Silvertown Tunnel eye lowering
Two cranes were needed to lower the tunnel eye into place

The first part of the tunnelling apparatus for the Silvertown Tunnel has been lowered into place as work continues on Sadiq Khan’s £2 billion road link between the Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula.

Riverlinx, the contractor building the four-lane tunnel for Transport for London, used two cranes to manoeuvre the “tunnel eye” into position in a four-hour operation last week at its worksite close to Royal Victoria Dock.

The “eye” will guide the tunnel boring machine as it digs the first bore from Silvertown to Greenwich, before it turns around and returns to the docklands. The machine itself – which was built in Germany – will be the largest used in the UK, bigger than those used for Crossrail, the Thames Tideway sewer tunnel and HS2.

Silvertown Tunnel construction photos
The “eye” will guide the tunnel boring machine through the earth

Tunnelling had been due to begin in April, but 853 understands that it is now due to start later in the summer. Some 9,000 concrete segments are being built at a factory in Co Offaly in Ireland, ready to be shipped to London.

Khan and TfL insist that the tunnel is needed to deal with persistent congestion at the 125-year-old northbound Blackwall Tunnel, with the mayor accusing critics of living in “never-never land”. Opponents say it will fail to this and will simply create new queues and worsen existing ones away from the tunnel mouth.

New Greenwich Council leader Anthony Okereke told Labour councillors earlier this month that he would meet his counterpart in Newham, elected mayor Rokhsana Fiaz, to discuss a strategy for demanding Khan pauses and reviews the project.

Newham opposes the project – Fiaz has branded the scheme “madness” – while Greenwich has called for a pause and review.

Silvertown Tunnel worksite
The “eye”, top, and the tunnel boring machine, top left, earlier this month

Okereke was elected by his counterparts after his predecessor, Danny Thorpe, refused to condemn the scheme in council meetings.

Fiaz will be one of the speakers at a meeting held by the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition to discuss the health impacts of the project. Other speakers will include Dr Ian Mudway of Kings College London, who has opposed the tunnel since it was first announced a decade ago, and Dr Anna Moore, a population health fellow with Health Education England.

The meeting will be held at the Royal Wharf Community Dock in Silvertown on June 11. Tickets are available via Eventbrite.

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