The Silvertown Tunnel will branch off from the existing A102 to next to the former gasholder

Transport for London is not ruling out a further delay to the Silvertown Tunnel, but says its financial problems will not affect the building of the new link.

TfL awarded a £1 billion contract to the Riverlinx consortium in November to build and operate the controversial tunnel between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks, feeding into the A102 south of the Blackwall Tunnel.

Construction work was due to begin this year, ahead of a completion date of 2025. The tunnel had originally been due to open in 2023, then 2024, before the Riverlinx contract was signed last May. TfL now says it will continue to review the situation amid the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

TfL told the Local Democracy Building Works that detailed design and planning work on the tunnel was continuing, even though physical work on its construction projects has come to a “safe stop”.

“Since awarding the contract we have been working closely with Riverlinx to mobilise their team and commence the next stages of design and planning work. We are currently in the detailed design stage,” a TfL spokesperson said.  

“While the Safe Stop is in place, work continues on the design and planning for the scheme where it is possible for this work to be carried out safely and in line with relevant guidance. For example, design teams are able to work from home.

“Main construction works were not anticipated to commence until later this year but, as with all our construction activities, we will be continuing to review our plans in response to the coronavirus crisis. We are working through any implications of this on the programme with Riverlinx.”

TfL is facing serious financial problems as a result of the pandemic, and has placed about 7,000 employees – about a quarter of its workforce – on furlough. Travel on the Underground has fallen by 85 per cent and bus travel had fallen 95 per cent before passengers were told not to tap in and board through the middle doors instead.

However, Riverlinx is funding the construction of the tunnel, and will then be paid back by tolls on both the Silvertown and Blackwall tunnels, covering most of the cost of the project.

“We are working closely with Riverlinx, who are delivering the Silvertown Tunnel for TfL, to understand and plan for any impacts due to the coronavirus pandemic,” TfL said.

“The Silvertown Tunnel is being delivered by Riverlinx through a design, finance, build and maintain contract. This means the vast majority of the scheme’s costs will be covered by private finance, which has already been raised. Payments from TfL towards the scheme are scheduled to begin once the tunnel is constructed and open for use and will come from revenue generated via the user charging at Blackwall and Silvertown Tunnel.”

Advocates say the project will provide an important new route across the Thames and will end queues at the Blackwall Tunnel, but critics say it will merely bring new traffic to the areas around the tunnels and their approaches.

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Lachlan Leeming 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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