Transport for London has insisted the controversial Silvertown Tunnel will cut HGV use on its approach roads by five per cent, after campaigners questioned Sadiq Khan’s transport boss’s assertion that neighbourhoods near the tunnel would see fewer lorries on their roads.
Heidi Alexander, the deputy mayor for transport and the former MP for Lewisham East, was responding to a letter handed into City Hall by a new protest group against the £1 billion tunnel, which will run between the Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula.
In her response, Alexander said that “in fact, the approach roads will see a small reduction in HGV traffic as more of it goes around London using the M25”.
TfL’s own projections, submitted to the planning inquiry into the scheme in April 2016, show rises of up to 55% for HGV traffic. However, those figures include buses – and TfL says that when improved bus services are removed from the equation, the numbers will show a fall.
Streets to see increases in HGV and bus traffic include Prince of Wales Road in Blackheath, at the edge of Alexander’s old constituency, which is predicted to see a 22% rise. The road is due to see a new bus service as part of the tunnel scheme.
The tunnel, which is due to open in 2025, is aimed at combating congestion around the Blackwall Tunnel. It will include dedicated lanes for HGVs and buses, and will allow HGVs which are too big for the 1897 northbound Blackwall Tunnel.
Drivers will be charged to use both Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels, which TfL says will keep traffic levels similar to now. But critics point out that a future mayor can change or even waive charge levels – which they say could render those forecasts meaningless.
Other roads which would see large increases in HGVs and buses include the western end of North Woolwich Road, Silvertown, close to the tunnel’s northern exit. This would see a 55% increase in heavy vehicles, although the road would also have extra bus services.
South of the river, West Parkside on the Greenwich Peninsula is due to see a 26% increase in heavy vehicles, although the figures appear to assume they are the only traffic using the road. Millennium Way is due to see a 24% increase, Bugsbys Way is due to have 22% more heavy traffic.
During the planning hearings, councils including Greenwich, which backs the scheme, had raised concerns about the accuracy of TfL’s modelling for the scheme. Five years ago, 853 revealed that Greenwich Council had suppressed a report stating that the tunnel would increase traffic in the area.
Victoria Rance, a spokesperson for Stop the Silvertown Tunnel – which is holding a second protest outside City Hall next Thursday morning – told 853: “We regard all the detailed traffic and pollution forecasts for the Silvertown Tunnel as an elaborate fiction that was designed to draw attention away from the fact that the cost-benefit analysis for the scheme doesn’t make sense, and the financial structure exposes TfL to massive demand risk in the future.
“The eventual pollution and congestion outcomes depend on the level of the toll that is eventually set, and that is a political decision that will be made by whoever is Mayor when the tunnel opens.
“If a mayoral candidate runs on a manifesto to remove the toll, for example, he or she can do that, residents and councils have no mechanism to prevent it happening.”
The consent order for the tunnel states that TfL must “consult” the Silvertown Tunnel Implementation Group – 11 east and south-east London councils plus the City of London and Highways England – and mount a full consultation before any making a change to the tolling regime, with the final decision resting with the mayor. In 2010, Boris Johnson scrapped the western extension to the central London congestion charge zone after including it in his manifesto.
David Hughes, the director of investment delivery planning at Transport for London, told 853: “We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the project is delivered with minimal impact to local residents. As we explained during the DCO process, and our Environmental Statement states, the figures in the table include buses and coaches, which will naturally increase as the new tunnel will allow us to run around 37 buses an hour in both directions across the river. These make up a substantial proportion of heavy traffic increases on local roads, with our assessment showing that in fact, there is a small reduction in HGVs forecast on the crossing corridor, as a proportion will divert to use the M25 rather than pay the daily user charge.
“As well as the user charge, all buses, coaches and HGVs using the crossing would be subject to ULEZ, LEZ and stringent safety standards to encourage the greenest, safest vehicles. The user charge will be specifically designed to prevent increases in air pollution and congestion on the approaches to the tunnel. It will also ensure the local road network can become a more pleasant place to walk and cycle in the future by reducing traffic and improving air quality.”
A TfL spokesperson added: “The traffic modelling we have undertaken indicates that the user charge would deter some HGVs and there would be a small reduction of circa 5% in the number of HGVs on the crossing corridor.
“In line with the commitments enshrined in the DCO we will be undertaking further modelling, monitoring and, if required appropriate mitigation, of the effects of the scheme to ensure the outcomes are not materially worse than we forecast in our environmental statement.”
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