London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been accused of betraying his own voters after giving the go-ahead to the controversial Silvertown tunnel.
The tunnel, which was first proposed by Transport for London during Boris Johnson’s time at City Hall, would connect the Greenwich Peninsula with Royal Docks.
TfL says it would reduce congestion and support regeneration on both sides of the river, however some local residents and environmental campaigners oppose the scheme, claiming it would increase pollution and traffic.
In the build up to this year’s City Hall elections Mr Khan promised both to clean up London’s air and conduct a “proper joined up review” of river crossings in East London.
At his first appearance before the London Assembly in May, Mr Khan declined to pause preparatory works for the Silvertown project until after his review was carried out and today announced that the scheme would now go ahead with only minor modifications.
These include boosting the amount of material and waste generate by the project to be carried by river, “improvements” for pedestrians and cyclists on both sides of the tunnel entrance and asking TfL to “look at providing a bespoke cycle-bus which will carry cyclists and their bikes through the tunnel on a turn-up and go basis.”
Mr Khan says the changes have “improved” the Silvertown scheme which, his office claims, is now “greener”.
He added: “As we continue to unlock the massive economic potential of East London, we must secure the very best transport infrastructure that improves the quality of life for everyone living and working in the area.”
However local campaign group No to Silvertown Tunnel say the Mayor’s backing for the scheme “is a betrayal of those who voted for him believing he would clean up London’s air.”
“For Sadiq Khan to call this a ‘greener Silvertown Tunnel’ hides the fact that Greenwich and the Royal Docks would become a dumping ground for the south of England’s congestion and pollution,” said campaign chair Anne Robbins.
“He talks a good game when it comes to pollution and congestion in central London, but communities in east and south east London clearly don’t seem to matter as much. They will be living with even worse traffic and poorer air.”
Green Party London Assembly Member, Caroline Russell, has also criticised the Mayor’s announcement, saying: “New roads attract new traffic, pollute the air and are incredibly expensive so it’s extremely disappointing that the Mayor is pushing ahead with the damaging Silvertown Tunnel.
“He claims he will deliver a ‘greener’ tunnel but the measures he has suggested are tokenistic. This is still a hugely damaging project.”
In addition to Silvertown, City Hall has also announced that plans for a new pedestrian and cycle bridge linking Rotherhithe & Canary Wharf will be accelerated and a DLR extension to Thamesmead.
Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat London Assembly member, said she was “delighted” with Mr Khan’s backing of the cycle bridge which she described as “London’s most needed river crossing”.
She added: “I cannot think of any other proposed river crossing that will deliver such huge benefits for so little public money. The bridge will also play a critical role in reducing pressure on the overcrowded Jubilee Line, especially between Surrey Docks and Canary Wharf.
“I am however disappointed that the Mayor is still obsessed with a new Silvertown Tunnel.
“However he attempts to tinker with this project it will ultimately generate huge amounts of more traffic on London’s roads and in the long term lead to more congestion and air pollution.”