Silvertown Tunnel: Trouble in the council message centre

As the end of TfL’s consultation on river crossings looms (please, fill in www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings by Friday), Greenwich Council’s Bridge The Gap publicity push to build a road tunnel between Greenwich and Silvertown, as well as a road bridge between Thamesmead and Beckton, has fallen into even more disarray.

After all, nothing else can explain this response to a letter from an anxious punter in this week’s edition of council propaganda weekly Greenwich Time.

Greenwich Time, 29 January 2013

(I should point out that the council press office did arrange space for a letter after a press release responding to the last load of nonsense was sent to an old email address – strangely, GT now uses a Gmail account. Criticism of GT’s coverage and a call for people to sign the anti-Silvertown petition was edited out of the letter.)

Nothing in this reply addresses the issues with Silvertown – indeed, it doesn’t mention it by name – all it says is “we’ll back it now and worry about the facts later”. I fully expected that attempt to divert the focus downstream.

But let’s see that opening line again. “The Bridge The Gap campaign seeks to ensure that local residents are effectively aware of the proposal to effectively move the Woolwich Ferry to Thamesmead. That reply is the first time in the seven issues of the council’s main publicity organ which have relentlessly plugged Bridge The Gap that the closure of the Woolwich Ferry has actually been mentioned. Is that the sound of grasping at straws coming from Woolwich Town Hall?

It must be, because it has no evidence in the Silvertown Tunnel’s favour.

Moving onto page 13, it’s the inevitable…

Greenwich Time, 29 January 2013

Forget the Woolwich Ferry, it’s back to a picture of a packed A102 and bigging up the lethal Silvertown proposal, as well as the whopper about “community leaders” and the deceitful implication that this campaign is supported by anyone other than Greenwich Council and its developer friends.

And it still has no evidence.

Actually, we know another set of supporters – the Eltham Labour Party, which rejected a motion from its Shooters Hill ward party condemning the campaign last Friday. I’m told council leader Chris Roberts admitted he had no evidence to support the campaign – this is disputed by cabinet member John Fahy, who chaired the meeting, although the councillor in charge of public health hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with any evidence of Silvertown’s benefits himself.

On 7 December, I emailed the council to ask for the evidence submitted to Chris Roberts, and that presented to the ruling Labour group, that influenced their decision to launch the Bridge The Gap campaign. Nearly eight weeks later, I’ve no response.

It’s because they had no evidence in the first place, no doubt.

But we have evidence of how wrong they are. On Monday, 50 people crammed into the Christchurch Forum, Greenwich to hear about research which shows how the Silvertown and Gallions Reach proposals are so dangerous.

I don’t have most the visual presentation, but you can hear traffic expert John Elliott (a former GLC transport chief) and pollution expert Dr Ian Mudway (part of the team behind the London Air website) discuss why new roads generate new traffic, why tolling won’t work, and how traffic pollution kills by clicking the play button below. (Or you can download an MP3 file of the two-hour meeting from this link – the second hour is questions from the audience. The first voice you hear is Jenny Bates of Friends of the Earth.)

(Here’s John Elliott’s slides on the traffic growth at Westway and the second Blackwall Tunnel.)

Among the audience there was the aforementioned John Fahy, once so bullishly in favour of Silvertown, who left with a worried look on his face. Now one of the council’s cabinet, and the man in charge of public health, has heard the evidence, will some sense start to emerge? Here’s hoping.

To take part in the TfL consultation, go to www.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings. To sign the No To Silvertown Tunnel petition, visit www.silvertowntunnel.co.uk.

You can also watch Greenwich councillors take public questions on Silvertown at their next full meeting, TONIGHT at 7pm at Woolwich Town Hall. Here’s some tips on what to expect.

11 comments

  1. Clare

    It would be great if we could somehow get Dr Mudway’s slides online. They are so totally compelling about the pollution effects on health.

    And the evidence on how roads generate traffic is so clear that when you link the two it becomes impossible to support the new crossings.

    I was broadly in favour of a bridge at Gallions Reach, but having seen the evidence, I’ve changed my mind.

    What the council should be doing is looking for and then promoting ways of getting people out of their cars altogether. Perhaps Cllr Fahy could make sure some of his £18m budget for public health is spent on that.

  2. Matt

    I emailed my three ward councillors and a member of Greenwich Conservatives to find out their views on the Bridge The Gap campaign. I’ve so far received one response. I’ve also got two questions being asked at tonight’s council meeting, hopefully they’ll both receive clear answers, but I’m not confident.

  3. Omar

    Still in favour of aero emissions vehicles only policy in any new tunnel, and a lane dedicated to such vehicles on the approaches. The sight of smug electric car drivers skipping the queues will do more to encourage take up of new vehicles than any publicity campaign or subsidies ever could and might even lead to pollution reducing from the already excessive levels.

  4. Darryl

    So you’d leave all the polluting vehicles to clog up residential roads, Omar? Ta for that.

    You might want to look at the evidence that more roads do not relieve congestion, they cause it – no matter if they’re only allowing “clean” cars.

  5. Greenwich Liberal

    Matt, Your responses tonight are likely to be wholly inadequate. Local Tories are holed up in Eltham and Labour have the majority of the borough sown up so we are all stuffed. We Lib Dems are toxic as far as the general populace is concerned but if you go on to my blog you can see that I am vehemently against this scheme and if, in a parallel universe, Clegg hadn’t holed us below the water line I may have been able to help. Death of children will result. Seriously.

  6. David Gardner

    Just to remind readers that there is a diversity of views within all parties on this, but Greenwich & Woolwich Labour Party are strongly of the view that it is premature to support the Mayor’s proposals or a Thames Gateway Bridge until we have a thorough independent study of the traffic, environmental and economic impact of such new roads.

  7. Pingback: Greenwich Council dodges public Silvertown Tunnel questions « 853
  8. Franklin

    @David Gardner

    I’m confused. You’re the Chair of the Greenwich & Woolwich Labour Party, right? If your party is strongly of the view that “it is premature to support the Mayor’s proposals … until we have a thorough independent study of the traffic, environmental and economic impact of such new roads” – why is the Labour-dominated Council running the ‘Bridge the Gap’ campaign? Are Chris Roberts and Denise Hyland in open and direct defiance of the Greenwich & Woolwich Labour Party’s policy on this?

  9. Pingback: ‘Greener Greenwich’ councillor says ‘yes’ to new roads « 853
  10. Pingback: Greenwich Council: ‘We’ll build our own river crossing’ | 853

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