Blackwall Tunnel toll: Sadiq Khan gives strongest hint yet of potential price for drivers

The Blackwall Tunnel and the Silvertown Tunnel will tolled under a policy developed by London's previous mayor, Boris Johnson.
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London mayor Sadiq Khan has given his strongest hint yet of the cost to drivers to cross the Blackwall Tunnel and Silvertown Tunnel, once both are tolled from 2025.

The policy of introducing a toll on each of the crossings was developed by Boris Johnson during his mayoralty, and signed off by Theresa May's government in 2018.

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The tolls' implementation is intended to help manage local traffic levels and air pollution, and to pay for the works on the Silvertown Tunnel, which is being constructed near to the Blackwall Tunnel to alleviate congestion.

In a letter to the transport secretary, Mark Harper, Mr Khan writes of the necessity for the Silvertown Tunnel in east London, with the Victorian-era Blackwall Tunnel currently one of the few crossings in the area.

Mr Khan goes on to note the process by which the Silvertown Tunnel was approved, including a 2015 public consultation at which an indicative cost of the tolls was put at £4.

This, he continues, is “the equivalent of around £5.25 today, allowing for inflation”.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London. Credit: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images.Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London. Credit: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London. Credit: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images.
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Transport for London (TfL) last month denied it had landed on a £4 charge for the tolls, after the cost appeared on signage approved by government. A spokesperson said at the time the fee was purely indicative, and that a final figure will be agreed at a later date.

In his letter to Mr Harper, Mr Khan writes of the need to support the “poorest Londoners living in the areas surrounding the Blackwall Tunnel” via discounts and exemptions. He ends by requesting that the exploration of such options, and the potential hit on TfL's income, does not impact the funding negotiations ongoing with the government.

A DfT spokesperson would not confirm whether talks would be affected, though noted it is for the mayor to ensure TfL can deliver transport services in London, with the government providing more than £6 billion in support since 2020.

Traffic queuing to use the Blackwall Tunnel in east London. Credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images.Traffic queuing to use the Blackwall Tunnel in east London. Credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images.
Traffic queuing to use the Blackwall Tunnel in east London. Credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images.

A spokesperson for the mayor said: “New plans for the Silvertown tunnel and Blackwall tunnel are vital for the future of east London, particularly for tackling congestion which impacts residents and businesses.

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“Tolling both tunnels was the idea of the previous mayor Boris Johnson and agreed by central government in 2018. However, Sadiq believes more must be done to mitigate the impact on lower income residents in the area. The mayor has asked TfL to spend the next year working on the details of discounts and exemptions for local residents, working in consultation with the boroughs.

“The mayor has also made it clear to ministers that any exemptions and discounts, which might impact income from the scheme, shouldn’t impact future discussions on wider TfL funding.”

The Silvertown Tunnel, which will connect Greenwich with the Royal Docks in Newham, has come under heavy fire for its projected impact on air pollution in some of the capital’s poorest neighbourhoods.

The Stop the Silvertown Tunnel campaign group is among those to have called for the tunnel, which is currently under construction, to be repurposed with a focus instead on cycling and public transport.

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Green Party assembly member Siân Berry, who has led some of the work proposing alternative uses for the tunnel, said: “The Silvertown Road Tunnel should never have been started. Now, the mayor is tying himself up in knots trying to reconcile the new costs the tunnels will impose on drivers in the area with the need to limit pollution from those motor vehicles.

“It is not too late to transform this infrastructure into a tunnel for public transport, walking, and cycling, a solution which would carry none of the traffic and pollution risks  and at the same time provide an affordable option to cross the river for older people, younger people, and the nearly 50% of residents in Greenwich and Newham without access to a car.”

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