A102 southbound queue
The tunnel will feed into the congested A102 Blackwall Tunnel approach

A majority of Londoners would prefer to see rather improvements to public transport and facilities for pedestrians and cyclists rather than a new tunnel under the Thames for cars, a survey released this morning suggests.

The Survation poll of 1,017 residents of Greater London found 60 per cent of respondents would rather see investment go into better public transport and safer walking and cycling, while 24 per cent would want to see a road tunnel under the Thames. The remainder did not know.

More than a third thought a new tunnel for cars would increase car use in London, with 37 per cent believing a road crossing would bring excess traffic. 34 per cent thought it would make no difference, and 16 per cent thought it would cut traffic.

The research, which was carried out for the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition, did not mention London mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans for the controversial crossing between the Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks.

Khan is still pressing ahead with the Silvertown Tunnel scheme, inherited from predecessor Boris Johnson, even though it was recently revealed that costs have ballooned to to £2 billion over 30 years because of the way it is being financed, through a private finance initiative. It was originally costed at £600m when Johnson first unveiled plans eight years ago.

Drivers would have to pay to use the crossing – which will have a lane for HGVs and buses – and the existing Blackwall Tunnel. It is currently due to open in 2025.

“This is an outdated project that has no place in a time of climate emergency, and the increasingly clear evidence of the harm to people’s lungs caused by air pollution from cars and HGVs,” the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition’s Victoria Rance said.

“In this time of pandemic, the ballooning cost to London taxpayers is not acceptable and the public agree that the money would be better spent on new investment in public transport, safer cycling and walking.

“How tragic then that the cash-strapped Transport for London is actually cancelling some improvements to London’s public transport network, while going ahead with this massive expenditure on a road tunnel, which, according to TfL’s own figures, will actually increase London’s carbon emissions.

“TfL has already cancelled vital carbon-reducing public transport projects including the Canary Wharf-Rotherhithe cycle and pedestrian bridge. The DLR to Thamesmead is threatened, and there’s no money to repair the Rotherhithe Tunnel. But the Mayor is still pursuing this carbon-intensive scheme to support private car use.”

TfL has insisted the tunnel would “virtually eliminate” the notorious queueing for the 123-year-old northbound Blackwall Tunnel, which would remain in use, and would enable new bus links. Opponents say the tunnel will simply bring more traffic and create new jams. Last month the MPs for the two ends of the tunnel – Greenwich & Woolwich’s Matt Pennycook and West Ham’s Lyn Brown – repeated their call for Khan to pause the scheme.

In July, Extinction Rebellion protesters chained themselves to a rig in the Thames to protest about the tunnel’s construction, while a samba band protest was held in Woolwich and Stratford in August.

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