Transport for London opened the formal 'consultation' on its Silvertown Tunnel scheme recently and is inviting the public to comment on the proposals.
The official line is that the Silvertown Tunnel (which will go under the river from the east side of the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks) is needed to relieve pressure on the Blackwall Tunnel and make it easier to cross the river in the east side of London.
While it might increase capacity under the river itself by doubling the amount of traffic lanes, this traffic will still have to squeeze into the same road system on each side of the river, so it seems obvious that the congestion on local roads each side of the tunnel will remain - and more than likely, will be exacerbated as it's long been known that new roads generate additional traffic. This was established by the Department of Transport itself, in its infamous Sactra report of 1994.
We already know that pollution levels in south east London are well above the EU recommended limits and additional traffic is only going to make the situation worse, with greater risks to public health, especially in children, the elderly and those who already suffer respiratory problems.
Quite aside from the debatable case for relieving congestion, is the fact that TFL is proposing to impose a charge on users of both the new tunnel and the existing one. They say this will be so that they can 'manage demand'. Hang on a minute, I thought the new tunnel was going to do that? So TFL is admitting that the new tunnel will not relieve the congestion, it will merely generate more traffic that will then have to be 'managed'. As an afterthought they also say that the user charges will pay for the tunnel to be built. Clearly the only reason they think they can get away with imposing charges is surely because there are so few other options for drivers in east London, especially if the Woolwich ferry is closed.
No to Silvertown Tunnel campaigners have published quite a lot of detail on their website, including the case against, and an interesting live air quality widget from the air quality centre at King's College.
We've also very recently seen the knock-on effect of the highway restrictions on Deptford Church Street, which came into play a couple of weeks ago. While these lane restrictions are currently only temporary, they are going to be in operation on and off for the next couple of years, and then for longer periods when the Thames Tunnel construction work actually starts. There's been a noticeable increase in traffic levels rat-running through the high street this last couple of weeks, and not only are there more vehicles, the proportion of heavy goods vehicles and lorries also seems to have increased.
Admittedly I've no solid evidence to back this up (traffic survey anyone?), it is merely perception, but considering I walk or cycle up and down the high street at least once on most days, it is a fairly well-informed perception. There's also been an increase in the number of times I have to dodge out of the way to avoid cars and even HGVs which mount the pavement to drive along because they can't be arsed to wait for parking drivers, or oncoming traffic. This type of behaviour appears to be ingrained as perfectly acceptable in the drivers who use the high street. I think it's high time the council took a proper interest in traffic levels, safety and driver behaviour on Deptford High Street and began to think seriously about how it can be improved.