Tunnelling work begins on new Silvertown road link under Thames

Tunnelling work begins on new Silvertown road link under Thames

Tunnelling work has begun on the new Silvertown road tunnel, which will link Newham and the Greenwich Peninsula to form the first new Thames road crossing east of Tower Bridge for over 30 years when it opens in 2025.

Early construction work on the twin-bore scheme, which will be 1.4 kilometres (0.86 miles) long, began in 2020 and the first of two two-lane tunnels is now being cut from the Newham side by a bespoke tunnelling machine named Jill in honour of Jill Viner, who in 1974 became the first woman to drive a London bus.

Transport for London says it will take “several months” for the machine to emerge on the Greenwich side, progressing at about ten metres a day, when it will be turned round to create the second bore, heading north.

The tunnel is being built by Riverlinx, consortium of five companies under contract to TfL, and will cost around £1.2 billion to construct and eventually around £2 billion over a 30 year period. A loan to pay for the project will be repaid by levying tolls on private motorists using the new tunnel, which TfL is describing as “public transport focussed” due to plans to start with a minimum of 20 buses an hour in each direction during peak travel hours.

The project has encountered strong opposition from environmental groups and from London politicians of all mainstream parties, but Sadiq Khan has continued to support it, arguing that it will relieve persistent congestion at the nearby Blackwall Tunnel, which is also to be tolled. TfL and City Hall maintain that the combination of tolling and extra capacity will prevent any overall growth in congestion and pollution.

Ideas for a Silvertown tunnel or “link” have been around since early this century, and different versions have had the support of previous Mayors Johnson and Livingstone.

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