While other London mayoral candidates have expressed scepticism, the Tory says a tunnel is key to unlocking growth in east London
Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith will push ahead with the controversial Silvertown Tunnel if he’s made London mayor on May 5.
The renowned environmentalist risks the wrath of protesters who say that building more roads will inevitably lead to more pollution.
The £750million scheme, which links the Greenwich Peninsula and Silvertown is aimed at relieving congestion in the Blackwall Tunnel and will – argues TfL – reduce air pollution by keeping traffic moving.
Mr Goldsmith has recognised that his position may appear to be at odds with his push for more public transport to help air quality and he says in his manifesto: “I will levy higher charges for dirty vehicles, while offering discounts for the cleanest cars.”
Green candidate Sian Berry and Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon have both said they are against the “toxic tunnel”.
However, Mr Goldsmith says that the tunnel’s capacity to unlock prosperity in east London made for a compelling case.
He says: “It is clear that the lack of river crossings in east London is driving up costs for small businesses, and holding back housebuilding.
“The lack of road space is also causing delays on our bus network. Just one single-decker bus uses the existing Blackwall tunnel. Given this particular pinch point, I will back a new, privately-financed tunnel at Silvertown with construction starting from 2018.
“Instead of just six buses an hour, I will be able to provide 30 buses an hour to destinations like Eltham, Canary Wharf, Charlton and the Royal Docks, opening up east London to public transport, and helping our lorries get through to build the homes we need. This will also help unlock over 20,000 jobs.”
Darryl Chamberlain, spokesman for the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign said: “It’s funny how Zac Goldsmith cares deeply for the environment for west Londoners around Heathrow, but doesn’t seem so bothered when he heads further east. If he cared about clean air, he’d scrap the Silvertown Tunnel.
“The Silvertown Tunnel will be a waste of £1 billion – a sum that we know TfL is worried about having to raise – and will do nothing about the mounting costs of congestion and pollution in our capital city.”
Chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Colin Stanbridge said: “We welcome any candidate support for a Silvertown crossing as we have been saying for many years that current capacity is simply not sufficient for east London.
“Our next mayor must ensure that London’s reputation as an attractive business location in the future is not damaged by failure to invest in major transport infrastructure now.”
Notably silent on the debate so far has been Sadiq Khan. While his manifesto says he backs the principle of more London crossings he makes no specific mention of Silvertown.
At an early hustings event, when asked about the tunnel he said : “All the evidence from around the world is that river crossings help regenerate an area – but we can’t do it at any cost.
“We’ve talked about air pollution and the dangers of more cars so it’s got to be done in a sensitive way so we’ve got to explore options to regenerate those areas and have more river crossings.”
His campaign team has not responded to The Wharf’s request for the candidate to state definitively if he is for or against the tunnel.