Silvertown Tunnel: Protesters plan slip road demo as Newham mayor appeals to Khan

Extinction Rebellion protest in Lewisham
Activists have already blocked roads in Lewisham, Deptford and Catford and now plan to do the same in Greenwich

Extinction Rebellion protesters are planning to hold a demonstration at one of the entrances to the A102 on Friday as pressure mounts on London mayor Sadiq Khan to cancel the controversial Silvertown Tunnel road crossing.

The pressure group plans to “swarm” the Woolwich Road roundabout in east Greenwich from 7am on the morning of 9 August, according to a Facebook invite it is promoting on social media.

The “swarm” tactic – blocking the road for a few minutes at a time – has already been used in demonstrations in Deptford, Lewisham and Catford calling on Lewisham Council to do more to combat climate change.

Last month, demonstrators blockaded a cement yard in Bow that will play a key role in the construction of the tunnel between the Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks.

Khan, the chair of Transport for London, says the tunnel is needed to stop serious traffic congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel, protesters say it will make congestion worse by bringing more vehicles to the area. The scheme would see both the Silvertown and Blackwall tunnels tolled.

The plans for a demonstration come as Newham’s elected mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, wrote to Sadiq Khan to urge him to cancel the scheme. Transport for London has selected a consortium to build and operate the tunnel, but has not yet finally signed off the deal.

That was then: Newham cabinet member Conor McAuley (in dark glasses to the right) joining Greenwich counterpart Denise Hyland and anti-roads protesters in January 2013 to launch their campaign to build the Silvertown Tunnel. McAuley later came out against the scheme

Newham had teamed up with Greenwich Council in 2012 to launch a campaign to get the tunnel built, but cooled on the idea when it became clear that an accompanying bridge at Gallions Reach, between Thamesmead and Beckton, would not be built. Fiaz reversed the council’s stance when she took over from the previous elected mayor, Sir Robin Wales, in May 2018.

“We remain opposed to the scheme due to the detrimental effect it will have on traffic congestion as well as toxic air quality in Newham, which is amongst the worst in England with devastating impacts on our residents,” she wrote.

Fiaz called upon Khan and TfL to not build the Silvertown Tunnel but toll the Blackwall Tunnel, “which would reduce the demands there to manageable levels”, which would fund “sustainable cross-river transport alternatives”.

Hackney Council’s leadership has also written to Khan to object to the tunnel, while Lewisham and Southwark also object – the latter because it fears that tolls will drive motorists towards the Rotherhithe Tunnel.

Greenwich Council has resisted calls to object to the scheme. Last month members of all three constituency Labour parties passed motions calling on councillors to reverse the council’s support for the tunnel.

The tunnel, which was given planning approval in May 2018, is likely to open in 2025.

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