The London Mayor's plans will cut traffic congestion and pollution, says Valerie Shawcross
Sadiq Khan has been criticised by the Green Party over his plans for a Silvertown Tunnel. Caroline Russell, Green Party member of the London Assembly, made the case against the tunnel for Left Foot Forward.
Here, Valerie Shawcross, Deputy Mayor of London for Transport, responds to that criticism and argues Khan is meeting his pledge to be the ‘greenest ever’ Mayor:
In his first five months in post as Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has clearly shown his commitment to cleaning up our capital’s air.
He’s moved quickly to consult on bold proposals to improve air quality, and has now set out the latest stage of his plans by pledging to deliver his Central London Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) a year ahead of schedule, and beginning a formal consultation to introduce the ‘T charge’ for older polluting vehicles in October 2017.
These are important initiatives that show his commitment to improving air quality and will make a big difference to our capital. The Mayor promised that he would take action, and he is delivering with strong plans that will make significant improvements to help every Londoner breathe cleaner air.
During his campaign the Mayor also promised a review of river crossings east of Tower Bridge.
Last week he delivered again, with the first results of that review seeing the proposal of five initial crossings: a pedestrian and cycling bridge, a DLR extension, an Overground crossing, a ferry, and a greener road tunnel that places more emphasis on encouraging people to use public transport.
It’s no secret that London has long-needed more river crossings in the east and there’s no doubt that they are vital for our capital.
For centuries the Thames has been the capital’s gateway, but for too long the lack of crossings has been a real barrier to the east, constraining growth and limiting Londoners’ potential by dividing communities.
With these crossings, the Mayor is taking action that will not just better connect our capital and reduce the focus on private cars, but enable areas of London to grow sustainably and unlock the massive economic potential of east London.
By providing the very best transport infrastructure we can improve the quality of life for everyone living and working in the area.
The first fixed crossing to be built will be a cycle and pedestrian bridge between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf. After its completion, the quickest means of getting between the Rotherhithe peninsular and Canary Wharf will be by cycling, and this will affect the type of development we will see on both sides of the river.
The idea for this bridge is not new – cyclists have been calling for it for years – but it took a new Mayor to put the plan into action and have it completed by 2020.
The Silvertown Tunnel will be next in 2023 and is designed to solve specific problems with the Blackwall Tunnel and its approach roads.
A new tunnel is needed to provide relief and improve bus services. Anybody who travels in that area will know of the regular congestion, queuing and how it can’t accommodate double-decker buses.
Together, this causes regular air quality problems on the surrounding streets and roads – places where people live and work and have to inhale damaging, dirty air because of this outdated infrastructure.
The Silvertown Tunnel will tackle the congestion problem and, because both tunnels will be tolled, will not lead to an overall increase in traffic.
The Mayor carefully reviewed the proposals and has made enhancements, including identifying additional action to help mitigate air quality impacts, that will make a real difference.
Importantly, he has guaranteed new bus links, meaning that people will be able to cross the river by public transport. He also secured cycle crossing facilities, public realm improvements, and the removal of more spoil by river, rather than road.
These are huge improvements to the scheme and we will continue to work closely with TfL to ensure we take all opportunities for further improvements.
I’m confident that as a result the Silvertown Tunnel will work for local people, the environment, and for London as a whole.
Looking further ahead, the package of crossings will see a DLR crossing at Gallions Reach that will help support the development of around 17,000 new homes, a possible London Overground extension from Barking Riverside to Abbey Wood, which would have a similar impact on its surrounding area, and North Greenwich-Isle of Dogs ferry.
Together these show our commitment to unlocking growth through better public transport links.
It also shows our new Healthy Streets approach; encouraging people to live active, healthy lives through proper planning, good public transport and attractive streets that encourage people to walk and cycle – whether to their final destinations, or to the bus stop or train station.
By prioritising walking, cycling and public transport, we can transform our city for the good of Londoners’ health and wellbeing, and this river crossings package is one of the first big steps towards that goal.
Valerie Shawcross is Deputy Mayor of London for TransportSign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.