Blackwall Tunnel toll and Silvertown Tunnel: What do the London mayoral candidates say?
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Connecting the Greenwich peninsula with the Royal Docks in Newham via a tunnel running beneath the River Thames, the mayor and Transport for London (TfL) say it is essential to relieving congestion around the nearby Blackwall Tunnel. They say concerns around increased traffic levels will be mitigated by tolls on both the Silvertown Tunnel and Blackwall Tunnel, once the former opens in 2025.
The project has proved highly controversial, with campaigners, councils and academics among those who have raised alarms regarding its potential increase on air pollution. TfL’s own modelling suggests 20,000-30,000 new vehicles will be driving into some of Newham’s poorest areas.
With less than a year out from the next London mayoral election, scheduled for May 2024, we wanted to know; what are each of the candidates’ takes on the Silvertown Tunnel, and the planned tolling of the Blackwall Tunnel?
Conservatives - Susan Hall
Susan Hall was approached for comment on what she would do regarding the Silvertown Tunnel project and associated tolls, but had not responded at the time of publication.
Ms Hall, who is currently a London Assembly Member (AM), did question the tunnel’s viability and whether the user charge would be sufficient to pay for it in a letter to the deputy mayor for transport, Seb Dance, in November 2020.
Ms Hall has not responded to a request for comment about her current position on the Silvertown Tunnel and the Blackwall Tunnel toll.
Green - Zoë Garbett
Currently a Green councillor for Dalston, the party’s candidate for mayor, Zoë Garbett, described the Silvertown Tunnel as liable to have “catastrophic impacts on the lives of residents living nearby”.
Telling LondonWorld a Green mayor would not have approved the project in the first place, Ms Garbett added that given work is already underway, if elected, she would repurpose the tunnel for sustainable travel.
“Any mayor serious about tackling the climate emergency, improving air quality and addressing health inequalities wouldn’t be building a new road.”
On the question of tolls, Ms Garbett said she would look into implementing a “smarter, fairer, privacy-friendly road user charging”. Prior to this becoming available, she would retain the toll on the Blackwall Tunnel, with the money collected to go towards paying for alternative uses.
“Ideally, the Silvertown Road Tunnel will be repurposed for cycling, walking, wheeling and public transport.”
Labour Pary - Sadiq Khan
The incumbent Labour mayor, Mr Khan, has repeatedly reinstated his support for the Silvertown Tunnel, including the tolls, having given the project the green-light during his first term.
A spokesperson for Mr Khan said: “The mayor is committed to reducing emissions in London and is taking world-leading action to tackle the climate crisis. The Silvertown Tunnel will transform the way people can travel in a part of London that currently has few options for crossing the Thames.
“In addition to providing new, zero-emission, cross-river bus services, the tunnel will address the chronic vehicle congestion currently associated with the inadequate, Victorian-era Blackwall Tunnel. This means that the new tunnel will improve air quality in the area.
“A new user charge on both tunnels will also ensure there is no increase in traffic overall.”
Liberal Democrats - Rob Blackie
Rob Blackie, an anti-Brexit campaigner and adviser to startup tech companies, said he would look to cancel the Silvertown Tunnel “if possible”.
However, he did concede that without being able to see the contracts involved, it would be “hard to know” whether that could be achieved if he were to win next year’s election.
“If not then I would aim to ensure that we encourage river crossings to have low pollution vehicles as much as possible, so that this becomes another lever to encourage people to move to less polluting vehicles,” he added. “As part of that, tolls are likely to be needed to pay the huge cost that Khan has spent on the tunnel.”
Reform UK - Howard Cox
Reform UK, formerly the Brexit Party, was approached for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication.
The party’s candidate, Howard Cox, is a founder of the Fair Fuel UK campaign, and is running on several ‘pro-motorist’ policies, including scrapping the ULEZ in its entirety and removing 20mph zones across London.