broadcaster on transport, shortlisted as Labour candidate for London mayoral election 2016

Statement by a Mayor of London spokesperson 

‘It’s just wrong to suggest you can’t reduce congestion and improve river crossings in the east of London while also tackling the climate emergency. Sadiq has been clear that he doesn’t want to replace one health crisis with another, and he is determined that our city’s recovery from coronavirus will be clean, green and sustainable.

His bold London Streetspace plans will create one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world, and are making it safer and more convenient for millions more journeys to be made on foot or by bike. From today, temporary changes are being made to widen the scope and level of the Congestion Charge – helping ensure our streets aren’t restricted by cars and congestion and potentially reducing car trips by a third.

‘But it is essential that we also continue with our plan to build a new tunnel at Silvertown as the existing infrastructure is both antiquated and worn-out. The combination of introducing tolls on both the Blackwall tunnel and at Silvertown – and the extension of the Ultra Low Emission Zone from 2021 so that Silvertown will be within the area covered – will play a crucial role in tackling congestion, improving overall air quality and providing much-needed additional bus services across the river.’

Statement by Chris Todd, director of Transport Action Network 

‘This tunnel will expose some of the most vulnerable communities to more air pollution and will do little to help transport needs. The current crisis has highlighted the benefits of clean air and that those who suffer high levels of pollution are more vulnerable to infections and diseases. If we really want to create a fairer society, we need to start acting like we mean it. A good place to start would be to scrap this tunnel.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • This is beginning to look like a subterranean version of the 'garden bridge', and goodness knows TfL has better things to overspend on just now.
    When will they ever learn?

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  • so no-one from architects declare is going to comment on their founding members being involved?

    What use is Architects Declare? why has this magazine been advertising dRMM so much?

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