Mayor Boris proposes slapping tolls on Blackwall Tunnel

Monday’s confirmation that Lewisham Hospital A&E may close made it a very good day to bury news in SE London that some people might not want to hear.

So, on Monday, Transport for London launched its consultation into building a third Blackwall Tunnel – the Silvertown Tunnel. I’ve dealt at length before about why sending more traffic down the A102 will only move the tunnel bottleneck further south as more traffic seeks to use it.

Naturally, Bexley Council, from whose borough much of the traffic will come, backs this – it shoves the problem out of the Conservative council’s backyard, after all. But so does Greenwich Labour, with both council leader Chris Roberts and Eltham MP Clive Efford speaking up in favour of sending more traffic through Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath.

But there’s a shock in store for some of those supporters – TfL, which doesn’t have the money to start digging, proposes tolling the Blackwall Tunnel to pay for it:

There is currently no funding set aside in TfL’s budget for the major infrastructure projects outlined in this consultation. This means that in order to deliver them we would need to identify a means of paying for them.

We believe that the most appropriate way to fund the projects would be to charge a toll for using the Silvertown Tunnel and any new crossing linking Thamesmead and Beckton. Tolling would provide a new revenue stream to pay for the crossings, and would ensure that those who benefit most from these new projects – by using them – help to pay for them in return.

Because the Silvertown Tunnel and the Blackwall Tunnel are located so close to one another and share common approach roads, if the Silvertown Tunnel is built and subject to tolling, the Blackwall Tunnel would also need to be tolled – otherwise there would be serious delays at the Blackwall Tunnel as so much traffic would wish to use it.

The charges are likely to be similar to the tolls charged on the Dartford crossing (which are now £2 for cars £2.50 for two-axle goods vehicles, and £5 for HGVs). Charges at around these levels should help to manage traffic while not constraining economic activity and growth.

That wasn’t in Boris Johnson’s election manifesto in May, and won’t go down very well in Bexley, many of whose residents think it’s unfair they have to pay to use the Dartford crossing. (To be fair, if they got it for free, it might take some of the load off Blackwall.) Maybe he should have kept the congestion charge in Kensington and Chelsea after all. The consultation also makes it clear the Thames Gateway Bridge at Thamesmead isn’t dead, either.

Sneakily, there’s no indication in the consultation of the huge construction work that’d be needed on the Greenwich Peninsula, effectively cutting off the O2 from the rest of the peninsula. Check out the size of the planned approaches on the Canning Town side.

Of course, we’ve been here before – the last politician to suggest charging at the Blackwall Tunnel was none other than… Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts, five years ago, when proposing a congestion charge for SE10, a bizarre idea which seemed to have died a death when Boris Johnson was elected.

Now it’s back – but would a toll make the Silvertown tunnel any more palatable? You can contribute to the consultation here.

PS. Some of this stuff might be on the agenda at a meeting of Greenwich Council’s transport scrutiny committee on Thursday (6.30pm, Woolwich Town Hall) where representatives of TfL and Southeastern will be quizzed by councillors. It’s open to the public.


  1. Dick you will see from the attached agenda paper that the 3rd Crossing will be covered by tomorrow’s meeting.

    The paper says

    *Richard de Cani and Mike Gibson will each give presentations to the meeting which will be followed by questions from the panel members *

    I asked Daniel Wilkinson (in the absence of Robert Sutton) whether members of the public would also be able to speak/ask questions, given that Councillor Hayley Fletcher had expressly asked me to attend. He said that would be up to the Chair – who would be chosen at the meeting. He thought it was likely the meeting would be fairly informal and that the chair might well ask if their were questions from the public. But basically it was suck it and see.


  2. Hi Lawrence, there will be an opportunity for members of the public to ask questions at the meeting if the answers have not already been addressed by TfL/Southeastern in their presentations. I’m not sure how much time we can have for public questions but we’ll allow as many as possible.

  3. I suppose – with reference to tomorrow’s meeting – that there are already a fairly longish list of things which people are asking to have raised, and everyone is going to think their own issue is the most important. I am aware – for instance – that the latest accident on Bugsby’s Way has led to a lot of public concern

  4. Interesting that these maps show Greenwich as a Borough with a high rate of population growth but a low rate of employment growth locally. All the more need for good transport links if we’re going to become one big dormitory. And the Council leadership want to build more housing on large swathes of land in SE7 which currently provide jobs

  5. Meanwhile the pedestrian and cycle bridge from Greenwich to Canary Wharf (which might just have had a positive impact on air quality and which was costed at £60million (=1 cable car)) is a dead letter.

  6. we need these 2 additional road crossings, its a fact people want to drive and will continue to do so regardless of cost, for some it is the only realistic choice for other sthey just dont do public transport
    the cycle and pedestrian proposal just doesnt work as a bridge as it needs to be as high as the cable car if the cruise liner terminal is to be built, unless its another tunnel ( not sure thats a good idea anymore! )
    the councils dlr/tunnel option at silvertown would at least provide some additional public transport connections
    i would assume the tolling will be by electronic devices or number plate recognition systems ( like the dartford dart system or congestion charge ) to avoid queues at the crossings – as it is such a simple system to enforce and impliment i assume borris will be tolling ALL river crossings to fund new crossings and pay for the upkeep of the existing ones……

  7. A lot of people want to drive, that’s self evident otherwise there wouldn’t be huge queues at the Blackwall tunnel every day and we wouldn’t even be discussing the issue of another tunnel.

    I can’t agree that Rotherhithe tunnel wouldn’t be affected by this – it’s an obvious diversion route for people living to the west of the Blackwall tunnel and one I’ve had to use all too often.

    I also don’t agree that having tolls on the Dartford crossings doesn’t slow traffic down. It does.

    A longer term strategy should be looking at how to encourage people out of their cars and to use more environmentally friendly modes of getting around, not building another tunnel which will simply clog up as cars expand to fill the available space. That simply isn’t sustainable.

    If we are going to start tolling bridges and tunnels though, I would appreciate it if the mayor would consider putting tolls on the bridges to the west of London as well, but that would never happen…

  8. i walk to work in se18 but play a sport in north london that requires carrying a huge bag and is played at times of night when public transport wouldnt get me home until stupid o’clock in the morning hence my comment public transport doesnt always work for people like it doesnt work for trades people and other occupations who will always drive – unfortunatly we dont live in a world where all people want to give up there cars yet

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