Transport for London (TfL) has been granted a Development Consent Order (DCO) by the Department for Transport (DfT) to deliver the Silvertown Tunnel – a new twin-bore road tunnel under the Thames in East London.
The DCO is the formal process by which the UK government gives the green light to any development categorized as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. The tunnel, which is set to open in 2023, will help ease the current serious traffic congestion issues at the Blackwall Tunnel and improve the reliability and resilience of the road network in east London. It will enable significantly improved cross-river public transportation connections, with up to 37 buses an hour using the tunnel, all of which will be hybrid, electric or at least with the highest Euro VI emission standard. Further pedestrian and cycling improvements will also be made on both sides of the river.
Work will be carried out on the areas surrounding the entrances to the tunnel to improve conditions for local residents and create safe, attractive new walking and cycling routes around Royal Victoria and the Greenwich Peninsula. While consent has been confirmed by the Secretary of State, a number of conditions have been included. TfL is now working with local boroughs, landowners, stakeholders and other affected parties to understand the implications of these conditions, so that this vital infrastructure project can start as soon as possible. TfL will also be progressing procurement of a contractor to design and build the tunnel, aiming to confirm a preferred bidder in winter 2018, and award the contract in early 2019 so that construction can begin later next year.
With congestion and air quality around the Blackwall Tunnel predicted to get worse in the coming years as London’s population grows, the Silvertown Tunnel is vital to providing a more reliable crossing, as well as ensuring goods and services can continue to move around London. Drivers using the Blackwall Tunnel regularly get caught up in delays of 20 minutes or more during busy times, and when incidents cause the tunnel to close temporarily, three-mile tail-backs can occur in under six minutes.
The new Silvertown Tunnel will be privately financed through a Design, Build, Finance and Maintain contract, with the successful delivery partner receiving payments from TfL once the tunnel is open and available for use. These will be made in part via a user charge (toll) on both the new tunnel and the existing Blackwall Tunnel, which will also help to ensure traffic is effectively managed and journey reliability and air quality are improved. Two bidders, Cintra Global and Hochtief PPP Solutions, have been shortlisted to design and build the Tunnel.
“The Silvertown Tunnel is a vital piece of new infrastructure for London and can’t come quickly enough. The existing crossing at Blackwall is a notorious congestion blackspot that can cause traffic paralysis across southeast London,” noted David Leam, infrastructure director at London First. “Silvertown is an essential part of TfL’s plans to improve public transport in east London and vital to keeping the whole city moving.”