Transport for London has paid £10 million to settle a legal dispute over the building of the controversial Silvertown Tunnel, it was reported at the weekend.
Two years ago TfL awarded the contract to build the £2bn tunnel to Riverlinx, a consortium which includes Ferrovial, the owner of Heathrow Airport. Riverlinx will build and operate the tunnel, and be paid back by tolls on both the new road and the Blackwall Tunnel.
But a rival consortium, Silver Thames Connect, insisted its bid was better value for money and took legal action, forcing TfL to suspend work in August 2019. Silver Thames Connect includes Hochtief, which is building power tunnels under south London for National Grid and also built the Queensferry road crossing west of Edinburgh.
Even though the suspension was lifted two months later, Silver Thames Crossing still pursued damages, and The Daily Telegraph reported that TfL had paid £10m to settle the dispute.
TfL told the newspaper that it could not confirm details of the settlement.
“The losing bidder, Silver Thames Connect, made a claim to TfL in relation to the procurement for the design, build, finance and maintenance of the Silvertown Tunnel, which was the subject of court proceedings,” it said.
“The parties resolved the matter in March, the terms of which are confidential.”
Green Party London Assembly member Sian Berry said on social media that the dispute between the bidders – and the payout – could have been avoided: “I do wonder if this 2019 procurement dispute could have been avoided if the mayor was not rushing to sign the contract for the Silvertown Tunnel ahead of the expected 2020 election.”
“I warned him not to do this,” she continued, adding that fellow Green member Caroline Russell and Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon, had echoed her warnings.
London mayor Sadiq Khan and his transport deputy, Heidi Alexander, insist the tunnel will eliminate notorious traffic jams at the Blackwall Tunnel when it opens in 2025, but opponents say the new road – which features a dedicated lane for HGVs and buses – will fail to do this and will simply add to congestion.
The news comes as anti-tunnel protesters confirmed plans for a march through Canning Town this Saturday to protest against the tunnel, ending in a rally outside the Crystal, which will be the new home of City Hall and is close to the tunnel’s northern exit at Tidal Basin Roundabout.
The Stop The Silvertown Tunnel Coalition promises “a loud and colourful display” to show that “the tunnel has few supporters in east and south-east London”. The march will begin at Terry Spinks Place, close to Canning Town station, at 1pm.
Early construction work has already begun on the tunnel, with piling work continuing on the north side of the Thames, in readiness for a tunnelling machine to make its way from the Royal Docks to the Greenwich Peninsula.
Last week workers erected fencing near the south of the Blackwall Tunnel, close to where the exits of the two crossings will meet. This included a work site for a new footbridge over the A102, which will replace the existing one at Boord Street. The structure will be pained a “bright and uplifting” yellow to “ensure a friendly appearance to users, and linking to the iconic structure of the Millennium Dome”.
The architecture firm behind the bridge is dRMM, which has signed up to an industry pledge to evaluate all its projects on their effect on the environment.
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