The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge

Darren Johnson details the problems with Boris Johnson's new plan to build a £700 million tunnel

 

Darren Johnson AM represents the Green Party in the London Assembly

From the media coverage of the Mayor of London’s proposed new Thames crossing at Silvertown, you will have been left with the impression that the choice is between a Boris tunnel, or a Ken bridge. The reality is that Londoners have a choice between a big new road and solving our chronic air pollution problems.

The current mayor wants to build a two lane tunnel next door to the Blackwall Tunnel. It is an old fashioned road building scheme that increases capacity and allows a lot more cars and lorries to travel through the same area. I will just list a few of the more obvious flaws in this idea.

London’s traffic is declining and has been for the last decade. People are switching to public transport as their preferred way of getting around. As the mayor himself says, if Londoners hadn’t made such a switch in the last eleven years there would be an extra million vehicle trips per day. So why are we building a new road to cope with less car trips?

The Silvertown tunnel was actually the second scheme in the queue, when Ken Livingstone was mayor.

The package of three river crossings put forward in his first term of office, included the Thames Gateway Bridge at Gallions Reach and the DLR extension.

It is worth considering that we now have the DLR extension to Lewisham, a cable car starting up in May, plus the east London extension has come south of the river and will soon be completing London’s orbital railway.

Crossrail will further increase that eastward penetration of public transport. Londoners’ ability to cross the river east of Tower Bridge have increased considerably, only you have to leave your cars at home.

Air pollution is already well over the European limits for NO2 throughout the area covered by the Blackwall Tunnel and its various feeder roads.

The previous mayor lost the support of the Inspector at the public inquiry (pdf) into the Thames Gateway Bridge partly because of the environmental arguments. The evidence about the health impacts of air pollution has grown even stronger in recent years and the failure of the Government to reduce pollution has become ever clearer.

Even if we accept the argument that the Blackwall Tunnel is a localised problem of too much demand and too little supply, then will a new tunnel, or bridge, do the trick?

Both the previous Mayor and the current one argue that there is suppressed demand from individuals and businesses in east London for more roads across the Thames.

TfL may well be able to argue that the jams at the Blackwall Tunnel are untouched by the seven per cent decline in London wide traffic since 2000, which could well be (on current trends) 15-20 per cent by the time the bridge is built.

However, there is a lot of research to suggest that if you build roads to relieve traffic jams, then after a few years they just clog up again and make bigger traffic jams. Is it worth spending £700 million to test that theory?

Where the money is coming from is of course the big question mark. The previous mayor was planning to toll (pdf) the Thames Gateway Bridge in order to provide most of the £450 million cost. Will the current mayor suggest doing the same for the £700 million Silvertown Tunnel?

The problem with tolling the new tunnel is that most people would simply avoid it and use the old one – as long as it was fairly free moving.

The only way of guaranteeing regular, substantial toll revenue is to toll the Blackwall Tunnel as well. That idea was quickly shelved when TfL suggested it as a way of paying for the TGB and I suspect that it won’t be one of the options mentioned in the forthcoming consultation.

The other ways of paying for the road, is either through the government giving London the extra cash, or TfL borrowing and paying it back out of general income, i.e. fares. I assume in these cash strapped times that the government won’t be paying for it all.

But if TfL is paying for it, then why a new road, instead of doing things like making the tube system accessible? £700m is more than double what this mayor has spent on cycling in the last four years. So, does the mayor want to annoy motorists with tolls, or hard pressed public transport users with fare increases paying for a new road? Tricky.

See also:

Exposed: Boris Johnson’s efforts to evade air pollution rulesDarren Johnson AM, October 4th 2011

Boris can take the lead on entry-level jobs for the young unemployedDarren Johnson AM, July 14th 2011

It’s time pay inequality became a priorityDarren Johnson AM, February 16th 2011

Firefighters’ strikes: Tory Brian Coleman “addicted to conflict”Darren Johnson AM, January 12th 2011

A ratio cap of 20:1 won’t make pay fairerDarren Johnson AM, December 3rd 2010

35 Responses to “The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge”

  1. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge //t.co/tOroksjP

  2. Liz Moran

    #UK : The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge //t.co/ooSP6tNV

  3. Hitchin England

    RT @leftfootfwd: The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge, writes @darrenjohnson: //t.co/QyTR976q #NewsClub

  4. Enviro Bizdaily

    The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge //t.co/E7rSWG2e #eco

  5. World Crisis

    The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge //t.co/9bmPnQ3E

  6. sianberry

    The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge, writes @darrenjohnsonam: //t.co/jyg3bUZq

  7. Nick Leaton

    London’s traffic is declining and has been for the last decade

    ==========

    Good. Time to remove the congestion zone then.

  8. Ian Hanton

    RT @leftfootfwd: The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge //t.co/Yc72ccGR

  9. Newsbot9

    “instead of doing things like making the tube system accessible”

    Is that what pricing poorer people put of using it is called. Neat-o.

  10. Save Your Green

    The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge …: Darren Johnson details the problems with Bor… //t.co/3eyGCtUh

  11. Hens4Freedom

    RT @leftfootfwd: The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge, writes @darrenjohnsonam: //t.co/tBKF3Xz3 #NewsClub

  12. Mr. Sensible

    We really need to get away from road widening. It doesn’t work.

  13. George Readings

    Green Party LA member's article on river crossings in E London completely ignores cyclists #fail
    //t.co/EEHkFxLW via @leftfootfwd

  14. Darren Johnson

    Both a Boris Tunnel & a Ken Bridge are bad for air pollution & environment. My latest article @LeftFootForward //t.co/erHAH8OH

  15. Southwark Greens

    The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge //t.co/Y7vMB1EI

  16. Green London 2012

    The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge //t.co/Y7vMB1EI

  17. islingtongreenparty

    Both a Boris Tunnel & a Ken Bridge are bad for air pollution & environment. My latest article @LeftFootForward //t.co/erHAH8OH

  18. Camden Green Party

    Neither the Boris Tunnel nor the Ken bridge are the answer: //t.co/Vs3Pbb9O

  19. Darren Johnson

    Election – not just a choice between Boris Tunnel or Ken Bridge //t.co/erHAH8OH @guardianeco @TreeHugger @StopCityAirport @se1

  20. Stephe Meloy

    Election – not just a choice between Boris Tunnel or Ken Bridge //t.co/erHAH8OH @guardianeco @TreeHugger @StopCityAirport @se1

  21. Dominic Zapaman

    Environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge //t.co/CRrXz0Bd @BBCTomEdwards @simonharrisitv @davehill @john_vidal

  22. Bill Linton

    Environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge //t.co/CRrXz0Bd @BBCTomEdwards @simonharrisitv @davehill @john_vidal

  23. Tommi Komulainen

    but it's a bypass. you've got to build bypasses. //t.co/gcByOwvB .. well, good to see someone seeing through Boris/TfL spin

  24. Andrew

    And the battle continues… //t.co/4ESrr9F1

  25. Jonathan Bartley

    Lots of sense from @darrenjohnsonam on clear choices facing Londoners around traffic //t.co/TEKYXZQo

  26. Patrick Sudlow

    RT @leftfootfwd: The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge //t.co/vdF1Dm2G

  27. Elisa Simone

    Environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge //t.co/CRrXz0Bd @BBCTomEdwards @simonharrisitv @davehill @john_vidal

  28. Anonymous

    One thing that isn’t addressed is why people would do such journeys. In my view one blocker is that public transport doesn’t have an equivalent of the M25, there is no fast perimeter system because it is all focused on a Rome principal (as in all routes lead to the centre of the Empire). For many journeys there is no choice but to traverse zone 1 at rush hour just to cross the river. London Overground looks like a solution but in reality it is just the equivalent of the North Circular, is just as packed and just as slow.
    London desperately needs a fast service between key stations around zone three/four. Cross Rail may address the Essex and East London crowd who daily migrate up to West London, but the perimeter and South-North commuter isn’t accounted for.

  29. Bob Hannent

    Environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge //t.co/CRrXz0Bd @BBCTomEdwards @simonharrisitv @davehill @john_vidal

  30. Elisa Simone

    There needs to be another way to cross the Thames especially when there are problems with the Blackwall Tunnel and the Woolwich ferry, which for some reason they seem to be synchronised. When this happens the whole of the East of London comes to a standstill on both sides of river. It once took me four hours to get from one side of the river to the other. I use public transport whenever I can, but sometimes it isn’t an option due to time restraints.

  31. mk

    You also completely forgot to mention that a lot of us like to walk and cycle (and hopefully in the case of the latter, our numbers will grow in the near future). Where are we supposed to go? Currently, from where I live in New Cross, I have to cycle to Tower Bridge to cross the river, as there are no bridges further east (I believe there are 16 or so bridges west of Tower Bridge).

    You also failed to mention that the idea of a tunnel is a lazy way of appealing to motorists in suburban south-east London, when what the SE postcodes have long been crying out for is better transport infrastructure. The quality of public transport here still doesn’t compare to the rest of zone 1-2 London.

  32. "No one uses TfL" Tory: Users should pay, except for my voters | Left Foot Forward

    […] The environment trumps the debate between a tunnel or a bridge – Darren Johnson AM, January 21st […]

  33. Darren Johnson

    Read why #Silvertown crossing bad idea //t.co/erHAH8OH & say no here //t.co/uipmVz94 <ignore leading tfl questions #badairday

  34. Jenny Jones

    Read why #Silvertown crossing bad idea //t.co/erHAH8OH & say no here //t.co/uipmVz94 <ignore leading tfl questions #badairday

  35. Roads to Nowhere

    Read why #Silvertown crossing bad idea //t.co/erHAH8OH & say no here //t.co/uipmVz94 <ignore leading tfl questions #badairday

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