Out-Law News 2 min. read

TfL opens Silvertown Tunnel consultation

Transport for London (TfL) has opened a public consultation on its plans for a new road tunnel under the river Thames at Silvertown in east London.

The proposed tunnel would link Silvertown, in the Royal Docks, with the Greenwich Peninsula and relieve congestion at the neighbouring Blackwall Tunnel. According to a TfL statement, journeys through the Blackwall Tunnel during peak periods often approach 20 minutes, and breakdowns, accidents or over-height vehicles can cause delays up to several hours long, with knock-on effects for surrounding boroughs.

TfL proposes to construct a road tunnel under the Thames for use by motorised vehicles, with two lanes in either direction. The tunnel would provide sufficient clearance to allow tall vehicles to pass through and could enable new cross-river bus services to be introduced. TfL said that construction could commence before the end of 2017 and the tunnel could be open as early as 2021. The tunnel would cost an estimated £750 million.

The introduction of user charges is proposed for both the Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels following the opening of the new tunnel. TfL considers the charges to be necessary "to manage demand for the tunnels" and to "provide a source of revenue to help fund the construction and operation of the new Silvertown Tunnel".

The proposed tunnel was designated as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project by former Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening in 2012. As a result, TfL will be applying to the Secretary of State for Transport via the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) for a development consent order (DCO) for the proposals. The final decision on whether to make a DCO for the project will be taken by the Secretary of State for Transport on the advice of PINS.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson last week expressed his support for TfL's plans, and for additional Thames crossings further east. "The Silvertown Tunnel would provide a vital new link beneath the Thames from two of our city's great opportunity areas for new homes and jobs - Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks," said Johnson in a statement. "It has quite rightly been classified by the Government as a project of national significance and today we're a step closer in making our vision a reality."

"Unless new river crossings are provided, the huge growth potential of east London will not be realised," added Johnson, "which is why I have asked TfL to also take forward further work on two new river crossings to the east of the Silvertown Tunnel at Gallions Reach and Belvedere. These new crossings will be essential not just for east London, but for the capital as a whole and its continued success as the motor of the UK economy."

The consultation will run until 19 December. TfL said that an application for a DCO for the Silvertown Tunnel was expected to be made by the end of 2015, following a further consultation planned for summer 2015.

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