Everything you need to know about the Silvertown Tunnel

Everything you need to know about the Silvertown Tunnel
If you’ve been keeping up with motoring news over the last few years, you might have heard something called the Silvertown Tunnel mentioned.

But what is the Silvertown Tunnel? And should you be including it as part of your next road trip route? Read on to find out all you need to know about this controversial new tunnel.

Jump to:

What is the Silvertown Tunnel?
Where will the Silvertown Tunnel be?
What’s currently happening with the Silvertown Tunnel?
When will the Silvertown Tunnel open?
Why is the Silvertown Tunnel being built?
Is there any opposition to the Silvertown tunnel?
Will there be a toll for the Silvertown Tunnel?
Will you be able to cycle in the Silvertown Tunnel?
Where’s the nearest alternative crossing to the Silvertown Tunnel?

 


 

What is the Silvertown Tunnel?

The Silvertown Tunnel is a proposed 1.4km-long road tunnel due to be constructed underneath the River Thames in East London.

Like the nearby Blackwall Tunnel, the Silvertown Tunnel will actually be two separate tunnels. These will run alongside each other under the river – one for southbound traffic and the other for northbound.

 

Where will the Silvertown Tunnel be?

The Silvertown Tunnel will form a major new river crossing in East London, linking West Silvertown and the Essex-bound A13 north of the river, with North Greenwich and the Kent-bound A2 south of the river.

The tunnel will be located around 1km downstream from the Blackwall Tunnel and will roughly follow the cross-river route of the Emirates Air Line cable car, which connects North Greenwich with the Royal Docks:

The southern entrance to the tunnel will share an approach (the A102) with the Blackwall Tunnel, but at its northern entrance the Silvertown Tunnel will be located around 1.5km east of the Blackwall Tunnel.

Upon completion, the Silvertown Tunnel will be one of the most easterly vehicle crossings on the river, with only the Dartford Crossing (toll) and Woolwich Ferry further downstream.

What’s currently happening with the Silvertown Tunnel?

A river crossing at Silvertown was first proposed in the early 2000s by then-Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. Plans were shelved, however, when another river crossing, the Thames Gateway Bridge, failed to gain planning permission.

The idea of a Silvertown crossing was re-prioritised by Livingstone’s successor in City Hall, Boris Johnson, who led the development of a new proposal centred around a tunnel under the river, instead of a bridge.

In April 2016, Transport for London (TfL) applied to the Secretary of State for Transport for a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the Silvertown Tunnel, which was followed by a lengthy public consultation period.

In May 2018, the DCO for the tunnel was given the go ahead by the Department for Transport (DfT), moving the new crossing one step closer to completion.

When will the Silvertown Tunnel open?

Good question. The current timeline laid out by TfL says the contract is due to be awarded to the preferred partner in summer 2019, so construction could start as early as autumn 2019.

Providing the project remains on schedule, TfL believes the earliest the Silvertown Tunnel could become operational is 2024, although should any delays occur you may have to wait a little longer before you’re driving through it.

RAC Breakdown Cover from £4.50*

Rated 4 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot from over 25,000 reviews.

Why is the Silvertown Tunnel being built?

While you might think of the River Thames as criss-crossed with bridges as it passes through London, there are actually very few crossings east of Tower Bridge, so the Silvertown Tunnel will provide a vital crossing for motorists.

As well as easing congestion on the Blackwall Tunnel, officials hope the Silvertown Tunnel will improve journey times across East London, increasing reliability and allowing for new north-south bus routes through the tunnel.

It is also anticipated that the tunnel will have a positive impact on the local economies both north and south of the river, bringing new jobs to the area and helping to provide local businesses with easier access to new markets.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has said: “New river crossings are vital for the future prosperity of East London, and the scheme will have a substantial impact unlocking new jobs and economic growth.”

Is there any opposition to the Silvertown tunnel?

Plenty. Environmentalists, local residents and politicians have all voiced their opposition to the Silvertown Tunnel, stating concerns about congestion, pollution and the estimated £1 billion cost.

Opponents argue building the tunnel will attract more cars into areas unsuitable for a large quantity of traffic, which in turn will increase air pollution at a time when London is introducing new measures to help tackle the issue.  

Caroline Russell, Green Party London Assembly Member accused transport authorities of ignoring air pollution fears, saying: “Londoners need healthy streets where they can trust the air they breathe.”

Will there be a toll for the Silvertown Tunnel?

Quite possibly. Although the existing Blackwall Tunnel further upstream is currently toll-free, it is anticipated that in order to cover the £1 billion bill a toll will be applied to the Silvertown Tunnel.

Unfortunately for drivers, TfL is also planning on introducing tolls to the Blackwall Tunnel, to help cover construction and maintenance costs and manage demand between the two crossings.

Will you be able to cycle in the Silvertown Tunnel?

No. As the proposals currently stand, the Silvertown Tunnel will have no facilities for either pedestrians or cyclists. The closest river crossings for non-motorised road users are either the Jubilee line or the Emirates Air Line cable car.

Where’s the nearest alternative crossing to the Silvertown Tunnel?

Until the Silvertown Tunnel opens, motorists will have to continue using the nearby Blackwall Tunnel, one of the few river crossings in that part of East London.

Further afield, Tower Bridge is located three miles to the west while the Dartford Crossing is 16 miles to the east of the proposed tunnel, and there is charge applied here.

More motoring advice than you can shake a gear stick at

​Get the best driving advice, buyer’s guides, legal tips and car maintenance info straight to your inbox.

* New, Vehicle based Roadside only on a monthly auto renewing contract