Stop the climate-wrecking Silvertown Tunnel!

A new briefing by a group of organisations headed by Transport Action Network calls for the cancellation of the Silvertown Tunnel project in east London currently being pursued by the London Mayor and Greater London Authority. Climate, energy, transport and urban planning researchers have all made the case in an Open Letter to the government and Mayor Sadiq Khan that the project needs to be reviewed in the light of the climate emergency declared by the UK Parliament and GLA.

London’s greenhouse gas emissions policies lag far behind targets climate scientists recommend and the transport sector has made the least progress in reducing emissions in the last 20 years. According to the report, the GLA’s own recent progress report on its environment strategy does not mention the level of greenhouse gas emissions. The report shows that the Silvertown Tunnel project is incompatible with the GLA’s declared aims for decarbonising the transport sector.

The tunnel project is part of a London transport policy which, despite expressing support for alternative modes, remains car- and road-focused. Such a policy will exacerbate social inequality in London.

The Mayor’s plan focuses mainly on measures to switch to electric vehicles, and includes no specific targets for reducing the overall volume of traffic. It refers to a “bold vision for cycling and walking” but while £2 billion for cycling and walking infrastructure is recycled, it is dwarfed by the £27 billion being spent on the strategic road network.

Furthermore, the proposed tunnel has not been re-assessed in the light of increased flood risk. Phil Goodwin, emeritus professor of transport policy at University College London and one of the UK’s most prominent transport researchers, wrote in July this year that if international action on climate change is insufficient, flood risks intensify. This would occur in a time period “much shorter than the assumed life span of the Silvertown Tunnel project” and the consequences in the area where the tunnel is planned would be “much more severe than has accounted for in established emergency planning”.

Climate scientists have established that all new fossil-fuel-centred infrastructure, including road projects, damage humanity’s chances of limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees, or even 2 degrees. A precautionary approach should be adopted to infrastructure projects and this has not been the case with the Silvertown Tunnel.

The Silvertown Tunnel project is opposed by dozens of residents’ groups and trade unions; by local groups of doctors and teachers; by numerous transport, energy, climate and urban planning researchers; by the borough councils of Newham, Southwark, Lewisham and Hackney; by several local Members of Parliament; and by the Labour Party in London (a decision re-affirmed at the regional Labour conference in July 2021), as well as the Greens and Liberal Democrats. This new report recommends it be cancelled.

Read the full briefing here


Is the Silvertown Tunnel, a four-lane road tunnel across the Thames, compatible with London’s climate commitments?

Institute of Political Economy, Governance, Finance and Accountability (PEGFA)

Thursday 7th October 2021 17:30-19:30

Room HH103, Hamilton House, University of Greenwich, 15 Park Vista, London SE10 9LZ

This is a “hybrid” event that you can attend in person on the university campus, or online.

Registration via this link. The event is free but sign up is required.

Image: Silvertown Tunnel boreholes. Source: Author: Stephen Craven, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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