Silvertown Tunnel rotation chamber
Workers are preparing to dig the Silvertown Tunnel’s second bore

Problems building the Silvertown Tunnel have left one of the companies building the controversial new road link on the Greenwich Peninsula nursing a £30 million loss.

Ferrovial Construction UK, which has a 40 per cent share in Riverlinx, the consortium that is digging the new tunnel to the Royal Docks, blamed the loss on the pandemic and war in Ukraine putting up prices.

The tunnel has been hit by a number of problems since construction work began in 2021, including a fire on a conveyor belt that halted work for 10 days, New Civil Engineer reported.

Construction costs have also crept up from £173 million to a projected £186 million while the opening date has been pushed back from April to June 2025.

Riverlinx’s shareholders – Ferrovial, Bam Nuttal and SK Ecoplant – are meeting the construction costs and will be paid back by tolls when they operate the tunnel for Transport for London. The tolls will also apply to the Blackwall Tunnel. The final cost of the tunnel is expected to be £2 billion over the 30-year contract.

“Whilst the UK growth strategy is well underway, at its core is the underpinning responsibility to provide certainty and resilience,” Ferrovial said in a statement outlining its 2022 financial results. “The decision was therefore taken to make a provision for a one-off exception for projected forecast losses on the Silvertown Tunnel project, principally due to external factors caused by global events, including the Covid-19 outbreak, the war in Ukraine, and the resultant significant inflationary increase in labour and commodity prices.”

The first bore of the tunnel, which will include a dedicated lane for HGVs and buses, has already been built. Construction teams at its worksite off Millennium Way are rotating the tunnelling machine piece by piece so it can dig the second bore to the Royal Docks.

Earlier this month a new footbridge was installed over the A102 as part of the project; this will replace the old footbridge at Boord Street which is being removed to accommodate a new flyover.

A102 evening traffic jam at Woolwich Road flyover
The tunnel will funnel traffic into this evening rush hour queue in Greenwich Credit: The Greenwich Wire

London mayor Sadiq Khan has insisted that the tunnel will be “a public transport-focused river crossing”, although only two bus routes will use the link when it opens, one being an express route which will not stop close to the tunnel entrances. Critics say the tunnel will increase traffic – particularly HGVs – and pollution, and is incompatible with London’s climate change commitments.

The Labour mayor has said that the tunnel is needed to deal with the notorious northbound queues at the Blackwall Tunnel and has said its opponents are a “vocal minority” who live in “never-never land”.

However, both Greenwich Council’s leader Anthony Okereke and his counterpart in Newham, Rohksana Fiaz, have said Khan should rethink his plans.

Last month Majella Anning, a Greenwich Labour councillor, said that the council would be discussing a motion in June calling on Khan to reserve the tunnel for public transport, walking and cycling only. Last year a London Assembly member said the tunnel could be used for a new tram link or a Docklands Light Railway extension.

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