Schoolchildren from Kidbrooke have pleaded for the Silvertown Tunnel to be scrapped, as protesters hit City Hall for a second time this morning.
Pupils and teachers from the Thomas Tallis school joined environmental campaigners from Extinction Rebellion and the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition to pressure London mayor Sadiq Khan to backtrack on the controversial new road.
Activists say the tunnel, close to Blackwall, and connecting the Greenwich Peninsula with the Royal Docks, will exacerbate pollution problems at one of London’s worst hotspots.
Following a demonstration outside City Hall, Tallis pupils told the Local Democracy Reporter Service that it will be them that have to face future problems.
One pupil, Cally Moore, said: “A lot of young people are now realising how important this is, it is our future. If they want to build things like this, it won’t necessarily affect the older generations as it will us. It’s when we grow up, this will be how our lives are going to be.
“They could have explored other ways rather than go straight to a billion pound project.”
“It’s really close to our school and to where we live. It comes out in the same place as the Blackwall Tunnel, that is where we live”, said pupil Freddie Fullerton.
“It’s just not a good idea, they could have done it another way.”
Andy Smyth, the head of science at Thomas Tallis, added: “Young people are looking out for the future and realising older generations are less keen to act and they are taking matters into their own hands.
“The NO2 emissions in Greenwich are shocking – the latest 18 years they have been above recommended levels, how is this going to help? Young people’s lungs are developing, this will cause more illnesses in south east London.”
Victoria Rance, who is one of the coalition’s organisers, said: “At this point when the contracts are about to be signed, we want Sadiq Khan to hear that we do not want it in Greenwich.
“Maybe Greenwich Council think it’s a good idea, but we don’t. A new HGV tunnel is going to bring in HGV traffic. We don’t think Sadiq Khan is getting the message.”
A spokesman for Greenwich Council said it is securing the interests of residents through making sure the tunnel is implemented well in Greenwich.
Caroline Pidgeon, a Liberal Democrat assembly member, said outside City Hall on Thursday morning: “It’s really important we see people coming to City Hall to make sure the mayor hears them loud and clear.
“He can talk the talk about cleaning up air, but the contradiction to building a motorway under the Thames and the damaging impact on people in south east London is unacceptable.
“I think there are some people inside Greenwich Council who are unhappy but have gone along with the line of the Labour mayor. I just think it is wrong. The mayor’s own strategy promotes walking, cycling and public transport for 80 per cent of our journeys, you don’t need massive road tunnels if that’s how people will be getting around.”
During Mayor’s Question Time, Sadiq Khan told City Hall that a new tunnel was necessary as “doing nothing is not an option.”
He said: “The problem we have is how we deal with the fact that the Blackwall Tunnel is closed 700 times a year on average, leading to the catastrophe of tailbacks, there’s poor air quality, congestion and people don’t cross the river using the bus because it is unreliable.
“By having a tunnel with a lane reserved for buses, you’ll have public transport going from one side to the other. Also we are organising for pedestrians and cycles as well. Doing nothing is not an option.”
Campaigners continue to press the mayor to put off signing contracts for the tunnel, which he is poised to do ahead of the summer, with construction poised to start before the end of the year.
Pidgeon said later: “The mayor talks about air pollution being a ‘public health emergency’, yet his policy of building a new road tunnel under the Thames will inevitably create more traffic and pollution.
“In London the signalling on the Piccadilly Line needs to be upgraded and the Bakerloo line extended to Lewisham and beyond. Yet instead of prioritising these transport improvements the mayor is choosing to spend £1 billion on a road tunnel.”
“His rhetoric on air pollution and climate change is not matched by his decision to build a new road tunnel in London.”
Tom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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