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Stirling Prize winner picked for £1.2bn Silvertown Tunnel project

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The AJ can reveal that RIBA Stirling Prize-winning practice dRMM has landed a key role on the £1.2 billion Silvertown Tunnel project

The architect is working on the portal buildings for the new 1.4km tunnel under the river Thames between Greenwich and Silvertown, as well as a ‘fully accessible’ proposed cycle and footbridge across the northbound approach to the Blackwall Tunnel.

The practice is part of the Riverlinx consortium of Spanish construction giant Ferrovial subsidiary Cintra, BAM PPP PGGM, Macquarie Capital and SK E&C, which was awarded the construction contract by project backer Transport for London (TfL) in November.

According to TfL, the twin-bore road tunnel will follow the route of the existing Emirates Air Line cable car and aims to ‘reduce congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel and improve the reliability and resilience of the wider road network’.

The organisation added: ’The population and traffic will increase in this area of London because of major developments under way and planned on Greenwich Peninsula and at the Royal Docks, Stratford and Barking Riverside.’

A spokesperson for dRMM, which was co-founded by current National Infrastructure Commission board member Sadie Morgan, said: ’The project is at an early stage and we are developing designs using sustainable construction materials.

‘We have approached the brief as an excellent opportunity to make vital infrastructure sustainable and contribute positively to the urban realm.’

David Rowe, head of major projects sponsorship at TfL said: ’The new twin-bore Silvertown tunnel, located within the extended Ultra Low Emission zone, will help enable the introduction of new bus services across the river in east London and improve the reliability and resilience of the local road network.

’We are looking forward to seeing the designs from dRMM, which are expected to be high quality and fit seamlessly into the wider regeneration of the areas on both sides of the river.

’The replacement cycle/footbridge will also support our wider aspirations for more journeys made by walking and cycling, and will connect into planned redevelopments around the Greenwich Peninsula.’

dRMM is a signatory of Architects Declare which includes among its commitments a pledge to ’evaluate all new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown, and encourage our clients to adopt this approach’.

Two years ago, TfL was granted a Development Consent Order by the Department for Transport for the subterranean scheme – an order which effectively gives the green light to any development categorised as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).

Construction had been expected to begin this year, with the new tunnel opening ‘from 2025’.

However, the massive scheme is not without its critics.

In March, Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said: ‘Silvertown road tunnel is already turning out to be a hugely expensive construction project and I expect its financial cost will escalate even further.

’The project should be cancelled and the money invested in much-needed upgrades to the Tube network, such as signalling upgrades on the Piccadilly line. More money also needs to be invested in walking and cycling infrastructure, including a pedestrian and cycle bridge linking Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf.’

Meanwhile, the AJ’s sister title New Civil Engineer has reported that the losing contract bidder, Silver Thames Connect, continues to pursue a Part 7 Claim to the Technology & Construction Court after the Riverlinx consortium was named the preferred bidder for the contract.

The Stop Silvertown Tunnel Coalition, which has opposed the tunnel on environmental grounds, has also threatened to take the London Mayor’s office to court for pushing ahead with the project.

Victoria Rance, coordinator of the opposition group said: ’We are deeply disappointed that dRMM, a signatory of Architects Declare, and a practice that promises ‘socially useful’ architecture has chosen to accept work on the Silvertown Tunnel - a project that is very clearly both environmentally and economically unjustifiable.

’This £1.2 billion scheme will increase carbon emissions…motor traffic and pollution in some of the most deprived and already most polluted communities in south east London. It is only economically viable if levels of motor traffic in London are maintained far above levels compatible with Paris Agreement emissions targets.’

She added: ’We would urge dRMM to look very carefully at the publicly-available details of the scheme, stick to their principles, and refuse this toxic contract.’

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • For me its black and white - something is either sustainable or its not. Even if the designers make this as sustainable as remotely possible, it is still not sustainable. This is a project that is based on an old economy that no longer exists - I wouldn't be at all surprised if it gets binned after several hundred million pounds are spent.

    I think Sadie Morgan is one of the best architects of the past two generations and this one. Despite this I would have thought that anybody on the National Infrastructure Commission board and the practices that they represent should not have any involvement in projects that the board has an influence over - to me this is common sense and should be a prerequisite for being on the board in the first place.

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  • An Australian consultant to oil companies on filling station network planning who spent the first day (a Sunday) of his first visit to this country exploring the M25 came back convinced that the more roads you build the more traffic you'll create.
    Although this might happen even if the seemingly endless pressure for development around London takes a massive 'breather' - or even backtracks - and TfL's statement about the justification for this project reads as very complacent, in the current circumstances.
    TfL is not only stuck with enormous financial and programming problems with the first 'crossrail' project (who knows how the second will pan out?), it was exposed during the garden bridge affair as capable of being a great deal less than squeaky clean in its management of public funds (to put it politely) and needs to pause further work on this tunnel project if it wants to avoid another scandal.
    Caroline Pidgeon is right.

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  • Christine Murray

    The link between air pollution and coronavirus fatality is just one of many good reasons to scrap this project.

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