Silvertown Tunnel must be cancelled now

Originally intended to cost £600 million, the cost of the Silvertown Road Tunnel is set to spiral to £2 billion. Green Party Transport Spokesperson and London Assembly Member Caroline Russell calls on the Mayor of London to be honest with Londoners and cancel the polluting project.

Campaigners outside City Hall protesting the Silvertown Tunnel
Campaigners outside City Hall protesting the Silvertown Tunnel
Caroline Russell

Last week after some super sleuthing by the City Hall Greens’ office team, I was able to reveal that the Mayor of London has committed Londoners to paying a whopping £65 million a year for a quarter of a century for the Silvertown Road Tunnel.

This carbon-heavy, pollution-belching tunnel plan is controversial to say the least. I’ve worked with campaigners on both sides of the river to fight to protect their communities from filthy air, congestion and road danger from induced traffic passing through the heart of some of London’s most deprived areas.  

There is not even a walking and cycling route through the tunnel which underlines just what a backward-looking project it is.

Last year, Transport for London (TfL) signed a contract with Riverlinx which committed them to the Silvertown Road Tunnel project, but it was only in March after months of requests being stonewalled that the Mayor published the contract in highly redacted form. The entire document on ‘Payment Mechanism’ simply consisted of a contents table and a note stating the details were ‘excluded commercially sensitive information’. 

A small, discreet note in TfL’s recently published accounts reveals, along with further commentary from TfL auditors Ernst and Young, a failure by the Mayor to be straight with Londoners on the cost of this polluting motorway tunnel. 

The £65-million annual cost included in TfL’s accounts indicates that the total cost from 2025 to 2050 could be £1.6 billion before including inflation, which even at 1.6 per cent RPI (the current figure for July) would lead to a total payment by TfL of £2 billion by 2050. 

Cost of Silvertown Tunnel
The increasing cost of Silvertown Road Tunnel

The Mayor has not been straight with Londoners. Last year he told us Silvertown Road Tunnel would cost £1 billion, in March it was £1.2 billion, and now we finally see what TfL will actually pay and it’s heading for an outrageous £2 billion. 

The real financial cost paid over a quarter of a century has been hidden to avoid further opposition from the public and local politicians. That’s income from tolls and road charging that could have been spent on reducing motor traffic and enabling more walking and cycling.

When my predecessor on the Assembly, Darren Johnson, first started opposing this scheme in 2012 TfL described the cost as being about £600 million, we are stratospheres above that now and TfL and Londoners will be saddled paying for this.

The Mayor should have been clear about this cost implication from the start and apart from the cost, this tunnel that locks in motorised journeys has no place in a city that is serious about tackling the climate emergency. 

The Silvertown Road Tunnel is a colossal mistake. The £2 billion it costs at £65 million a year for a quarter of a century would be better spent maintaining existing crossings (Hammersmith Bridge) or building new walking and cycling links (Cremorne Bridge or cancelled Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge).

As things stand, the Mayor should do the decent thing and cancel this polluting motorway tunnel immediately.