New report urges Silvertown Tunnel rethink

A new report: The Silvertown Tunnel is in a hole, so STOP DIGGING, published today, calls for the £1.2 billion Silvertown Tunnel project to be cancelled. It claims it is incompatible with the Greater London Authority’s vision to be carbon neutral by 2030.

The report shows that the tunnel project would be likely to increase, rather than decrease, greenhouse gas emissions, and would at best redistribute lethal air pollution rather than cutting it. It also questions whether in a post Covid world there will be a need for it if longer term traffic levels do not rise as predicted.

Work on the Silvertown Tunnel was originally expected to start later this year, but that could be delayed with the current crisis. However, the present situation, which has seen traffic levels plummet, also offers an opportunity to review whether it still makes sense to build the tunnel given the impact it will have on the nearby communities as well as on climate change. Given the increase in walking and cycling over the last 3 months, a healthier and less damaging solution might be to improve these types of links across the Thames instead.

The report also disputes the GLA’s argument, central to its case for the tunnel, that it would not cause “induced traffic” (i.e. the effect, analysed in transport research, that more roads produce more traffic). Aside from concerns about the calculations, the other fear is that a future mayor could come in and sweep away the toll charges, leading to large traffic and pollution increases.

Simon Pirani a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies and author of the report 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.”

Transport Action Network is pleased to support local campaigners by co-publishing the report with the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel coalition, Speak Out Woolwich and Extinction Rebellion Greenwich.  The report’s conclusions have also been endorsed by: The New Economics Foundation, trade union and environmental campaign groups, prominent climate and transport experts, and local officials of the Labour, Green and Liberal Democratic parties.

We are particularly concerned at how the tunnel will expose some of the most vulnerable communities to more air pollution and will do little to help them with their every day transport. The current crisis has highlighted the benefits of clean air and that those who suffer high levels of air pollution are more vulnerable to infections and diseases. If we really want to create a fairer society and rectify some of the inequalities within it, we need to start acting like we mean it.  A good place to start would be to scrap this tunnel and to invest in cleaner and healthier solutions instead.


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