FOI request detail

Restrictions in Rotherhithe Tunnel

Request ID: FOI-0378-2122
Date published: 09 June 2021

You asked

Please can you provide me with the evidence used to justify the restriction on all Goods Vehicles over a Gross Weight of 2 tons passing through Rotherhithe Tunnel for safety reasons (as stated on TFL website), and all evidence justifying that a passenger car in excess of this same weight would not cause the same safety issues (and are therefore allowed). Secondly, please can you provide me a copy of any internal communications that relate to retaining the limit at 2 tons because of the revenue thats fines for breaching this generate for TFL.

We answered

Our ref: FOI-0378-2122/GH

Thank you for your request received by Transport for London (TfL) on 23 May 2021 asking for information about restrictions in Rotherhithe Tunnel

Your request has been considered under the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and our information access policy. I can confirm that we do hold the information you require.

By way of background the Rotherhithe Tunnel was built in 1908 and was not designed to cope with modern levels of traffic. These restrictions help to ensure that road users can continue to use the tunnel safely while we work on plans for the tunnel's future.

Following a review of the Rotherhithe Tunnel Ventilation system it was discovered that the capacity of the current system was limited to a passenger car. Most larger cars are in the region of 2 tonnes in weight. The difference between a passenger car and an equivalent size light commercial vehicle is down to the load. The fire loading of a passenger vehicle in general is easy to estimate as it is limited to the number of passengers and associated baggage. The fire load of a light commercial vehicle is harder to estimate, so in the international guidelines these are referenced as having a higher fire load. The Highways England guidance document BD78/99 Design of Road Tunnels gives the fire load of a car as 5 megawatts (MW) and a van (Light commercial) as 15 MW. The current capability of the Rotherhithe tunnel ventilation system can safely deal with a passenger car fire but the light commercial vehicle is beyond its safe working limits. This is why the restriction applies to vehicles more than 2 metres (6'6") high, 2 metres (6'6") wide or goods vehicles weighing more than 2 tonnes (gross vehicle weight).

The vehicle weight restriction was imposed on 21 September 2018 by Traffic Regulation Order (TRO), GLA 2018 No 0451 - The A101 GLA Road (Rotherhithe Tunnel, Rotherhithe Tunnel Approach and Branch Road, London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Southwark)(Temporary Weight and Height Restrictions) Order 2018. This became a permanent order as a result of The A101 GLA Road (Rotherhithe Tunnel, London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Southwark) (Various Prohibitions and Restrictions) Consolidation Order 2012 Variation Order 2019 coming into force on 1st May 2019.

While the restriction was introduced in September 2018 we did not issue penalties until February 2019.

We do not hold any internal communications that relate to retaining the limit at 2 tons because of the revenue that fines for breaching this generate for TfL - the limits have been introduced for safety reasons only - ideally TfL wants 100% compliance to enforcement which would generate no revenue.

If this is not the information you are looking for, please do not hesitate to contact me.

If you are considering submitting a further FOI request please think carefully about whether the request is essential at this current time, as answering FOI requests will require the use of limited resources and the attention of staff who could be supporting other essential activity. Where requests are made, please note that our response time may be impacted by the current situation.

If you are not satisfied with this response please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal.

Yours sincerely

Graham Hurt
FOI Case Officer
FOI Case Management Team
General Counsel
Transport for London

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