Monday’s confirmation that Lewisham Hospital A&E may close made it a very good day to bury news in SE London that some people might not want to hear.
So, on Monday, Transport for London launched its consultation into building a third Blackwall Tunnel – the Silvertown Tunnel. I’ve dealt at length before about why sending more traffic down the A102 will only move the tunnel bottleneck further south as more traffic seeks to use it.
Naturally, Bexley Council, from whose borough much of the traffic will come, backs this – it shoves the problem out of the Conservative council’s backyard, after all. But so does Greenwich Labour, with both council leader Chris Roberts and Eltham MP Clive Efford speaking up in favour of sending more traffic through Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath.
But there’s a shock in store for some of those supporters – TfL, which doesn’t have the money to start digging, proposes tolling the Blackwall Tunnel to pay for it:
There is currently no funding set aside in TfL’s budget for the major infrastructure projects outlined in this consultation. This means that in order to deliver them we would need to identify a means of paying for them.
We believe that the most appropriate way to fund the projects would be to charge a toll for using the Silvertown Tunnel and any new crossing linking Thamesmead and Beckton. Tolling would provide a new revenue stream to pay for the crossings, and would ensure that those who benefit most from these new projects – by using them – help to pay for them in return.
Because the Silvertown Tunnel and the Blackwall Tunnel are located so close to one another and share common approach roads, if the Silvertown Tunnel is built and subject to tolling, the Blackwall Tunnel would also need to be tolled – otherwise there would be serious delays at the Blackwall Tunnel as so much traffic would wish to use it.
The charges are likely to be similar to the tolls charged on the Dartford crossing (which are now £2 for cars £2.50 for two-axle goods vehicles, and £5 for HGVs). Charges at around these levels should help to manage traffic while not constraining economic activity and growth.
That wasn’t in Boris Johnson’s election manifesto in May, and won’t go down very well in Bexley, many of whose residents think it’s unfair they have to pay to use the Dartford crossing. (To be fair, if they got it for free, it might take some of the load off Blackwall.) Maybe he should have kept the congestion charge in Kensington and Chelsea after all. The consultation also makes it clear the Thames Gateway Bridge at Thamesmead isn’t dead, either.
Sneakily, there’s no indication in the consultation of the huge construction work that’d be needed on the Greenwich Peninsula, effectively cutting off the O2 from the rest of the peninsula. Check out the size of the planned approaches on the Canning Town side.
Of course, we’ve been here before – the last politician to suggest charging at the Blackwall Tunnel was none other than… Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts, five years ago, when proposing a congestion charge for SE10, a bizarre idea which seemed to have died a death when Boris Johnson was elected.
Now it’s back – but would a toll make the Silvertown tunnel any more palatable? You can contribute to the consultation here.
PS. Some of this stuff might be on the agenda at a meeting of Greenwich Council’s transport scrutiny committee on Thursday (6.30pm, Woolwich Town Hall) where representatives of TfL and Southeastern will be quizzed by councillors. It’s open to the public.