London is gearing up for the opening its new tolled river crossing – the Silvertown Tunnel – which is set to enter public use in 2025, with road closures this month affecting the nearby Blackwall Tunnel.
The weekend closures, planned for February 10-12 and 24-26, follow similar closures last month and are required to enable works including the installation of new drainage systems and over-height vehicle gantries that will help to ensure tunnel safety.
Transport for London (TfL) has stated that when the Silvertown Tunnel opens, its neighbor the Blackwall Tunnel, which has been free to use until now, will also be tolled. While toll levels are yet to be officially set, some reports put the cost of a single crossing for a car at over £5 – twice the cost of using today’s only tolled crossing of the Thames at Dartford, 30 miles to the east.
The tolls are needed to repay the £1.2bn Silvertown Tunnel construction cost, which has been privately funded against future tolling receipts, and will also to help manage congestion.
The Silvertown Tunnel will provide a public transport-focused river crossing with zero-emission bus links across the Thames, including routes using double-decker buses, which are currently unable to use the Blackwall Tunnel. Silvertown will also reduce congestion and improve the reliability and resilience of the Blackwall Tunnel, which will improve overall air quality in the local area.
Despite the many strong arguments in favour of the new tunnel London Mayor Sadiq Kahn has come under fire for the project, particularly surrounding the tolling of a crossing that used to be free. He has therefore asked TfL to investigate discounts for local residents and those on low-incomes.
Ahead of closures TfL is putting messages on roadside VMS and is working with third party app providers, such as Waze, to help ensure drivers who regularly use the Blackwall Tunnel are alerted to the southbound closure and that the closure is shown in any route-planning over the weekends.
“The Blackwall Tunnel is used by tens of thousands of vehicles every day and we appreciate that these planned weekend works will have an impact on some drivers,” says Carl Eddleston, director of network management and resilience at TfL. “With less than 18 months until the new Silvertown Tunnel opens, we are working with Riverlinx CJV to prepare the northbound carriageway, and have worked hard to try and limit the potential disruption these will cause, such as ensuring a northbound route can be maintained throughout these closures.”
Work on delivering the new Silvertown Tunnel continues to progress. Both of the 1.1km tunnels have now been fully tunnelled and the ‘cut and cover’ sections are now in advanced stages of being covered.
Throughout 2024 work will continue to install the safety critical systems within the tunnel, as well as complete work on the tunnel portals. Work is also progressing on the new road layout around Tidal Basin Roundabout in Newham, including new walking and cycling paths to make it easier for people accessing the Royal Docks via the Lower Lea Crossing.