We will not stand down from our opposition to Silvertown Tunnel

The Green Party has members living across all parts of Greenwich and Bexley borough, indeed we have many members in every London constituency. Seldom has there been an issue to unite them as tightly as opposition to the construction of this new road tunnel between Silvertown in Newham and Greenwich Peninsula.

Is there a climate emergency or is there not? It is really quite simple.

No matter what sweet words are uttered to the contrary, a billion-pound investment in new road infrastructure is fundamentally and unavoidably a great show of support for transportation by car and van.

Supporting continued expansion of private vehicle road travel goes against every recommendation in the book for addressing the problems we have with climate change.

We simply cannot give up. Winning this battle really matters.

It matters because infrastructure is so powerful when it is good and so intractable when it is bad. When strategic infrastructure is built it can completely change a community for the better. Look at the positive impact of the investments in the DLR, for instance. But when backward-facing infrastructure is put in place, it’s incredibly hard to make things right because the cost and the effort become totally prohibitive once it is in place.

The right time to fix things is before you start.

The coronavirus crisis has shown us what can happen with nonlinear changes to circumstances. The time to act decisively is before the effects are truly felt. Once the cat is out of the bag, all management is inevitably more costly and less effective than it would otherwise have been.

And so to put it plainly: Silvertown Tunnel locks us in to a car-centred city and the associated emissions of that way of being. To keep climate change from escalating out of control, it is vital that it is not constructed.

The lower-level objections to the Silvertown Tunnel are well-known at this point, but to briefly re-summarise the three key points:

  • There is abundant empirical evidence that building new roads incentivises new road traffic, which is entirely obvious when you think about it
  • The agenda for the tunnel is based on relieving northbound traffic, which it is not likely to do, but in any case it completely ignores the evening rush-hour southbound traffic jams which are already a problem and will be worsened by additional deposit of traffic
  • The PFI financial case rests on retrieving costs from increasing levels of vehicle trips, which everyone is committed to reducing for environmental reasons, so the only way in which the financial case works out in the Tunnel repaying its costs is that the environment pays the price for it through increased car travel

It isn’t just the Green Party raising this issue. Silvertown Tunnel is opposed by Greenwich Council, Lewisham Council, Southwark Council, Newham Council and Hackney Council. It is opposed by MPs including Greenwich’s Matthew Pennycook. It is being pushed through against local wishes by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

We have a vision of a clean, green and prosperous London which has outstanding connectivity for sustainable transport. It is high time Transport for London recognised that to keep building infrastructure for cars is – literally – to keep digging a bigger hole for ourselves.

To object to Silvertown Tunnel in writing, please write to planning-consultation@royalgreenwich.gov.uk regarding references 20/1655/G (relating to the flood warning and evacuation plan for the tunnel), 20/1662/G (relating to code of construction practice for removing and replacing gas pressure reduction stations at the tunnel site), 20/1663/G (relating to contaminated land handling in relation to the gas pressure reduction station work) by 1st July 2020. You can make specific objections to the specified planning orders, or general objections to the scheme as a whole. Thank you for your support.

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