It has been in the planning stages for more than a decade, and faced the wrath of residents and environmentalists.

But the controversial Silvertown Tunnel has now got the green light after government officials approved proposals for the £1billion project under the River Thames in South East London.

The tunnel was first proposed in 2005 by Transport for London to help ease the burden on the Blackwall Tunnel, through which 100,000 vehicles pass a day, and was backed by Boris Johnson when he became mayor in 2008. 

His successor Sadiq Khan has also been behind the plans for the four-lane tunnel running for 0.9 miles, which is expected to link North Greenwich with Royal Docks north of the river by 2023 – and see motorists face a toll. 

Government officials have backed proposals for the £1billion Silvertown Tunnel under the River Thames in South East London

Government officials have backed proposals for the £1billion Silvertown Tunnel under the River Thames in South East London

Government officials have backed proposals for the £1billion Silvertown Tunnel under the River Thames in South East London

The entrance to the tunnel will be on the right of this artist's impression, with cars on the left going to the Blackwall Tunnel

The entrance to the tunnel will be on the right of this artist's impression, with cars on the left going to the Blackwall Tunnel

The entrance to the tunnel will be on the right of this artist’s impression, with cars on the left going to the Blackwall Tunnel

The decision by the Department for Transport follows months of delays caused by arguments over pollution, with permission delayed since October because of calls for an air quality impact assessment to be carried out.

The No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign group said the approval suggests ‘London is closed to new thinking on how to deal with congestion’, while Friends of the Earth said it would increase levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide.

Caroline Pidgeon, chair of the Transport Committee at City Hall, added: ‘It won’t tackle congestion but will worsen the environment. Tolls will also divert traffic into Rotherhithe. Far better ways to spend £1billion.’

Green Party London Assembly member Caroline Russell claimed transport authorities were ‘ignoring our fears’ over air pollution’, saying: ‘Londoners need healthy streets where they can trust the air they breathe.’

And Bridget Fox, sustainable transport campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport, said: ‘This is a bad decision for Londoners and sets a poor precedent for the rest of the country.

Permission for the tunnel has been delayed since October because of calls for an air quality impact assessment to be done

Permission for the tunnel has been delayed since October because of calls for an air quality impact assessment to be done

Permission for the tunnel has been delayed since October because of calls for an air quality impact assessment to be done

This map shows the proposed tunnel with the dotted line, which will link the Greenwich Peninsula with the Royal Docks

This map shows the proposed tunnel with the dotted line, which will link the Greenwich Peninsula with the Royal Docks

This map shows the proposed tunnel with the dotted line, which will link the Greenwich Peninsula with the Royal Docks

‘Committing billions to build this four-lane road in east London will generate new traffic, worsen the environment, and undermine the many positive goals in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.

‘The £1billion cost could be so much better spent: it could fund over 2,500 electric buses, build over 300 miles of cycle superhighway or pay for the Barking Riverside rail link four times over.’

But Mr Khan said he was ‘delighted’ with the approval, adding that the tunnel was ‘vital for the future prosperity of east London’ and that he would try to ensure it ‘doesn’t have a detrimental impact on our environment’.

The twin-tunnel crossing is expected to follow a similar path to the Emirates Air Line cable car, by connecting to the A1020 Silvertown Way/Lower Lea Crossing and the A102 Blackwall Tunnel Approach.

Transport officials said users of the tunnel would be charged different toll fees based on the time of travel to manage demand and help ‘ease the current serious congestion’.

The proposed entrance to the Silvertown Tunnel can be seen in the centre of this graphic, to the right of the gatehouse

The proposed entrance to the Silvertown Tunnel can be seen in the centre of this graphic, to the right of the gatehouse

The proposed entrance to the Silvertown Tunnel can be seen in the centre of this graphic, to the right of the gatehouse

A TfL spokesman said: ‘Drivers using the Blackwall Tunnel regularly get caught up in delays of 20 minutes or more during busy times, leading to around a million hours being wasted in queues every year.’

Toll charges will also apply for using the Blackwall Tunnel, which is currently free to cross – something ‘vehemently opposed’ by the Federation of Small Businesses because of the impact it will have on smaller companies.

Silvertown is one of London’s biggest regeneration areas, and last month Indian billionaire Subhash Chandra revealed plans to build a £1billion ‘peace theme park’ on the 62-acre site where a derelict building now stands.

He hopes to build a site featuring museums and a theatre, retail outlets, restaurants, a botanical garden and a luxury hotel on the historic area of the capital’s Royal Docks where BBC crime drama Ashes to Ashes was filmed.

The centrepiece would be a cultural centre that would sit on 14 acres and span 2.5million square feet at the heart of the project, with Indian conglomerate Essel Group claiming it could create 5,000 jobs in the East End.

How Silvertown has become one of London’s biggest regeneration areas after falling into dereliction

A huge regeneration is taking place in Silvertown, which is a largely forgotten part of the West Ham area of Newham and an industrial wasteland which has fallen into dereliction.

The ambitious plans for the 62-acre site centre around the restoration of the 1930s Millennium Mills, once home to food manufacturer Rank Hovis MacDougall. The building has not been used since the early 1980s.

The plans also include a bridge across Royal Victoria Dock to connect Silvertown Quays with the Crossrail station at Custom House, and a new Roundhouse East that will be a music venue and education space.

The Millennium Mills building in Silvertown, which could soon be transformed into a cultural centre, is pictured in its heyday

The Millennium Mills building in Silvertown, which could soon be transformed into a cultural centre, is pictured in its heyday

The Millennium Mills building in Silvertown, which could soon be transformed into a cultural centre, is pictured in its heyday

Four elephants return from a Chipperfield's Circus tour of South Africa at South West India Docks near Silvertown in 1968

Four elephants return from a Chipperfield's Circus tour of South Africa at South West India Docks near Silvertown in 1968

Four elephants return from a Chipperfield’s Circus tour of South Africa at South West India Docks near Silvertown in 1968

An aerial view of the BP oil refinery at Silvertown in 1961. The area is now a largely forgotten part of the West Ham area of Newham

An aerial view of the BP oil refinery at Silvertown in 1961. The area is now a largely forgotten part of the West Ham area of Newham

An aerial view of the BP oil refinery at Silvertown in 1961. The area is now a largely forgotten part of the West Ham area of Newham

Silvertown was home to companies including James Keiller & Sons, makers of marmalade, and the sugar refiners Tate & Lyle (pictured)

Silvertown was home to companies including James Keiller & Sons, makers of marmalade, and the sugar refiners Tate & Lyle (pictured)

Silvertown was home to companies including James Keiller & Sons, makers of marmalade, and the sugar refiners Tate & Lyle (pictured)

Transport for London is also hoping to dig a new road tunnel beneath the Thames from Silvertown to the Greenwich Peninsula. The deadline for a decision on that is approaching next month on May 10.

The Silver Building in Silvertown, which is set to open later this year, will become home to start-ups, local businesses and artists. Originally built in 1965 for British Oil and Cake Mills, the site was left derelict for more than 20 years.

Silvertown, which lies close to London City Airport, was once a booming industrial centre in the 19th and early 20th century, home to companies including James Keiller & Sons, makers of marmalade, and the sugar refiners Tate & Lyle.

However it was devastated by an explosion at the Brunner Mond factory, which was being used to purify TNT during the First World War. It killed 73 people, injured more than 400 and destroyed 900 homes.

Then in the Second World War Silvertown and the Royal Docks suffered major damage from German shelling. Thereafter much of the area fell into dereliction, including local shops and pubs. 

The 26,263-ton Shaw Savill liner Dominion Monarch dwarfs the surrounding houses from her dry dock at Silvertown in 1950

The 26,263-ton Shaw Savill liner Dominion Monarch dwarfs the surrounding houses from her dry dock at Silvertown in 1950

The 26,263-ton Shaw Savill liner Dominion Monarch dwarfs the surrounding houses from her dry dock at Silvertown in 1950

The Tate & Lyle sugar refinery can be seen from above in 1974. Much of the area fell into dereliction following the Second World War

The Tate & Lyle sugar refinery can be seen from above in 1974. Much of the area fell into dereliction following the Second World War

The Tate & Lyle sugar refinery can be seen from above in 1974. Much of the area fell into dereliction following the Second World War

A huge regeneration is taking place in Silvertown after it become an industrial wasteland which fell into dereliction

A huge regeneration is taking place in Silvertown after it become an industrial wasteland which fell into dereliction

A huge regeneration is taking place in Silvertown after it become an industrial wasteland which fell into dereliction

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