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Silvertown Tunnel a step closer following DfT approval

Transport for London’s (TfL) request for a Development Consent Order to deliver the Silvertown Tunnel – a hugely ambitious twin-bore highway running underneath the River Thames in East London – has been granted by the Department for Transport (DfT).

In doing so, the government has officially recognised the Silvertown Tunnel as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). Due to open in distant 2023, the new highway will help ease congestion at the nearby Blackwall Tunnel and significantly boost cross-river public transport connections across the capital.

The government’s consent came with a number of caveats however, and TfL is now liaising with local boroughs, landowners, stakeholders and other affected parties to better understand the implications of these conditions, so that the project can begin in earnest as soon as possible. The laborious process of land acquisitions, construction logistics and access requirements is also underway.

The Silvertown Tunnel is to be privately financed via a ‘Design, Build, Finance & Maintain’ contract, with the prospective delivery partner receiving payments from TfL once the highway is operational. Crucially, a toll on both the Silvertown and existing Blackwall tunnels will also be implemented – a move that will surely prove unpopular with motorists but one which TfL says will ensure traffic is effectively managed and air quality substantially improved. The nature of that charge for the various types of vehicle will be decided at a much later date.

Silvertown Tunnel a step closer following DfT approval (2)

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan had this to say: “I’m delighted that the green light has been given to progress with the Silvertown Tunnel. New river crossings are vital for the future prosperity of east London, and the scheme will have a substantial impact unlocking new jobs and economic growth, while easing congestion and poor air quality in the area.

“Since I became mayor I’ve been determined to ensure the Silvertown Tunnel doesn’t have a detrimental impact on our environment. That’s why the new plans have such a focus on cleaner transport, with only buses with the highest emission standard using the tunnel, and substantial investment in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.”

TfL will now procure a contractor to design and build the tunnel itself; the intention being to confirm the preferred bidder by winter 2018 and award the contract proper in early 2019 so that construction can begin later next year.

“East London is in desperate need of more river crossings to provide better public transport links across the Thames and support the delivery of new jobs and homes,” explained Mike Brown, Transport Commissioner for London. “Now that this nationally significant project has been given the go ahead, we are working closely with local boroughs and others to ensure this vital new infrastructure is delivered with minimal impact to local residents and businesses.”

David Leam, Infrastructure Director at London First, added: “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 south east London. Silvertown is an essential part of TfL’s plans to improve public transport in east London and vital to keeping the whole city moving.”

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