Silvertown Tunnel public meeting, 16 October

What are you doing a fortnight tonight? Nothing? Well, I’ve sorted that for you.

Greenwich Mercury, 29 September

Over the past few months, I’ve been working with others on an air quality monitoring project. You might have seen us in the Mercury last week. During the summer, we attached small tubes to lamp posts which measured nitrogen dioxide levels in the air. We’ve got the results, and they’re frightening. We’ve also been able to get hold of other figures, previously unreleased to the public, which make clear the terrible state of the air in our part of south-east London.

So we’ll be revealing them at a public meeting at the Forum, Trafalgar Road, Greenwich, on 16 October at 7pm. We’ve got some top-notch speakers who know their stuff about transport and pollution. They’ll be able to explain why building a new Silvertown Tunnel is likely to increase congestion, and why that means worse air and poorer health for us all.

We’ll also be putting the results online (the website’s now live) so you can see for yourself what the air is like where you live.

We’ll also be explaining how you and your neighbours can carry out your own study into air pollution – because it’s not worth waiting for Transport for London or Greenwich Council to do it for you. If you’re involved in a group like the Greenwich Society, or a residents’ group, please come along.

If you live in Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath, Kidbrooke or Eltham – this affects you and your neighbours, particularly if you have children. We’ll also have disturbing results from the rest of the borough which could have an impact on other schemes, such as the Gallions Reach bridge/ferry proposals. So, if you can come along, please do. It’d be great to see you.

TfL recently reaffirmed its desire to build the Silvertown Tunnel – despite objections and reservations from Lewisham, Southwark, Hackney, Redbridge and Barking & Dagenham councils. If our own council opposed this, TfL wouldn’t be able to get away with it.

But Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts remains committed to this scheme, and has used his propaganda weekly Greenwich Time to promote it. We don’t have a council-funded newspaper at our disposal, so please help us by printing off our flyer/poster.

We can’t let Chris Roberts bully us into this. Join us on 16 October, and find out more. Thank you.

23 replies on “Tell Boris he’s wrong: Silvertown Tunnel public meeting”

  1. Can you post a map? Not entirely sure where the Forum is.

    Do you have any objections to Southwark residents coming along? I live close to the Rotherhithe tunnel and I am already concerned at the problems there and feel this is just going to make it worse. Not only that but as someone who cycles and drives through Greenwich quite a bit I really cannot see how building a second tunnel will do anyone any good.

  2. If someone can get me a hundered copies of the flyer I’ll post them in letterboxes in Tunnel Ave. My printer won’t cope with printing off that many!

  3. Congrats for all your hard work Darryl.

    There remains one thorny issue however. It appears from more than one set of data I have seen (not just the TFL one) that the majority of Greenwich Borough residents are currently in favour of a new river crossing somewhere east of Tower Bridge. The trouble is that every location has issues – albeit not to the extent that Silvertown has – and that there is a “danger” of an anti-Silvertown campaign turning into an anti crossing campaign. That may well be what some people want of course, especially non car drivers.

    Any decision on an eastern crossing needs more empirical evidence (and your work is a vital part of that), but should the economic case be made based on more than a mayoral whim, then it would be stupid to ignore it. I have a suspicion that we in SE London will have to decide whether we are prepared to “take one for the team” should a crossing be more economically beneficial for UK plc than just our local area (as with the shires in the path of the High Speed rail link).

    Unless one has extreme Green views, it is not going to be an easy one on many different fronts…

  4. Chris, will you be able to stand up and “take one for the team” on the 16th?

    Gordon – Thank you. I’ll drop you a note privately. I’m staring at a big stack of flyers now…

  5. Chris – One of the main problems with these proposals is the fact that they are being promoted without *any* empirical evidence that the benefits outweigh the costs. Both crossings, because it isn’t just SIlvertown that’s an issue, are not the panacea to local congestion problems that they are currently being promoted as. In fact, the stated aim of TfL in their infamous “Assessment of Options” is to “regenerate the Lower Lea Valley”.

    Even the economic argument is somewhat dubious. With the health impacts from increased pollution through induced traffic, how many businesses are going to want to relocate to our area? We certainly have a real issue with this regardless – TfL’s own projections state that Greenwich Borough will be close to the bottom for job creation and near the top for population growth.

    I’m not sure what you mean about “taking one for the team”. It sounds deeply unpleasant, and if doing so means driving a bypass through already polluted Plumstead and the green spaces of Shooters Hill, or building an even larger rat-run for needless traffic through our already crowded spcaes, then I’m certainly not willing.

    I wouldn’t call it an extreme Green view – more common sense. It’s fairly easy to say “yes” to something when you’re not being informed about the disadvantages.

  6. Darryl. Yes, I will be there on the 16th.

    Stewart. I am, and have been from the beginning, against the Silvertown crossing based on current evidence. There are numerous problems beyond the clear health/environmental ones – pinchpoint at Kidbrooke, tolling, the north end going (cable-car like) to an area few want to travel to (currently). doubling up on what we already have, rat-running when things go wrong, more-roads-mean-more cars etc etc. All of this is compounded by a quite appallingly biased campaign run by the Council in favour of this crossing through the Greenwich Pravda.

    However I think we would all agree that informative empirical evidence has been thin on the ground – were there to be really compelling evidence pointing to serious economic benefit and solutions that would address the above negatives then I would be prepared to change my mind, as I guess most people would. My point about “extreme Green” is that if you were of that mindset you would not be prepared to countenance, I would imagine, anything that encouraged more transport by private motor car powered by the internal combustion engine, however good a scheme it was.

    The more general point that I am floating is one of the “greater good” in terms of transport policy. I think it unlikely that there will be any direct economic benefit for local residents of any eastern crossing. However there could be serious indirect economic benefits to the inhabitants of the Riverside Manhattan we are building in Greenwich – a choice of working in north London/Essex/E Anglia/Herts without spending 1 hour sitting in the M102 car park in the morning rather than trekking into central London, for example. Beyond that is the problem of dealing with evidence, were it to be forthcoming, about improving coastal through-traffic, Kent traffic going north, NE London traffic going to Croydon, aswell as N London-SE London traffic. Does one oppose a crossing (or extra crossing) anywhere (Silvertown,Thamesmead, Bexley, Erith, Dartford?) even though it helps the country as a whole?

    I personally think that there should be much greater compensation/payment for local residents/areas in planning decisions generally (but that is a huge subject!) and I would only want to consider a crossing if the impact on the local area was at least neutral, but I think that a “solutions not problems” approach for a campaign counters any “nimby, anti-growth” accusations.

    A last point. Some years ago, when I was being pressured very hard to support the NOGOE campaign, and roundly castigated when I refused, I was struck by how many of the supporters of that campaign wanted the whole Olympics to be banned – Greenwich Park was a useful conduit for their general disgust with the Games as a whole. The aims of the individual battle may not be the same as the aims of the war as a whole.

  7. Sorry, Chris – in my opinion, Greenwich residents are already ‘taking one for the team’ on behalf of South and East London by dealing with the traffic and pollution from the existing Blackwall Tunnel. Only a few years ago, The Thames Gateway Bridge was canned; partly due to local opposition in Bexley (who was taking one for the team then?) and partly due to cost – so what has changed so dramatically that the economic benefits now far outweigh the cost of another crossing in Greenwich?

    If we look at the Congestion Charge, TFL admit that congestion has now risen back to pre-charging levels (despite, bizarrely, blaming ‘roadworks and pedestrians’ for the increase, rather than increased car use:, yet we are supposed to believe (without evidence) that a new crossing will liberate us from traffic forever; rather than fill up to pre-Silvertown levels in a few years, creating more pollution than we have now.

    We’re not being asked to take one for the team, we’re being sold down the river.

    Unfortunately I can’t make the meeting on the 16th, but am more than happy to get involved in the campaign in any way I can.

  8. When people are faced with the simple question, “To what extent would you support or oppose the option of a new road tunnel between Silvertown and the Greenwich peninsula?”, without any evidence or research available apart from their own experience, the obvious answer is “yes”. Most would intuitively think that a new river crossing would help ease the hassle of their current journey.

    Without wishing to pre-empt the potential case at the October 16th Public Meeting, there are a number of things that we need to think about. I can see that northbound journeys across the river may be made faster with a new bore, easing the current bottleneck where traffic flow is reduced to two lanes, but this raises very important points to think about.

    The new bore will effectively double capacity. This is all well and good going southbound, but where will it go when it gets out? The A102 is only two lanes after the Sun in the Sands roundabout. At the roundabout itself, the A207 heading east is single lane, as is (effectively) the A2 going west. All of these roads are already at capacity and suffer tremendously in the evening rush hour. Where else can this extra traffic escape to? Well, there’s the A206 (single lane) towards Greenwich and Woolwich at the Woolwich Flyover or Bugsby’s Way which ultimately meets the A206 again after less than a mile. Can you imagine trying to drive on these roads with a doubling of traffic?

    I’ve already illustrated a potential few on the south of the Thames, but how many similar ones will be created to the north? The initial impact may be mitigated by the location of the new tunnel but I’d say that this also means the effects will be far more widespread. Dramatically increasing capacity in one location without doing so in others only pushes the problem further out. This is why our neighbouring boroughs are so concerned.

    This brings me back to pollution. Much of the (flimsy) case made earlier in the year highlighted the fact that free-moving traffic would cause less pollution than congested, stationary traffic. I don’t see much potential for creating these roads full of free-moving traffic, apart from a little either side of the crossings themselves, without a major road-widening programme. Are we really prepared to bulldoze much of the borough to do this? Do we even have the funds to do so? If we don’t we will soon see hazardous levels of pollution in even more parts of our local communities.

    Much has also been made of the fact that there has been massive investment in public transport locally over the last decade or so, but you have to remember where we were before the DLR, Jubilee Line and Crossrail. South East London has been historically under-served and this investment has only taken us up to the 20th century levels seen in other parts of London. We need to be radical and think about local public transport needs for the 21st century. Car use is already declining in the capital and much of Greenwich’s additional 40% increase in population over the next two decades will be reliant on public transport – after all, most of the new builds lack car parking spaces and, with one of the lowest projected rises in employment, these people will need to get to work on the other side of the city somehow.

    There are easier, less costly and more immediate ways to solve some of our problems. Some of our current congestion is caused by displaced journeys from other locations. If we were to abolish off-peak tolls at Dartford this would eliminate some of the HGV traffic clogging up our streets and free up capacity at Woolwich, which would itself do the same for the peninsula. Build a heavy-rail spur from Plumstead to Thamesmead (post-2018 Crossrail) to eliminate car and bus journeys – many people seem to take the bus to the Jubilee Line at North Greenwich due to the paucity of public transport in Thamesmead – and this would free up more road capacity. Some of our communities have public transport accessibility ratings more akin to rural England than our capital.

    We’ll be “taking one for the team” regardless. Unless something is done to address car usage, and radical decisions are made on planning and public transport, Greenwich Borough will remain a rat-run for other people’s traffic.

  9. As I said earlier, I am not in favour of Silvertown on current evidence and would prefer to see a) all tolls removed at Dartford and b) a crossing further east than Blackwall. But, to avoid the criticism that this is a small minded nimby approach at a time when UK plc needs all the help it can get, an anti Silvertown campaign has to take one of two routes in my view. Oppose all eastern road crossings or come up with an alternative crossing solution, preferably more geographically sensible than Silvertown itself. Both are not easy, unless there is good evidence that a crossing would have zero effect on our regions economic well-being (by region I mean SE England or wider).

    Yes any eastern crossing is going to be bigger and more intrusive than anything further upstream due to the size of the river here. But the huge jams at Dartford and Blackwall, especially at rush hour and when something goes wrong, will not be solved by extra public transport links, important though they are. I am no supporter of Greenwich being the pollutant dustbin for SE England but a blanket “no-roads here/Newbury by-pass type” campaign will run into big problems in the current economic climate I suspect.

  10. Additional capacity at Dartford makes far more sense than doing so at Blackwall/Silvertown, or even Gallions. 160k versus 50k current daily journeys and there is already infrastructure in place, i.e. one of the largest motorways in the country.

    I’d also argue that many of the cross-river journeys at Dartford could be achieved by public transport if the means to do so were available.

  11. I’m not in favour of increasing capacity at Dartford, it’ll just fill up, as every expansion on the M25 has done since it was built…

    I agree that many of the cross-river journeys could be done with better (or any) public transport.

    So this probably makes me an extreme Green in Chris’s eyes!

  12. I hear what you’re saying, Chris, and you do raise some devil’s advocate type points. But I’m not sure the analogy of “taking one for the team” really applies here. This assumes that a crossing would be helpful, yet more roads = more cars and more pollution, which is already too high. So, to take one for the team would actually be to say no to a new crossing! Protecting this and the next generation’s health, reducing congestion and road traffic accidents by not building the new roads would be the best thing to do for the country.

    In the UK, especially under the current government, many people have the idea that more building or road building is automatically a good thing, yet there are many factors to consider – not least health, the environment and landscapes we’ll lose, the community already there, quality of life, noise etc and where all the money flows (usually straight into the developers’ pockets). NHS costs, climate change and stressed/unhealthy kids also count negatively towards UK plc’s economy.

    The riverside Manhattan on the Peninsula is going to be a tricky issue, and I think this is one reason Greenwich Council are backing a new crossing here, because they’ve given the green light (ho ho) to so much development there that they know there’ll be demand from the new residents for a road crossing.

    What many supporters of the new roads may not realise is just how much road-widening, demolition and development will have to take place either side of the river, as the tunnel’s effects won’t just end at the shoreline, there will have to be enough road space for the vehicles travelling through the Borough’s roads and years of roadworks etc to accommodate this, particularly once they realise that there needs to be more room for all the extra commuter vehicles. Once constructed, you won’t be able to object to any further plans because how can you hold up what’s needed for a major tunnel? It’ll be too big to challenge, and if you do try you’ll get all the silly nimby accusations (but who doesn’t care about their local area anyway?). So, best to challenge it now while it’s still a threat rather than decided.

    As for the aims of the campaign, well I think we need to face the clear and present danger of the proposed crossing here before we worry about wider aims. In every campaign there will be a range of opinions but most will agree on the core targets. Right now there’s one big worry and we can’t spend time and energy faffing about discussing wider aims and what people might want after this.

    By the way, seems like with the forthcoming train issues at London Bridge and no more going to Charing Cross from Greenwich line stations, Greenwich is taking one for the team in terms of transport anyway.

  13. Joe. You are right that it is worth getting stuck in early – and there is a great deal of consultation and evidence gathering still to be done. That may well result in a shelving of the plans though I doubt it. However I disagree that you should ignore the bigger picture – not when the majority of the public are likely to be against the campaign, albeit they may have been manipulated, and when you have a formidable opponent in the shape of Greenwich Council.

    Re Dartford – I understand that there is capacity there but the 3 different options are creating a lot of upset as one would imagine.

    Yes perhaps I am being a devils advocate and I don’t want to diminish all the hard work you guys have done on the monitoring, but a no-roads strategy is too easy to shoot down (however long term sensible that would be) and a “not-in-my-backyard”, without an alternative, is too dangerous when those in favour will look at Silvertown as the easiest option, taking into account the valid point about hinterland infrastructure made above.

    Maybe my view is too nuanced a PR approach relative to all-out opposition. The latter will need much bigger public support than it currently has.

  14. Yes, one thing the campaign must do is raise awareness amongst the wider public about just why a road crossing will end up being bad for them and the Borough. It’s true, the campaign must be aware of PR tactics and be ready to counter tricky accusations and questions.
    It’s very easy for the Council, with its access to funding, to make a new crossing seem essential, especially when promoted in a shiny way in Greenwich Time. Of course the true costs and the damage the crossing will bring need to be brought to the wider public’s attention urgently. Hopefully the meeting on the 16th will help kick-start this movement.

  15. Well said both Stewart and Joe, some excellent points, which are far from radical but just seriously good sense to anybody who has the foresight to see the danger inherent in looking to roads as a transport solution above all others. These arguments are not new, and certainly not ‘Greenham Common’ and ‘Newbury By Pass’ far left views any more.
    As for Chris, I’m afraid you confuse me as to where you will stand on this issue. Some may say you are taking the stance of which Lib Dem’s are ‘sometimes’ accused, that of being afraid to come to a decision but happy to look at all the options in detail and at length and reach a compromise. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but please Chris, what is your own personal feeling about whether the Silvertown Tunnel would be good or bad for Greenwich? As the representative for the locality, would you support or oppose the tunnel here? Your website seems to imply that you would be opposed, and you more than many should have had time to view the arguments for and against in detail at meetings you have attended. I’m not saying that you would convince me to support this proposal even if you did express wholehearted support, albeit for so called ‘economic reasons’ (though short sighted ones, suited to a 4 yearly government strategy rather than a long term transport policy) but it would be good to know where your feelings lie.
    As for being of economic benefit to the nation, are we local residents and businesses going to be economically productive ourselves, when our adults and children suffer from lung diseases contributed to or directly caused by the excesses of road traffic congestion, in turn largely caused by a lack of a comprehensive forward looking public transport and cycle network? By the way Chris, as i don’t know you personally I’m afraid, are you a cyclist or a motorist in the main?

  16. Just on Dartford, the likely solution will be a mixture of removing the toll booths next year, with the likelihood that an additional crossing will be built linking east Gravesend and Tilbury. The idea of an additional crossing at Dartford would be a nightmare, and Swanscombe is being eyed up for bigger things then a bridge/tunnel.

    As for Slivertown, it’s the wrong place for an additional crossing, but there is a need for better crossings east of there, Thames Gateway Bridge should have been built, and should be revived, especially as the current mayor will be out of City Hall in 2016, and if won by a Labour candidate, the need to placate voters in Bexley will be lower

  17. Derek,

    I see my nuanced comment above has been proved right!

    Yes – as you can see from my own website I have consistently opposed Silvertown, consistently supported a river crossing east of Tower Bridge and consistently favoured a crossing between Blackwall and Dartford. I will admit to not knowing where is best – I have also said consistently, as have many others – that there has been not nearly enough empirical evidence on various fronts (environmental. logistical, economic) to make a reasoned judgement on where. I would include Silvertown in this information vacuum – hence my comment that a powerful body of evidence in favour of Silvertown could not be ignored – and we have got very little of it so far – maybe that in itself tells a story. On current evidence I would not support a Silvertown tunnel and I think it would be, net, bad for Greenwich.

    I was trying to inject some realism into the debate re the wider economic benefit of a crossing and the issues about a crossing east of Silvertown as part of the campaign. I tend to agree with Sacha’s comments. That is not the view of all Lib Dem members as you can see from this thread.

    I am more than prepared to take a black and white view – and if you knew me I think you would agree – Lewisham Hospital, Greenwich Park, Woolwich Manhatten, Greenwich Time are 4 that come to mind immediately. This is less clear cut in my opinion – my own view is probably more sympathetic to the average car and truck driver than the majority of people who will oppose this crossing, although I travel by car, bus and train fairly equally – and yes I cycle as well.

  18. I’ve just had heart surgery but will do my best to be there.

    The M25 should be turned into what it was meant to be, a London bypass with exits restricted to the motorways.

    As I’ve said before about the Tunnel, check out the phone numbers of the big lorries using it. Many are not local, they just use us as a short cut which is free. The only effect they have on our community is pollution — both noise and chemical.

  19. A late post on this topic to say that Greenwich Lib Dems have today (5th Nov) come out officially as opposed to both the Silvertown and the Gallions Reach crossings.

    It has been a months long process of meetings, member surveys, site visits and so on, and the No to Silvertown information and meetings have been very, very useful in our deliberations. Given the current popularity of these schemes we are not exactly chasing votes, to put it mildly, but we hope that other groups and parties in the Borough will join us in opposing these proposals. I have personally blogged on the decision as well

  20. Well done for taking the ‘political lead’ here Chris and the Lib Dems, and to Daryll and team for all their hard work so far providing background stats/air quality etc. This is a good start for the ‘opposers’!
    There was a comment recently about the plans for Ikea and how they would increase car traffic, as you ‘can’t carry much furniture on a bike’. I think the plans should only be agreed if cycle lanes are built to/from store and limited car parking with high charges, free delivery of items by Ikea van, good public transport facilities etc. This should be an improvement to the area, but can only be so if cars are limited and alternatives found.
    This morning cycling to work in Greenwich i passed and stopped to speak to a very fit looking retired couple probably in their early seventies in Blackheath, about to embark on their recumbent 3 wheeler bikes ( made in Falmouth apparently by ) loaded with empty shopping bags on the back, off on their regular journey to Borough market for weekly shop, including the fresh fish stall. when i asked them whether they felt it rather dangerous a journey, they emphatically both said ‘no’, and obviously looked forward to it-and their healthy glow was certainly not from high blood pressure! They told me their appetites were very healthy too, the gentleman enjoying the odd ‘two’ creme brulees for dessert, without a sign of diabetes between them. This shows that shopping can be tackled and enjoyed by all ages without a car.
    Take a look at the website here for an illuminating study of cycling in Amsterdam-what a world of difference to cycling in London. treat yourselves to a cuppa and watch it for five mins, see how relaxed they all look, and how healthy. And if you’re a mum who drives their kids on the school run-take a look and see how different it could be for your lives and your kids lives.

    But we all need to take a stance on these issues, as Daryll, his team, and thankfully now the Lib Dems have done. Well done again to you all!

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