London

Mayor to promise road tunnel under Thames

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson is to promise a new road tunnel under the Thames in east London as part of a plan to ease congestion problems.

The route between the Greenwich Peninsula and Silvertown in the Royal Docks could see nearly 2,400 vehicles an hour pass through in each direction.

The Conservative mayor said it would help boost London's growth but Labour questioned how it would be funded.

But critics have questioned where the funding for the tunnel will come from.

There are also plans for a new ferry running between Becton and Thamesmead.

It is hoped the ferry route would be delivered by 2017.

The new crossings are in addition to the cable car currently under construction that will carry 2,500 pedestrians and cyclists an hour across the Thames.

Transport for London (TfL) is to begin preliminary consultation work on the new tunnel in February.

The tunnel, which aims to relieve pressure on existing tunnels at Blackwall and Rotherhithe, is hoped to be built within a decade.

'Short-sighted'

The transport measures are to be officially announced by the mayor during a speech to London's government leaders on Thursday evening.

He is also set to announce the pushing ahead of an extension to the Northern Line to Battersea, which has not previously been served by the Tube.

Labour member of the London Assembly John Biggs said: "One of Boris Johnson's first moves when he came to power was to scrap plans for a new bridge in east London and throw away its funding to the tune of hundreds of millions.

"We've now been waiting almost four years. If he hadn't been so short-sighted back in 2008, we could have been opening a river crossing now.

"Instead, all we have is a tunnel that is years away and doesn't appear to have any funding behind it."

Mr Biggs noted that Chancellor George Osborne did not make any commitment to fund the Silvertown crossing in his Autumn Statement, where he said the government would work with the mayor and TfL to explore options for additional river crossings.

Caroline Pidgeon, a Liberal Democrat Assembly Member, said a new Thames crossing was "desperately needed" but the key issue was funding and the timetable for completion.

She said: "The last thing we need is pre-election promises from the Mayor of London that turn into nothing."

Darren Johnson, a Green Party member of the London Assembly, said: "The London mayor can't claim that air pollution or climate change are a priority whilst proposing to build a traffic-generating road like this Silvertown Tunnel."

AA president Edmund King said it was not good for the environment having traffic wait 20 minutes to use the Blackwell Tunnel.

He added he supported the proposals "although it remains to be seen how the tunnel will be paid for".

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