Health experts call on Mayor of London to pause Silvertown Tunnel project

A letter calling for the Silvertown Tunnel project to be paused will be presented to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan today, endorsed by health experts and local councillors.

Participants of a health summit which outlined the potential dangers to health from the proposed Silvertown Tunnel highway in East London have endorsed the letter, calling on construction work to be immediately halted.

The new Silvertown tunnel will be the first in London in over 30 years, connecting Silvertown to the Greenwich Peninsula in East London.

Transport for London plan to open the tunnel in 2025, with the aim of helping to reduce congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel and allow for better public transport links across the Thames. 

The health summit on Saturday saw UK health experts, as well as the Labour Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz and councillors from Newham, Greenwich and Tower Hamlets, discuss the potential risks that the project might pose for residents in Newham, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich.

Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz underlined the high level of deaths due to vehicle emissions in her borough, with 4,500 children sent to hospital each year for serious respiratory conditions. She vowed to use all legal instruments to get the tunnel stopped.  

‘I am confident we can make interventions to slow down construction of the Silvertown Tunnel, or stop it altogether.  I welcome the collaboration with Greenwich Council in this regard,’ said Rokhsana Fiaz.

aerial view photography of the city

John Whitelegg, Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University, argued the Silvertown Tunnel project was a ‘dramatic failure of public policy’ that neglected to address public health and climate change, and would affect at least 630,000 Londoners living nearby. 

‘It is a nonsense that the tunnel will do anything to reduce congestion.  Additional highway capacity induces additional traffic,’ he said, adding: ‘The Silvertown Tunnel has nothing at all to offer local residents except to make their life worse.  There is no evidence local communities will benefit – all they will get is more air pollution and carbon emissions.’

The letter calls on Mr Khan to pause the Silvertown Tunnel scheme and initiate a review, which should include:

  • Updated modelling of traffic, emissions and air pollution outcomes
  • A new health impact assessment, based on the new modelling, focusing on the additional impacts on Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority communities and low-income households
  • A review of the project’s compatibility with London’s climate targets
  • A full and independent analysis of the political and legal risks around the provision of the traffic-reduction measures such as the tolls and new bus services that are needed to maintain traffic at or below existing levels

The letter said: ‘The boroughs of Newham and Greenwich, local Members of Parliament, community groups, trade unions, health practitioners and climate and transport researchers have all called for the project to be paused and reviewed. 

‘To refuse to do so would be undemocratic, unjust and dangerous. The cost of cancelling this project is incomparable to the amount of health implications the Silvertown Tunnel will have on the residents and the future generations of the impacted Boroughs, and the lasting inevitable financial burden this tunnel will place on the NHS.’

Air Quality News has reached out to the Mayor of London’s office for comment.

Photo by Jaanus Jagomägi


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