Silvertown Tunnel ‘will see tens of thousands of children breathing toxic air’

By Staff

A London mayoral candidate has claimed that Sadiq Khan’s Silvertown Tunnel plans are ‘contradictory’ and will see ‘tens of thousands’ of local schoolchildren breathing in toxic air. Zoë Garbett, who is standing for the Green Party on May 2, told MyLondon that she believes the project – which is due to be finished in 2025 – will worsen air pollution in South East London.

The Hackney councillor added that youngsters on the main approach road are going to be breathing in emissions from vehicles. She said: “We’ve ended up in a situation where the mayor’s now considering putting a toll on the Blackwall Tunnel and the Silvertown [Tunnel] to kind of limit people’s use of it, when you’ve created a space that obviously was intended for use.

“So, I think, the whole programme from beginning to end has not been well thought through at all. It’s not what that area of the city needs either […] The current mayor’s failings have been mainly the Silvertown Tunnel, as we’ve spoken about, is completely contradictory to bringing in other clean air measures.”

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Cllr Garbett also mentioned Mr Khan’s past support for an expansion of London City Airport and suggested his green actions do not match his words due to ‘no focus’ on adult skills to deliver a ‘retrofit revolution’. In addition, the campaign group – Stop Silvertown Tunnel Traffic and Pollution (SSTTP) – claimed in an email to the commissioner of Transport for London (TfL), Andy Lord, and Deputy Mayor of London for transport, Seb Dance, that general traffic will ‘always worsen long-term climate outcomes, and long-term local pollution outcomes in some of London’s least affluent and most polluted boroughs’.

Campaign group says there will be only 2,000 fewer motor journeys

Campaigners also claim that even when Silvertown opens, TfL ‘expects the majority of cross-river traffic (around 80,000 vehicles per day) to continue to use the Blackwall Tunnel’. In addition, the group says that Mr Dance told it that that proposed new London bus services through the Silvertown Tunnel will ‘result in around 10,000 more daily bus trips’.

A spokesperson for SSTTP suggests that 8,000 of those ‘new’ trips are ‘modelled as switching from rail, so only 2,000 switch from motor vehicles’.

The Silvertown Tunnel, due to operate alongside the existing Blackwall Tunnel, has been in development for more than a decade, with public consultations on the scheme carried out in 2014, 2015 and a six-month public enquiry taking place as part of the planning process. At the request of Mr Khan, the scheme was reviewed in October 2016, with ‘a series of enhancements made to the proposals to make it greener and more public transport-focused’, and exploring ‘further benefits’ for local residents who use the tunnel.

Project will address ‘chronic vehicle congestion’

A spokesperson for Mr Khan said: “The mayor is committed to reducing emissions in London and is taking world-leading action to tackle poor air quality in London. With around 4,000 Londoners dying prematurely each year due to toxic air pollution and thousands of people in our city developing life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma, there is simply no time to waste.

“The Silvertown Tunnel will transform the way people can travel in a part of London that currently has few options for crossing the Thames. In addition to providing new, zero-emission, cross-river bus services, the tunnel will address the chronic vehicle congestion currently associated with the inadequate, Victorian-era Blackwall Tunnel.

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“This means that the new tunnel will improve air quality in the area, and a new user charge on both tunnels will also ensure there is no increase in traffic overall.”

City Hall also highlights that the consent to introduce a toll to use the Silvertown Tunnel was given as part of the Development Consent Order (DCO) for the Silvertown Tunnel in May 2018, which was approved by the Secretary of State for Transport, following a public examination of the proposals between October 2016 and April 2017. It is thought that drivers could be charged as much as £5.25.

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