Stop Silvertown Tunnel, Erith & Thamesmead MP Oppong-Asare tells mayor

A102 southbound traffic jam
The Silvertown Tunnel will feed into the southbound A102 through Greenwich towards Kidbrooke

The MP for Erith & Thamesmead has added her voice to the campaign against the Silvertown Tunnel, writing to Sadiq Khan asking him to stop and review the controversial project.

Abena Oppong-Asare said the £2 billion road tunnel between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks, which will include a lane for HGVs, does not make a “positive contribution” to the future of London, adding that “green transport must be the future of this city”.

Her letter follows a similar missive from Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook – who is also the shadow climate change minister – and West Ham MP Lyn Brown during the summer.

Opponents of the tunnel – which was approved by the government in May 2018 – include Newham, Lewisham, Southwark and Hackney councils. Both Greenwich and Newham councils campaigned for the project to happen when Boris Johnson first announced plans eight year ago. Newham reversed its stance in 2018, Greenwich Labour councillors have called for a review but the council has not formally reversed its stance, nor has it ever debated the issue in public; leader Danny Thorpe refused to join a cross-borough campaign against the scheme when invited to by his counterparts in Hackney.

Despite the opposition and mounting costs, Khan and his transport deputy, Heidi Alexander, have stuck by the project they inherited from Johnson’s Conservative administration, insisting that it will eliminate queues at the Blackwall Tunnel and provide a boost to cross-river bus services. Critics say it will simply lead to more traffic and will worsen existing bottlenecks, such as the southbound A2 and A102, already clogged with Blackwall Tunnel traffic.

Abena Oppong-Asare has added her voice to opponents of the tunnel

“As you will be aware, there has been widespread condemnation of the proposed plans amongst environmental campaigners across the city, as well as others. I hope that their concerns can be heard and engaged with meaningfully,” Oppong-Asare wrote in the letter, which has been seen by 853.

“Many are deeply worried about the cost of the project, which appears to be continuously escalating. Given the recently perilous financial situation of TfL, the viability of the tunnel is called into question. Your successful efforts to secure a funding support deal have been admirable and appreciated, yet these concerns still stand.

“Most importantly, the environmental impact of the project must be raised. As many of my colleagues have noted, specifically Lyn Brown and Matthew Pennycock, green transport must be the future of this city. This requires large-scale investment into sustainable public transport, promotion of walking and cycling, and long-term decarbonisation measures. The Silvertown Tunnel project does not represent a positive contribution to this future.

“My constituents are asking for an investigation into the project and a review of its suitability given the above concerns. I believe this would be a positive step and I urge you to consider it.”

Jon Burke, Hackney’s cabinet member for transport, said in response to the letter that Khan “needs the moral courage to cancel” the tunnel.

The first signs of construction are due to appear in the coming months, when car parking spaces around the O2 are moved to accommodate tunnelling work. Despite this, opponents are still pressing for the project to be dropped at the last minute, with the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition holding an online conference about the plans this Friday morning.

If work goes ahead, the Silvertown Tunnel could well be the only new Thames road crossing for the foreseeable future. Bexley Council recently called for plans for crossings at Gallions Reach and Belvedere to be revived, while plans for the Lower Thames Crossing between the A2 east of Gravesend and the M25 in Essex were pulled last week amid concerns about its environmental impact.

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