Greenwich Council tried to hijack the consultation into building a third Blackwall Tunnel yesterday – but ended up having to start again after its Twitter feed started spouting spoof messages.

Greenwich Time, 4 December 2012

The council has launched a “bridge the gap” campaign to encourage residents to sign TfL’s consultations into building river crossings on the Greenwich Peninsula and at Gallions Reach in Thamesmead.

Conservative mayor Boris Johnson wants to build a tunnel close to the existing two Blackwall Tunnels, and open a ferry at Gallions Reach, which would replace the Woolwich Ferry.

Greenwich’s ruling Labour councillors voted to support the Silvertown policy at a behind-closed-doors meeting last week.

But some were surprised to see Chris Roberts launch a full-blooded campaign yesterday, with a front page story on the front of its weekly newspaper Greenwich Time, demanding a tunnel to Silvertown and a bridge at Gallions Reach.

On Monday afternoon, a page on the Greenwich Council website was launched to promote the campaign. Residents were asked to fill in their name, an email address, and to tick a box to send a message to Twitter. Upon clicking the “submit” button, you would be redirected to the TfL survey page, where you’d presumably follow the instructions on the previous page and say you strongly supported options you were were told to support.

The idea was that the council’s Twitter feed would then carry your name, a hashtag (#bridgethegap) and a link to the survey page. Essentially, the council was trying to use Twitter to hijack a public consultation.

There were no facts on the page, and no encouragement to read the info on TfL’s website – just a instruction to vote, and a link straight to the start of the survey.

Classy. Except there were several flaws. The feed wasn’t moderated. No genuine name ever appeared on the feed – because the hijack was, well, hijacked, by person(s) unknown.

Greenwich Council's Twitter feed

One taxpayer wasn’t amused…

Whoops. But the Dear Leader’s pet pussy wasn’t long for this world, as council press office staff scrambled to delete the auto-tweets before they could spew out any more nonsense. Instead, it just started spouting “new pledge of support made for…” every time a “resident” signed the petition.

But worse, there were still no checks on email addresses or where people were signing from. I managed to sign under spoof names at least twice from the same computer, opening up the opportunity for someone to either sabotage or hugely inflate the numbers of “residents” signing the petition. There was also a promise that names wouldn’t be published – but names on petitions to public bodies have to be public.

Eventually, the council saw sense and gave up trying to hijack Twitter before its account got suspended. And last night, a proper sign-up page appeared with following message:

Thanks to everyone who has already pledged their support on the Royal Borough’s website for the campaign for extra river crossings. We have decided to ask people for additional details when they sign up to the ‘bridge the gap’ campaign in order to confirm their identity.

Whether “residents” George Hamilton III, Mickey Mouse and Pope Pius XXIX will have to do it all over again, remains to be seen. There is now an assurance that names won’t be published online – well, perhaps not on the council’s website, but it’s a public document and should be easy to obtain.

But the page still carries signatories straight into TfL’s survey. Nothing about reading the info provided, just instructions to say you strongly support the council’s favoured options. Try it yourself – the petition still allows you to sign multiple times.

The council’s own press release is as much as a fact-free zone as the petition page – apparently there are “campaigners” demanding a third Blackwall Tunnel, which is news to anyone who lives locally. “For far too long we have put up with congestion, pollution and this barrier to growth,” rants Roberts, oblivious to the fact that a third tunnel on the Greenwich peninsula will merely attract more traffic to the A102, which it emerges, has flyovers that aren’t in the best of health. It’s also emerged that car ownership in London is falling, not rising.

No studies have been carried out into the impact a Silvertown tunnel would have on traffic, while it’s certain to increase pollution in some of London’s most polluted areas.

“We need Transport for London to see that local people are really behind the idea,” Roberts continues. Sorry, Chris, 88% of respondents to a poll on this website at the beginning of this year weren’t behind the idea. And my poll’s no more scientific than yours.

The Dear Leader is usually good at picking campaigns he thinks he can win – and the Tory mayor’s likely to press ahead with the scheme anyway – but with a few marginal seats along the affected route, he and his Labour colleagues may well pay a heavy price for backing Boris.

22 replies on “Greenwich Council tries to hijack Silvertown tunnel consultation”

  1. After reading your post I completed the consultation and added the following comments to the ‘any added comments’ section;

    “No resident wants increased traffic through Greenwich, the idea of a third Blackwall tunnel is an abhorrent idea. That said, an extra crossing away from the Blackwall tunnel, such as the proposed at Gallions Reach could highly benefit the South East’s need for another crossing.
    What we need to find out first though is how the introduction of crossrail and the current fall in car numbers will effect traffic over the next five years, as there’s no point in building a tunnel if the demand is not there.
    A third Blackwall tunnel is a stupid idea and not one I will ever support.”

    Thanks for pointing out this move by Greenwich Council. I’ll be reccommending that all of my friends and family fill out the consultation in full at the earliest opportunity.

  2. It worries me that Greenwich Council are behind the Silverlink tunnel. I assume your Dear Leader’s piece in Greenwich Time fails to mention the almost inevitable tolls that will be levied at all of the crossings including Blackwall?

    I only dispair as being a Rotherhithe resident I can see us bearing the brunt of any tolls at Blackwall. The Rotherhithe tunnel is already a nightmare and it will only get worse as car drivers head that way instead of paying to go through Blackwall. This would also mean increased traffic in Greenwich town centre so I have to admit I am surprised Greenwich Council are in such strong support for the Silvertown tunnel.

    I was annoyed when Boris canned the bridge at Gallions Reach to appease his pals in Bexley but if this scheme goes ahead as rather than have one toll bridge and two free crossings at Woolwich and Blackwall, they are now unlikely to have free crossings east of Greenwich.

    I am also unhappy at the possibility of losing the Woolwich Ferry. As someone who gre up in Woolwich and has always loved the ferry I would be very upset to see it go. It’s a big part of Woolwich and I see no sense in taking away another crossing point when what we need are more crossings to the east.

    Like you say though, I am sure Boris will press ahead with whatever he feels is best. After all we already have a tourist attraction that is apparently a necessary transport link!

  3. Dear 853 and all others reading this. I am horrified that Greenwich Council is promoting this appalling suggestion. All research has proved for many years that roads promote even more traffic. And didn’t they themselves refuse planning permission for students on the Peninsula on the grounds of unhealthy levels of traffic pollution? Despair!

  4. PS Do enjoy The Greenwich Phantom’s advent calendar. Brings joy and warmth to the hearts of the people of Greenwich.

  5. Maggie – no, they still wanted to move John Roan (and later Blackheath Bluecoat) to a spot next to the tunnel approach. It was Roan’s governors who got cold feet.

  6. It was helpful of Greenwich Council to remind me that I hadn’t submitted my comments against the proposal yet. I have now done so.

  7. I see the main concern being the pollution generated by heavy traffic waiting to enter the tunnel along the A102 almost every morning, each car running its engine and adding to the heavy pollution. To add another tunnel will increase traffic to the already congested approach from Kidbrooke into the Peninsula.

    I feel that a new crossing is a given no matter what the TFL consultations and local protest throw up. So in ten years time there will be 2 north bound tunnels each charging for the privilege to sit on the A102 for 20 minutes every morning.

    Clearly there is a need to resolve the present problem and to keep traffic free moving which is less polluting, adding another 3 lanes to the A102 is not possible due the surrounding properties. This is about a physical number of metal boxes filtering down into a small tunnel entrance. So there still will be traffic at a stand still causing local pollution.

    One solution is to promote the use of zero emission cars on the A102 by giving these cars free use of the tunnel the same way as the congestion zones work. Regular users then can make a clear choice over the next ten years when choosing a new car that will save them 2 toll fees a day.

    This would mean cleaner air in the area and the only people suffering are the people who choose to sit a long jam in a car in the morning and not the local residents who live close to the tunnel approach.

    We can’t stop the tunnel being built but we can stipulate conditions that make air quality better and thus negate the main problem of the increased traffic in the area.

    Lobby the council to work with TFL promote and encourage cleaner and greener cars in the tunnels.


  8. I fear I may be the only Bexley resident who favours a crossing here. *sigh* On Twitter a while back Boris bemoaned the nimbies who are stopping transport infrastructure from improving. Pity he didn’t say that to the face of his good chum, my own Dear Leader Teresa O’Neill.

  9. Why is Boris insisting on a new river crossing, when it was he who canned the Thames Gateway Bridge as soon as he took office?

    NB. as a local resident, I received a pack in the post regarding this consultation and was invited to submit my concerns ‘via the enclosed form’. Unfortunately, there was no form enclosed…

  10. What does the Dear Leader think a new tunnel will bring to Greenwich? The stats do say that extra capacity is quickly filled so we will have two tunnels with more traffic at a crawl. None of these cars bring anything to greenwich apart from exhaust fumes.
    The occupants of these cars don’t work here, the bulk don’t live (or pay council tax) here, don’t use shops here and do not contribute in any way to life here. After polluting us they head off to the leafy suburbs or the Garden of England.
    Sod ’em. Go away.
    Start a congestion charge beginning at Bexleyheath and get the Kent commuters to use public transport or pay for the right to use us a stepping stone to work.

  11. Strange how the council refuse planning permission for student accommodation because of concerns over pollution yet seem keen to get behind a scheme that will cause more pollution for East Greenwich on a much larger scale. It truly is a disgrace that BJ canned the TGB only to come back with his own plans. For the Royal borough to align themselves with this project is an even bigger disgrace.

  12. Don’t forget that according to tfl the existing northbound tunnel only had its life extended by 20-30 years by the remedial works in recent years so all the new tunnel is really going to be doing is replacing one that is falling to bits and isn’t properly compliant with safety legislation now, let alone in 20 years.

    TGB is definitely the way forward. And +1 for zero / ultra low emission vehicles being free. Given how much they cost, the CC exemption is the only thing that makes buying a new hybrid or electric car financially sensible in London.

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