Transport for London has confirmed that the Silvertown Tunnel now will not open until 2025 after naming the consortium that will build and operate the new road, which will run between Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks.
Originally due to open in 2023, then 2024, the £1bn project – which many local residents fear will increase congestion and pollution across the area – has been hit by a number of delays since the planning inquiry into the scheme opened two years ago. It was approved by the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, last year.
The Riverlinx consortium, comprising of Aberdeen Standard Investments, BAM PPP PGGM, Cintra, Macquarie Capital and SK Engineering & Construction, has been named as the preferred bidder for the project. Riverlinx will design, build, finance and maintain the twin tunnels – an arrangement similar to that used to build the Docklands Light Railway extensions to Lewisham, City Airport and Woolwich in the 1990s and 2000s. It will be repaid by tolls on both the new tunnel and the existing Blackwall Tunnel – these were put at £3 for cars at peak times and £1 off-peak in the planning hearing, but will be confirmed closer to the tunnel’s opening date. These private finance schemes were banned for central government projects by the chancellor, Philip Hammond, last year, but TfL is still allowed to use them as it is a devolved body.
TfL claims the tunnel – which will allow HGVs that are too big to use the Blackwall Tunnel – will “effectively eliminate congestion”, will “unlock regeneration across Greenwich and Newham” and will enable new bus services between the two sides of the Thames.
The consortium will now spend the summer confirming its finance arrangements and supply chain before TfL, which is chaired by mayor Sadiq Khan, confirms the contract.
Climate change protesters, who say the scheme is incompatible with the “climate emergency” declared by Khan, held a demonstration outside City Hall earlier this month, while a London Assembly member has warned the project risks being a new Garden Bridge.
Greenwich Council has been steadfast in backing the project, with an attempt to reverse Greenwich Labour’s support failing earlier this year when two councillors in Peninsula ward reneged on a pledge in hustings to oppose the scheme. While Britain’s planned exit from the EU was the major theme of the poll, Labour’s vote tumbled to just 15% in the ward in this month’s European elections.
Lewisham, Southwark and Hackney councils have all opposed the scheme, while Newham switched sides to become an objector last year. Khan had promised a “joined-up review” of the scheme ahead of his election as mayor in May 2016, but backed it within five weeks of taking office, 853 revealed in 2017.
Alex Williams, TfL’s director of city planning, said: “‘The need for more river crossings in east London, to unlock growth and give residents and businesses better access to jobs and services, has been clear for decades. The Silvertown Tunnel, which is vital to support London’s economy, has been designed to resolve the existing congestion problem around Blackwall, improve overall air quality and enable new cross-river bus routes to be introduced.
“We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the project is delivered with minimal impact to local residents. We will closely monitor noise and air quality during construction and traffic levels and emissions once the tunnel is complete.”
A few miles east, Sadiq Khan has called on the government to block proposals for a new incinerator in Belvedere on pollution grounds. He called it “the last thing we need in our modern green global city”.
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