London’s population is booming and nowhere more so than in east London, which is expected to see its population increase by 600,000 in the next 15 years.
It is a region ripe with opportunity - hundreds of thousands of new homes and jobs can be created in the area. But with just three road crossings in the 23 kilometres between Tower Bridge and the M25, connections between east and southeast London are poor. Communities, businesses and job opportunities are divided. Something must be done.
Building work on the vital Silvertown Tunnel, which will link the Greenwich Peninsula near the O2 with the Royal Docks, could begin as early as 2018 and open in just seven years’ time. Transport for London’s Board has now agreed that a development consent order be submitted to government for permission to start construction.
More than 4,000 people responded to TfL’s latest consultation, which found that 58 per cent of respondents support the construction of the Tunnel and 31 per cent were opposed. The Silvertown Tunnel would not only help support the creation of thousands of new homes and jobs, but would also relieve pressure at the Blackwall Tunnel, which is currently east London’s only major road crossing.
Delays at the Blackwall Tunnel regularly add around 25 minutes to journey times and around £10m in lost time is wasted each year through people queuing. The congestion is having a huge impact on air quality and, with the capital’s population rising rapidly, these problems will only get worse if we don’t build this new crossing.
The tunnel will also enable TfL to transform bus services in the area. Currently only one bus route crosses the river east of Tower Bridge. The Silvertown crossing will enable up to 37 double decker buses per hour to cross the river in each direction, providing a important public transport link that will connect communities such as Stratford and Canary Wharf north of the river with Eltham and Charlton in the south.
But we can’t stop there. More crossings are needed if the possibilities for economic development in the east of the city are to be realised.
TfL’s Connecting the Capital report proposes 13 new tunnels and bridges across the Thames. This would include new crossings built at Gallions Reach, linking Thamesmead and Beckton, and at Belvedere, linking Belvedere to Rainham.
Both crossings would cater for public transport and road users and could also provide opportunities for new walking and cycling links as well as a potential extension of the Docklands Light Railway from Gallions Reach across the Thames to a new station at Thamesmead.
The public consultation on the crossings at Belvedere and Gallions Reach closes on Friday and, subject to funding, both could be open by 2025.
Doing nothing is not an option. We must progress plans for this package of crossings if we are to support London's growth and galvanise the economic potential it presents.