Under new plans proposed by Transport for London (TfL), motorists who use the Blackwall Tunnel in southeast London could be forced to pay a £2 toll charge. This is a move that would be used to raise funds for a new crossing under the River Thames. The new Silvertown road tunnel is estimated to cost £600 million, while a vehicle ferry at Gallions Reach would cost another £150 million.
The proposed tunnel would connect Silvertown in the Royal Docks with the Greenwich Peninsula. The TfL says the tunnel and a ferry crossing will make the area a more attractive place to live, visit and do business, as the toll used to raise revenue for the project will also discourage congestion. It also says the project will help realise the potential of the Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks. The tolls would be implemented because there’s no funding available in the business plan TfL has put together.
The Blackwall Tunnel and Silvertown Tunnel are positioned near one another and share approach roads. Because of this, TfL argues that one can’t be tolled without the other, as drivers would take the free route and eventually cause serious delays due to the volume of numbers on that route. They suggest that cars be charged £2, two-axle goods vehicles be charged £2.50 and heavy goods vehicles by charged £5 – similar to the charges at the Dartford Crossing. Depending on the day of the week, time of day and direction of travel, the toll could vary. The proposal is subject to consultation until 1 February and any toll charges wouldn’t be implemented until 2021.
TfL managing director of planning Michele Dix says that tolls are one option suggested during the consultation, as they would provide a new stream of revenue that would pay for the new crossings. However, this hasn’t been decided. They want to hear the public’s views on the proposals and suggestions as to how they could be funded. There wouldn’t be any tolling on the Blackwall Tunnel prior to the completion of the Silvertown Crossing – 2021 at the soonest.
London TravelWatch has given TfL its support for the project and tolls. Vincent Stops, the watchdog’s policy officer, says they support a plan that will counter congestion in and around east London. This comes as the issue is expected to get worse as the population grows.
However, Darren Johnson, a member of the London Assembly, criticised the plan. He says those opposed to the Silvertown Crossing due to the impact it will have on air pollution will continue to be opposed. Additionally, he thinks many of the people who were initially in favour of the new road crossing will hate having to pay for tolls on the Blackwall Tunnel. Considering there are more public transport options to cross the River Thames in east London now, there’s not really a need for the new road crossing.
The AA has also slammed the proposal. Head of public affairs Paul Watters says that charging existing infrastructure is always a controversial move, particularly since it’s been a free crossing from the ’60s. Motorists who use the Blackwall Tunnel rather than Silvertown will feel like pound fodder for the new crossing despite the fact that they don’t have any reason to use it. There isn’t much choice for traffic, and drivers may feel they are being cornered into something. He added that, with the tolls, the journey could cost £80 per month in addition to £120 for fuel.