Silvertown Tunnel junction
TfL insists the tunnel will eliminate Blackwall Tunnel queues Credit: The Greenwich Wire

Campaigners against the Silvertown Tunnel have accused the company building the new road of feeding children with “propaganda” after it gave assemblies on the topic at local schools.

Riverlinx, the private-sector consortium which is building the new road between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks, has been holding sessions with schoolchildren to tell them about the controversial project.

But opponents of the £2 billion tunnel, which London mayor Sadiq Khan insists will eliminate the infamous jams at the Blackwall Tunnel, say that the lessons are misleading – and that local children will be put in danger by increased numbers of HGVs passing close to their schools.

Critics say that the tunnel, which will include a dedicated lane for HGVs and buses, will increase congestion and pollution across the area, and will break London’s climate change targets.

The new road, due to open in 2025, is being built and funded by Riverlinx, a consortium of companies including Ferrovial, the owner of Heathrow airport. Tolls on both the new road and the Silvertown Tunnel will then pay back the construction costs.

One parent of children at a primary school in Greenwich accused the roadbuilders of being “brazen” in their approach.

“It seems that the developers approached the school offering an assembly with STEM [science, technology, engineering, maths] careers advice,” she said.

“However, my two children left saying things like ‘it’s very eco-friendly’, ‘buses will be able to go under the river now’, ‘they are doing surveys to make sure they don’t disturb trees or wildlife’, and the brazen ‘it will be good for the environment’.”

The Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition, which held a demonstration against the scheme in Canning Town last weekend, said the children had been “fed propaganda by Riverlinx” in one such lesson.

“Riverlinx claims the purpose of the assembly was for the children to learn about STEM professions but we have learnt that the children’s questions went down an environmental route,” it said.

“We understand that they were told by Riverlinx that the new tunnel would reduce pollution and there was no mention of HGVs passing close to schools and nurseries.

“The claim that the proposed Silvertown Tunnel with it’s dedicated HGV lanes would reduce air pollution is widely challenged by experts. Indeed TfL’s own, disputed, projections suggests that at best there would be minimal improvements in air quality overall and in some areas there would be deterioration.”

Silvertown Tunnel worksite
Work has already begun on the north side of the river

The coalition said its volunteers and local residents had been counting HGVs outside Millennium primary school and St Mary Magdalene all-through school, which are next to each other on the Greenwich Peninsula and the closest schools to the new tunnel’s southern exit.

“On a Monday morning between 8am and 9am – when the children are mainly walking or cycling to school – we recorded 202 HGVs passing close to the schools in just one hour,” its spokesperson said.

“According to Riverlinx waste management and transport plans submitted to Greenwich Council, these HGVs are soon to be joined by an additional 1,000-plus waste removal trucks every week.”

Transport for London said that the sessions in schools were standard practice for large infrastructure projects.

A spokesperson said: “As is industry-standard for projects of this nature, Riverlinx CJV has been attending local schools in the area surrounding the construction sites since last year as part of the project’s wider community engagement plan and commitment to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“These visits aim to help encourage pupils into studying STEM-based subjects and help inspire the next generation of engineers within the transport industry, as well as allow staff and pupils to be updated on project progress.”

TfL insists the new crossing will boost public transport in the area. Sadiq Khan, who as mayor is chair of TfL, told the London Assembly last week that he would not cancel the crossing, and accused opponents of wanting to “do nothing” about Blackwall Tunnel queues.

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