The Silvertown Tunnel

The proposed Silvertown Tunnel is a four lane road link between Newham’s Royal Docks and the Greenwich Peninsula. The required land in Newham was purchased by TfL years ago, before any formal planning proposal was submitted.

The scheme entered the planning stage in October 2015 and a decision is expected in late-2017.stunnel

The case against:

  • TfL expects traffic levels to increase by more than a third on major roads across Newham with Silvertown and Canning Town the worst hit.
  • More traffic means poorer air quality. Newham residents already suffer the impact of some of the highest levels of air pollution in London.
  • The tunnel will bring many more HGVs into East London, endangering pedestrians and people on bikes.
  • The earliest possible completion date is 2022/23.
  • The Silvertown Tunnel is expected to cost at least £1 billion.
  • The tunnel will be tolled, and a toll will also be introduced at Blackwall Tunnel. Whilst West London river crossings will remain free to use – and as those are all bridges, not tunnels, they are available to pedestrians and cyclists too!
  • Greenwich Green Party are also concerned about the traffic congestion and air pollution increases this tunnel would cause south of the river. The Woolwich Road flyover is already one of the most polluted spots in London.  Furthermore, it will also make existing bottlenecks at Kidbrooke and Eltham – where the A102 and A2 have only two lanes in each direction – worse.
  • The tunnel will be financed using Public Private Finance Initiatives – essentially a expensive loan from a private company who also builds the infrastructure. These have crippled the NHS and schools with debt.

The Silvertown/Royal Docks area is already heavily over-polluted, from both the airport and existing building works, we feel TfL’s proposal doesn’t give this harmful impact on local residents and businesses enough consideration. We held an townhall-style event in Britannia Village, near the proposed tunnel’s entrance. Understandably, local residents were angry and felt unheard in the process. Many would prefer a bridge, while others didn’t want any river crossing in the area – as their community was being fractured by all the other approved developments.

silvertown-tunnel-meeting

 

In addition to the negative health and infrastructure impacts, this project unfairly targets East Londoners to pay for the privilege of crossing the river, with the introduction of the proposed tolls.

TfL’s proposal claims the tolls are to aid with congestion reduction – but this could, and should, have been thorough trialled at the existing tunnel before public funds are committed to building such an expensive and polluting new tunnel.

It’s also confusing that TfL highlights the continuing need to reduce congestion on these routes, when the argument for building the Silvertown Tunnel was initially to relieve congestion at Blackwall. Is this new tunnel not fit for purpose? Or are the tolls really more about providing a guaranteed revenue stream for the private-partnership funders?

“The Mayor of London is loudly promoting a £750 million Silvertown Tunnel between the Royal Docks and the Greenwich peninsular as the solution to congestion on east London’s roads.

But a simple investigation of the facts shows this scheme to be expensive, unnecessary and dangerous.

TfL admit the only way to stop a tidal wave of extra traffic flooding roads across east London would be to impose toll charges. Motorists would pay around £2.50 to cross the Thames using either the new tunnel or the old Blackwall Tunnel which is currently free.”

Darren Johnson, Green Party London Assembly Member in 2014 , challenged in a Big Debate piece in the Newham Recorder against Newham Councillor Ken Clark, who claimed that “A Gallions bridge and the Silvertown tunnel would reduce the congestion we see in Newham”, without any details on how, or indeed IF, local infrastructure would be improved to deal with the extra traffic these crossings would generate.

Newham has one of the lowest levels of car ownership in London with two thirds of residents commuting by public transport. Newham Green Party believes that residents should have the choice to cross the river on foot or by bike. We welcome new north-south public transport links that would take the strain off current routes.

Caroline Russell, one of Green Party’s London Assembly Members, has also criticised the scheme. She says:

“I will continue to support local people to fight this road tunnel through the planning process and at City Hall I will hold the Mayor to account for his decision to progress this scheme.”

Silvertown1_800.jpg
Caroline Russel and Sian Berry protesting near the proposed tunnel’s entrance

In a recent announcement, Mayor Sadiq Khan attempted to greenwash the project by announcing that buses services through the tunnel would have space for bikes. The Mayor’s support for the Silvertown Tunnel is utterly incompatible with his commitment to reduce air pollution in London.

The Green Party, with locals on both sides of the river, are not the only group campaigning against the tunnel – Hackney, Lewisham and Southwark Councils coming out against it in 2015, and Newham Council in 2016 – after having initially supported it. Greenwich Council gave their support via formal feedback in the second stage of the consultation (Nov. 2015).

There is also an independent group, called No to Silvertown Tunnel, who you can follow on Twitter @NoSilvertownTnl

changes-to-the-road-network-in-the-royal-docks-area

We’re taking part in the public consultation – several members have responded independently with their views, but we are also preparing an official response from the Newham branch of the party, and welcome feedback from local residents and/or businesses, if they would like it included. Closing date for this final feedback to the consultation is 15th November 2016, therefore we ask for all feedback you would like us to include to be submitted to us by 5pm on Friday 11th November, either in the comments or by email.

Advertisements

Corbyn’s “not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”

Why Rachel Collinson is sticking with the Greens – and you should too!

Angela Eagle MP looks up at Jeremy Corbyn during PMQsThe election of Jeremy Corbyn is another happy milestone in the journey of British politics out of the right wing hinterland and into the sunny dales of People-over-Profit. The news that he got over 50% of the vote in a 4-way contest was glorious. A poke in the eye for the establishment.

Not only that, it means the Overton Window (if you don’t know about that, it’s worth reading up on) is shifting rapidly back to centre ground. This bodes well for us as a nation.

But, I have a warning for you, my lovely leftie friends. Don’t think that the Labour leopard is about to change its spots, just because one turned out to be a benign mole.

“OUCH! That’s a bit harsh,” I hear you say. “Bitter, much?”

Alright, I know what it looks like. But hear me out, like the open-minded sage I know you are.

Just like you, at one point I was prepared to bet the farm on Labour. I even signed up to volunteer for them at a high level. But what I saw was an organisation unwilling to listen to its members, preferring to trust in its old (failed) guard. An organisation unprepared for a society with a culture and technology that have changed beyond recognition since the 1980s.

Fast-forward 2 years and alas, that’s still the reality. Like the decades-long moribund Battersea Power Station, the only hope for Labour is that Momentum is able to transform the old structures.

I’m sorry, but I don’t hold out much hope for that. Why? There are too many hints that the foundations are sandy. Here’s a few:

A reluctance to collaborate

As the resurgent Left grapples with our new political landscape, Labour have shown a disappointing lack of interest in collaborative politics. I applaud Caroline Lucas’ stance, offering an open hand to other parties who share the will to implement policies where they overlap.

I also applaud the stance of councillors here in East London who are open to working together on problems that affect us all. However, there are precious few hints that Labour MPs are open to joint projects, whether that’s an alliance, a pact or sharing of resources. There’s no understanding that this kind of politics can benefit all parties.

In the meantime, Caroline Lucas continues to do Corbyn’s job (for example, relaunching the Railways Bill) while Labour continues its public squabble over Old vs New.

All mouth and no green trousers
Support for polluting industries that benefit the rich more than the poor – such as air travel – is still a Labour priority over sustainable development. East Ham Labour MP Stephen Timms supports expansion of City Airport, despite the fact that 1 in 3 children who live around the airport are sick from the pollution.
Poll showing twice as many yes as no votes to the question "London City Airport. Do you agree with the Green Party’s proposal?"
Never mind the dire signs of global warming all around us.
Not only is this environmental folly, it doesn’t make economic sense.
The Green Party’s proposal for replacing City Airport, is partly based on a 2014 report from the New Economics Foundation, which found that using the land for housing, small businesses, schools and hospitals, it would create 15,000 more jobs and serve everybody.
A poll in the Newham Recorder shows that residents agree with us.

Forgetting how to win elections

Since 1997, Labour have bought into the Tory idea that winning elections is all about winning over the media. Ed Miliband’s over-coached speech-making, the stone of doom, and romancing Russell Brand were all cringey symptoms of this problem.

Corbyn’s ability to listen and rally the ranks of ordinary people is masterful. But his ground troops haven’t yet caught up. Labour’s canvassing strategy is, frankly, broken. Those doing it well were told by HQ that they were misbehaving and should follow orders from on high.

Having seen the Green Party’s plans to re-engage people in politics from the ground up, I can tell you that they surpass anything Labour has yet devised. The astonishing swing to the Green Party in Bristol West – one of the biggest in English election history – is testament to this.

A lack of commitment to democratic reform

Labour let us down badly in 1997, when they had the chance to reform the House of Lords and change our voting system. However, no lessons have been learned from this. The Old Labour souls seem to pine for the old times (in reality, all ten minutes of them) when First Past the Post served this country well.

If Labour were the party this country really deserved, they’d be all over the opportunity to reform our voting system and end the hereditary principle once and for all. We’d be seeing murmurs of land reform and an end to Royal interference in politics. Sadly, no dice. Not even loaded ones!

There are many more policies and qualities I could list where the Green Party has a huge edge over Labour in solving the UK’s (and the world’s) deepest problems. Such as Land Value Tax, devolution of power as far as possible, Community Land Trusts, Citizens’ income, net neutrality, investment of 1% of GDP in research, restorative justice, Positive Money, Piketty’s wealth tax… the list is extensive.

Yes, I love Corbyn. I especially love the hope that he’s inspired in hundreds of thousands of people. But as far as I can see, he’s more the establishment’s no-tie naughty boy. Not the Messiah.

Will the red shoots of growth around him become fruitful plants?

I hope I am wrong about this. But if I’m judging by the ground these seedlings are growing in, we’ll be waiting a long time for that to happen.

And that, in summary, is why I’m sticking with the Green Party. I am prouder of my membership now than I’ve ever been.
Monty Python gif:

 

Rachel Collinson is Newham Green Party’s Chair, and is currently running as a candidate for City and East London in the London Assembly elections in May.