Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Freight and Haulage Groups Welcome New River Thames Tunnel Plans

TfL Awaits Acceptance of Scheme from Silvertown to Greenwich
Shipping News Feature
UK – It would seem that, somewhat like mythical buses, no sooner does one propose one lower River Thames crossing, than two come along at once. At last the authorities are finally looking at another road tunnel to pass under the river joining east London at Silvertown to the Greenwich peninsula south of the city and linking with the A2 via the Blackwall Tunnel approach roads. Freight transport and haulage groups have welcomed the proposal which went before the Secretary of State who had until this month to consider the scheme, and which has now gone forward for approval.

The route proposed is between the A1020 Silvertown Way/Lower Lea Crossing on the north side to the A102 Blackwall Tunnel Approach on the south side, tracking closely the route of the Emirates Air Line cable car and passing to the south of the O2. If the plan is passed the earliest the new tunnel could become operational is in 2022/23. Transport for London (TfL) has published a short video which highlights the current problems and its anticipated solution which you can see HERE. Full details of the scheme can be accessed HERE.

Last year the Secretary of State for Transport announced the preferred route for the Lower Thames Crossing, leading to some debate amongst stakeholders. That tunnel is envisaged to link the A2 and the M25 and reduce the burden on the busy Dartford Crossing, and the Department for Transport (DfT) estimates it will carry four and a half million HGVs in its first year.

Industry groups have welcomed the news that finally something is happening to lift the daily congestion both sides of the Thames. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) was quick to commend Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for giving the latest scheme the go ahead with Natalie Chapman, Head of Urban Policy, saying:

“The new crossing at Silvertown will provide welcome relief for those moving goods and services across the Thames in and around East London. For too long, the Blackwall Tunnel has acted as a key pinch point on the capital’s road network, with its long-term congestion problems and air quality issues causing misery for those using the route and those living nearby. East London is a key growth area for the capital in terms of construction and employment, and the new Silvertown Tunnel is a priority connection which FTA has campaigned strongly for, to ensure that businesses and householders can be properly served with the goods and services that they need.

”It is vital that the construction of the link gets under way quickly, but this should only be the start for improvement of the road network and links between the North and South banks of the Thames. FTA has long supported proposals for additional crossings at Gallions Reach and Belvedere, to create a network of crossings which would spread the burden of traffic across a number of routes. The resulting shorter and more cost-efficient journeys would be of great benefit to business and consumers alike, and we urge the Mayor and Transport for London to identify ways in which the additional connections could be constructed, to keep London and its businesses moving efficiently.

“Stop-start traffic has a hugely detrimental impact on fuel consumption and emissions but with so few opportunities to cross the Thames currently open to logistics operators, the Blackwall Tunnel currently creates as many problems as it solves. By building a network of crossings along the eastern reaches of the Thames, TfL would ensure that journey times would be reduced, and the burden of costs, as well as health risks, could be reduced significantly.

“The Silvertown Tunnel will give London’s freight operators an additional option when servicing the needs of the capital’s 24-hour economy, but should be the start of improvements for the area, not the only solution offered. We look forward to working with TfL to ensure that trade can continue to flow in and out of the capital as swiftly and efficiently as possible, and help to maintain London’s position at the heart of the nation’s trading relationships.”

Wisely the FTA has picked up on the fact that there is rarely anything faintly resembling a free lunch when it comes to the freight business. As we have seen with the Dartford Crossings, those government promises that tolls would be done away with as soon as the tunnels/bridge were paid for were little more than rhetoric. Ms Chapman added:

“Many journeys made in the London area are for essential services or deliveries. It is vital that any user charging for the new link takes into account the economic value of the journey, so that the freight industry does not shoulder the burden of cost for the entire project.”

These crossings have been the subject of endless debate. The M11 motorway was initially proposed at the time of the First World War (as the ’Eastern Route’) yet took until 1980 to fully open. Linking with the Thames via the A406 and A12 and A13 an aerial view indicates that, had the building of the motorway not engendered as many protests as it did in the 1960’s and 1970’s it could have simply maintained its route southward and crossed the river to link directly to the A2 motorway, opening up a direct multi-lane link between Essex and Kent and thus avoiding many of the problems faced today.