Blackwall Tunnel charge: TfL Toll to be introduced at east London tunnel - why and when

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Currently free to use, there are plans to introduce a toll for using the Blackwall Tunnel in the next couple of years. Here is why and, maybe most importantly, when.

Consisting of two road tunnels running beneath the River Thames between Greenwich and Tower Hamlets, the Blackwall Tunnel is a major part of east London’s road network. Originally opened as a single bore in 1897, the second tunnel was added in 1967, as a growing numbers of vehicles were using the route.

Operating 24/7, the Blackwall Tunnel is one of the few crossings in the area, with only the Dartford Crossing and the Woolwich Ferry further east.

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As with almost all of the crossings around London, there is currently no toll operating in the tunnel. However, this is likely to change in the next couple of years, as drivers will be asked to pay a fee to continue on their journey.

But why is a toll being introduced, and when?

Traffic approaching the Blackwall Tunnel in east London. Credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images.Traffic approaching the Blackwall Tunnel in east London. Credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images.
Traffic approaching the Blackwall Tunnel in east London. Credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images. | Getty Images

Why will the Blackwall Tunnel be tolled?

The answer to this question is simple; the Silvertown Tunnel.

The major infrastructure project, which has drawn much opposition due to its projected impact on air pollution in east London, will provide an alternative crossing between the Greenwich peninsula and north of the River Thames, specifically the Royal Docks in Newham.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London (TfL) say the Silvertown Tunnel is necessary due to congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel.

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Once the Silvertown Tunnel opens, TfL has said it intends on introducing a toll on both routes, to pay for building and maintenance, but also to help manage traffic levels.

The Blackwall Tunnel connects the Greenwich peninsula with Poplar in Tower Hamlets. Credit: Google.The Blackwall Tunnel connects the Greenwich peninsula with Poplar in Tower Hamlets. Credit: Google.
The Blackwall Tunnel connects the Greenwich peninsula with Poplar in Tower Hamlets. Credit: Google. | Google

When will the Blackwall Tunnel be tolled?

The Silvertown Tunnel is currently due to open in 2025, from which point it and the Blackwall Tunnel will both be tolled.

The exact charge levels will be decided closer to the opening date.

On its webpage detailing the Silvertown Tunnel project, TfL says: “Incidents with larger, unsuitable vehicles frequently cause delays and closures of the Victorian-built Blackwall Tunnel. Idling traffic builds up, often leading to tailbacks of several miles in just a few minutes. This increases journey times as drivers choose longer routes to avoid the tunnel.

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“The Silvertown Tunnel scheme has been built to reduce this chronic congestion experienced in east London today, improve journey times and keep traffic moving efficiently.”

Opposition groups, academics and councils, including both Greenwich and Newham, however dispute the benefits TfL says the Silvertown Tunnel will deliver, stating instead it will push thousands of additional vehicles into some of London’s poorest, most polluted neighbourhoods.

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