The Labour MPs representing communities at both ends of the Silvertown Tunnel appealed to Sadiq Khan to think again about the controversial new road, just hours after the mayor pledged that he would never ignore voters’ worries.
Khan was confirmed as the winner of last week’s mayoral election on Saturday night after securing 55.2 per cent of votes after second-preferences were taken into account.
His win followed unhappiness from the London Labour party at a higher-than-expected number of Khan supporters choosing another candidate as their first preference. Some had expected Khan to reach 50 per cent on first-preferences alone, but the mayor only won 40 per cent, compared with 44 per cent in 2016.
In his victory speech, Khan told those who had not voted him: “Please know that I’ll never ignore your voice, your concern or your worries.”
Matt Pennycook, the MP for Greenwich and Woolwich and shadow climate change minister, congratulated Khan on Twitter the next day, saying: “As you work to get our city back on its feet, I urge you again to reconsider the Silvertown Tunnel. We must build back greener and that means a smarter, more imaginative and more sustainable solution than this ill-conceived scheme.”
Congratulations @SadiqKhan on your re-election. As you work to get our city back on its feet, I urge you again to reconsider the Silvertown Tunnel. We must build back greener and that means a smarter, more imaginative and more sustainable solution than this ill-conceived scheme.
— Matthew Pennycook MP (@mtpennycook) May 9, 2021
Lyn Brown, whose West Ham constituency covers the northern end of the £2 billion project, endorsed Pennycook’s message, retweeting it with the single word: “This”.
Khan and his deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, have long insisted that the road tunnel from Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks, will eliminate congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel, with which it shares an approach road. Both crossings would be tolled and the Silvertown crossing would include a lane for HGVs which are unable to use the 124-year-old northbound Blackwall Tunnel.
Neither Khan nor Alexander have conceded any ground to critics of the tunnel, who say it will fail to deal with congestion, will increase traffic across the area and will break London’s climate change commitments. Piling work has begun on the north side of the Thames, with land clearance taking place on the Greenwich Peninsula and close to the Lower Lea Crossing in Canning Town.
During 2016’s Khan said he would review the project, which began life under Boris Johnson’s mayoralty, but he approved it within weeks of taking office, as well as a Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf cycle crossing which was later scrapped. The scheme was given planning permission three years ago.
If you voted for me, from the bottom of my heart—thank you. If you didn’t, please know that I’ll never ignore your voice, your concerns or your worries. I’ll always be a Mayor for all Londoners—working to improve the lives of every single person in this city.
— Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (@MayorofLondon) May 9, 2021
The election also saw a rise in support for the Green Party, which opposes the tunnel, with candidate Sian Berry finishing a comfortable third on 7.8 per cent of first preference votes. The Greens also saw their best-ever finish in the assembly election in Greenwich and Lewisham, with Rosamund Kissi-Debrah finishing third with over 30,000 votes.
Anti-tunnel parties now have five representatives in the 25-member London Assembly, which scrutinises the mayor’s policies. The Greens increased their representation from two to three and the Liberal Democrats now have two assembly members.
Last month a group of academics wrote to Khan and Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, to demand an emergency review of the project on climate change grounds, citing the government’s decision to halt a coal mining project in Cumbria.
“It would be foolhardy to press ahead with an infrastructure project that can only contribute to the UK’s excessive greenhouse gas emissions – as well as skewing London’s transport system further towards roads, and exacerbating local air pollution problems,” they said.
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