108 in Blackwall Tunnel

Plenty happening in the battle against Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans – endorsed by Greenwich Council – to build a third Blackwall Tunnel, adding extra traffic to the A102 and A2 through Greenwich, Blackheath, Charlton, Kidbrooke and Eltham.

Firstly, there’s a public meeting this Monday, 28th January, at the Forum on Trafalgar Road, Greenwich; to hear arguments against the crossing. It starts at 6.30pm, even if you can’t make the start, please come along. Speakers will include Dr Ian Mudgrave of King’s College, which runs the London Air Quality network of pollution monitors.

I went to the east London meeting on the Monday just gone, sliding along an icy Poplar High Street to get there. Dr Mudgrave’s been doing some work north of the river with schools in Tower Hamlets and Hackney boroughs, and his evidence of how pollution affects the area around Poplar – where he’s following childrens’ routes to school – is hair-raising. The air on the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach is so bad, clean white sheets put out to dry at the flats there quickly turn grey.

The Guardian’s environment editor, John Vidal, was also there.

Dr Mudgrave has been researching the effects of air pollution on hundreds of children in three schools in the Tower Hamlets area for several years and has found that their lung capacity is reduced significantly by the age of eight or nine. He himself walks the streets of the borough to measure the pollution and says there is nowhere in Tower Hamlets within the legal limit set by the EU, largely because no one is less than 500m from a busy road.

“Did you know that if you live in a polluted area you will have smaller lungs? They will not reach capacity and will be stunted. When, or if, people move to a cleaner environment they still do not recover the function they lost. We have good evidence that every child born in Tower Hamlets will have a reduction in the volume of their lungs by the age of eight. The point is, people die of lung disease later on. You store up a problem that will affect you later.”

Between the A2, A206, A207 (Shooters Hill Road) and A102, much the same will apply through Greenwich, Blackheath and Charlton. Dr Mudgrave will be able to say more about this on Monday. Hopefully Greenwich cabinet member for public health John Fahy will be able to make it, after his views earlier this month…

The case for the Silvertown Tunnel is well made,despite the protests . The option to do nothing or get everybody on a bike is unrealistic.

— cllrjfahy (@Cllrjfahy) January 5, 2013

As for the transport side of things, ex-GLC transport engineer John Elliott also spoke in Poplar, and he’ll be speaking in Greenwich too.

Far from clearing congestion, his calculations suggested this proposed new tunnel would worsen traffic jams and pollution, increase journey lengths, and encourage more trips from outside London.

“TfL says it will be able to design tolls to manage the traffic [through the tunnel]. Well, they could toll everything out which would make it pointless building the tunnel. Or they could have no tolls which would probably increase traffic by 100%, and lead to widespread congestion throughout east London and beyond. Or they could go for something in the middle which would result in, possibly an extra 2,000 vehicles per hour which would significantly worsen congestion throughout east London and beyond.”

Again, hopefully Greenwich councillors will be able to make it along – the evidence from these two experts is much more compelling than the demands from the council leader’s friends to be able to make more money.

I asked John Elliott at the meeting why sensible people – like these councillors – would back an insane plan like the Silvertown Tunnel. His theory’s somewhat complicated to explain, but rests on the fact that the private transport route through the Blackwall Tunnel has been improved throughout the years, but the public transport has not been.

Which rings true – the Blackwall Tunnel was doubled and gained the motorway through to Homerton in the late 60s, which was widened in the 1990s as well as being extended to meet the M11. But public transport through the tunnel has remained the same – the 108 bus, almost a century old, has been the only route through the tunnel since 1970, and doesn’t offer the same kind of choice. So in their minds, the idea of public transport is a non-runner because it has been degraded so much, even though it’s actually their responsibility to push for improvements.

Monday’s meeting is orgaised by Friends of the Earth, which is against both Silvertown and Gallions Reach crossings, but the Poplar meeting concentrated on Silvertown and there’s no reason to expect the Greenwich one won’t do the same (especially if lots of people against Silvertown turn up).

Secondly, I’m hearing all kinds of reports of local Labour parties rebelling against the council leadership’s backing of Silvertown; and there’s even more evidence of Newham Council backing away. In a head-to-head piece with environmental campaigner Alan Haughton in the Newham Recorder, Newham’s executive member for regeneration Conor McAuley says: “A new road crossing at Gallions Reach would… relieve pressure on a new Silvertown Tunnel, helping the local road network so traffic flows more freely.”

We already know Newham Council thinks a Silvertown Tunnel on its own is a bad idea, and McAuley makes no other reference to it in his piece. Yet a Silvertown Tunnel on its own is just what Greenwich and Newham are likely to get, considering Boris’s opposition to a road crossing a Gallions Reach. Conor McAuley’s comments highlight what a disaster Greenwich Council risks blundering into.

Finally, the consultation ends a week today, so please take part at www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings and sign the petition at www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk. Your lungs might thank you for it.

7 replies on “Silvertown Tunnel: Greenwich public meeting, Mon 28 Jan”

  1. I’m not qualified to comment on the Silvertown Tunnel, except to say that on the evidence so far it does NOT seem to be the best idea I’ve come across.

    But please do NOT trash plans for the Gallions Reach ferry. Ideally, locals here in Gallions / Woolwich Arsenal / Thamesmead Moorings / West Thamesmead – whatever you call the area – would like a bridge. But if we can’t have that, we will be happy to have a decent ferry service.

    But it MUST have more capacity than the current Woolwich ferry.

  2. As you’ll have read, Ken, the Silvertown campaign has no opinion on a Gallions bridge (or ferry) – it’s for all who think the Silvertown proposal is a dangerous idea. The 300 signatories to the petition each have their own view.

    Personally speaking, I’m sympathetic to a bridge at Thamesmead if the locals want it, so long as at least one heavy duty form of public transport is put in alongside it. It won’t happen while the Tories run both City Hall and Bexley Council, though – so we need to campaign to stop the suicidally dangerous alternative at Silvertown. If you want a bridge at Thamesmead, campaign for it – but don’t include Silvertown in it.

    If Greenwich and Newham had launched a campaign for a bridge at Thamesmead, there’d be no petition, and no ructions within the council right now.

  3. I don’t think we should split the issue of an East London river crossing,- into a Greenwich versus Gallions Reach argument. Both proposed crossings will result in more traffic and pollution for their respective locations.
    I am not in favour of the Silvertown Tunnel for the well documented and very well publicised reasons. I am certainly not in favour of Greenwich Council’s campaign for a bridge at Gallions Reach – more traffic congestion, noise and air pollution.
    The Gallion’s reach proposed ferry is to replace the Woolwich Free Ferry, however it will not be free, and would still increase traffic to the local area.
    Car ownership in London is falling, and we will soon have Crossrail, as well as the excellent DLR.

    I oppose all these new crossing proposals, as they are to be funded with tolls – how many river crossings West of Greenwich are tolled ??

    The movement against the Silvertown Tunnel is well organised, well connected, and frankly more politically and ecologically aware than the majority of people of the east end of Greenwich borough, who don’t seem to have a voice in the press or friends at the Guardian…..

    I am a resident of West Thamesmead, and Ken W certainly does not speak for me!

  4. Ken W

    What do you mean by locals? I recall a vast amount of local opposition from the Bexleyheath/Welling area to the Thames Gateway Bridge.



    I think John Elliott has misunderstood Greenwich Council’s position. They’re saying that there HAVE been improvements for public transport (DLR, Jubilee Line) but that these haven’t so far been matched by improvements for private vehicles..

  5. Paul – no, that’s my interpretation of what John Elliott said, which didn’t use specific examples. It’s about perception of private v public transport.

    Cathryn – you might want to get in touch with Friends of the Earth or the Campaign for Better Transport, who are fighting both. Silvertown is the clear and present danger, though – and any campaign against it should unite all strands of opinion, or it will fail.

    You’re right on the stupidity of the ferry idea, and of course, why nobody has started a “save the Woolwich Ferry” campaign is a question which baffles me.

  6. Gutted I can’t attend the meeting on Monday because of prior commitments, though I’m tempted to skip them and come anyway….

    Are there plans to record proceedings?

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