New Thames tunnel will make London pollution worse, warns climate activists | Environment

The Silvertown tunnel digs deep under the Thames and is planned as the first new road connection across the capital’s river in 30 years. But the four-lane highway, due to be completed in 2025, is becoming the focus of environmental protests in the run-up to the global Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

Preliminary construction work has begun and tunnel work is set to begin next spring, but proponents insist it is not too late to halt the £ 1bn engineering project. and is planning protests at both ends of the tunnel later this month.

An important target for the protest is Sadiq Khan, the Labor mayor of London, who is one of the tunnel’s main advocates, while also advocating a decisive action to “avert a catastrophic climate crisis”. Khan claims the tunnel will ease congestion and reduce pollution.

But a letter sent Friday from the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Campaign urged the mayor to order new studies on the impact of the scheme. “Spending billions on new road capacity for cars is not a policy consistent with acting on the climate crisis or improving London’s air,” it said.

Opponents of the tunnel include traffic and public health experts, local residents, political parties, unions, campaign groups, teachers, doctors, several London boroughs and mayors. In April, dozens of academics said it would be “foolhardy to go ahead with an infrastructure project that can only contribute to Britain’s excessive greenhouse gas emissions”. In July, the London Labor Regional Conference voted three to one to scrap it. Supporters of Extinction Rebellion plan to take part in this month’s protests.

The dual tunnel will connect Silvertown in Newham on the north bank of the Thames to the Greenwich Peninsula on the south bank. Its path is close to the Blackwall Tunnel, which is often backed up in both directions by traffic trying to cross the river.

Map of the Silvertown Tunnel

Transport for London (TfL) awarded the contract to design, build and maintain the tunnel to a private consortium, RiverLinx. TfL, which will charge a toll to use both the Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels, will reimburse RiverLinx construction costs over a 25-year period.

In a leaflet delivered to residents of Greenwich and Newham, TfL said: “For too long, the Blackwall Tunnel has been plagued by chronic congestion and daily occurrences, and the road network across the East London River simply can not cope … Our plans will effectively eliminate congestion … This will mean faster and more reliable travel and reduced emissions, leading to better air quality. ” The leaflet claimed that there will be no increase in traffic.

But Simon Pirani, a senior researcher at the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, said Observer: “The claim that the tunnel is not going to make the problem of pollution worse is just not tenable. It will definitely increase the amount of traffic. ”

In a report last year, Stop digging, Pirani cited research into an “induced traffic” effect, meaning more roads result in more vehicles. “We can not have more traffic in big cities in rich countries. And if you reduce the number of cars, you do not need another tunnel. This tunnel is incompatible with taking the climate emergency seriously, ”said Pirani.

Siân Berry, co-leader of the Green Party, which unsuccessfully ran in the London mayoral election this year, said she was “confused” that Khan had not canceled the tunnel proposal. “There’s a huge opposition in society to this. The fact that the tunnel will supply more traffic and more pollution to streets that already have some of the highest pollution in London has really focused people’s minds,” she said. hundreds of people protested against the tunnel in Newham, which has extremely poor air quality.

In a statement in support of the protest, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, whose nine-year-old daughter Ella died in 2013 due to air pollution poisoning in south London, said: “The Silvertown tunnel means even more people will be affected by air pollution. Ell. Ellas “Death tells us that we must never create more toxic air, but less. Building roads always means more traffic and not less. Please continue to fight for your children’s health.”

A spokesman for Khan said: “The mayor is taking some of the most daring actions in any city in the world to tackle air pollution in London …. Anyone who has been caught in traffic due to a problem in the Blackwall tunnel from the Victorian era will know that there is an urgent need for another river crossing in this part of London. “

The introduction of tolls on both tunnels at Silvertown and Blackwall “will not mean any general increase in traffic and an improvement in air quality”.

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