Darren Johnson, the London Assembly Green party member

Campaigners against Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s plan to build a road tunnel under the River Thames in east London called this week for a package of public transport improvements, including new rail tunnels instead.

One alternative to the “toxic tunnel” is to extend the Gospel Oak to Barking line to Barking Riverside and then under the river to connect with rail services south of the river at Abbey Wood.

A succession of speakers at the meeting in Britannia Village, Silvertown, on Tuesday (18 November 2014) said that spending the £753 million that Mr Johnson wants to allocate to the tunnel would be better spent on any form of public transport in an area badly served by buses and trains.

The nearby existing Blackwall tunnel has only one bus route through it, yet Mr Johnson claims the new Silvertown road tunnel offered “opportunities” for public transport connections. Pedestrians and cyclists will be banned.

“Boris should know that building roads just encourages more cars on to the road and makes congestion and pollution worse over a much wider area,“ said one campaigner.

“Air quality is already appalling in this area, thanks to road traffic and the City airport,” said another speaker. “Another road tunnel will make it even worse. We want more cycle paths, facilities for pedestrians and better public transport, be it rail or tram.”

Public transport in the area is full to bursting, report local residents, so it is crazy to be wasting £753 million on a new road which will create new queues of traffic.

One speaker, Nikki Coates, said: “The idea of a road crossing came up 10 years ago and was shown officially to be a bad idea. But the zombie road crossing keeps coming back.”

She pointed out that the Docklands Light Railway and the Jubilee line had had a beneficial effect on Canary Wharf and parts of Greenwich, while the road was an ugly and unpalatable alternative.

Money spent on any public transport initiative would be better than wasting £753 million on the toxic road tunnel at Silvertown.

She said public transport could be improved by extending the DLR to Barking from Gallions Reach near Beckton.

Car use in London had been going down but, under the current Mayor of London car use has started to rise again.

One of the problems for the Silvertown area is that Crossrail, which will be in operation in 2018 does not have a station in the area.

The Green party’s London Assembly member Darren Johnson is against the Silvertown road tunnel, but Labour’s London Assembly member John Biggs has not yet responded to appeals to come out against it.

Mr Johnson said: “London has enjoyed a great record of success in reducing traffic over the past 15 years. Even as the economy and population grew, Londoners have abandoned their cars and taken the bus or tube, cycled or walked instead.

“The Mayor of London could seize the opportunity to build on this achievement by expanding the public transport network and making London’s streets safe and inviting for cyclists and pedestrians.

“Instead he is planning for big increases in traffic in an infrastructure plan containing numerous high-cost road-building schemes, including an underground motorway with a £25 billion price tag.”

British Government studies have shown that building roads causes people to drive more, so that half of the theoretical driving-time savings are lost in the short run. In the long run, all those savings are lost.

The Department for Transport has been accused of hiding the facts from the public about traffic generation revealed in the 1994 SACTRA report which showed that building new roads merely generates extra traffic.

The report however can be read at:

Gov archives

More info: No to Silvertown Tunnel

Air quality news