You only have to look outside your office window to recognise that London is growing at a phenomenal rate.
New developments are springing up, and the capital’s population is expected to rise from 8.6 million to 10 million by 2030. Of this new population, 600,000 people are expected to live in east London alone. Crossing the river will, therefore, become ever more important if we want to continue to support this growth and galvanise the economic potential it presents.
We are continuing to invest in new public transport services – modernising the Tube, building Crossrail and making the case for Crossrail 2. But, with 90per cent of all London’s goods moved by road, the need for more river crossings has to be addressed.
In east London, options are very limited with the Blackwall Tunnel heavily congested at both morning and evening peaks. Delays can regularly add around 25 minutes to journey times, and have a serious impact on air quality. Around £10m in lost time is wasted each year through people queuing at Blackwall Tunnel alone.
We need a new crossing to relieve this pressure. This week the final consultation into the Silvertown Tunnel opens and provides an opportunity for people to tell us what they think about the plans.
Linking Greenwich Peninsula with the Royal Docks, the Silvertown Tunnel would help deliver thousands of new homes and jobs. It is estimated that it will save £1.3bn over 60 years that would otherwise be lost waiting in traffic, make the local economy more productive and create hundreds of construction jobs. Increased economic activity in east London will lead to more jobs in the rest of the UK, as many firms have clients and supply chains outside of the capital.
As well as the many economic benefits, the scheme will also enable us to transform bus connections as double decker buses will be able to use the tunnel. It will connect jobs and homes on both sides of the river, with two new bus routes and four enhanced routes that combined provide a frequency of up to 37 buses per hour in each direction.
Silvertown is not about encouraging more people to drive. It’s about tackling the problems facing the Blackwall Tunnel, which are only going to get worse unless we address them. Silvertown will take the queue away, thereby improving air quality. A user charge will also help us manage demand and will encourage people to switch to alternative transport, as well as paying for the tunnel to be built.
The concentration of growth in east London means that more crossings of the Thames to the east are needed. This is why we are progressing plans for three new road based crossings at Silvertown, Gallions Reach and Belvedere as well as exploring the potential for a number of additional public transport connections across the river.
For example, we’re currently working with the charity Sustrans to look at a new pedestrian/cycle link would help connect the Isle of Dogs with Rotherhithe and Canada Water, relieving pressure on the overcrowded Jubilee line and Overground and encouraging greater levels of cycling and walking.
This week’s consultation is very important. It will provide the opportunity for people to comment on the project before we submit an application to the government to build the tunnel.
Only with public support can we tackle the issues at Blackwall and help to drive east London forward.