We're building a tunnel under the Thames linking Silvertown to the Greenwich Peninsula in east London. The tunnel - which we plan to open in 2025 - will help reduce chronic congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel and allow for better public transport links, including more cross-river bus journeys.
This new 1.4km twin-bore road tunnel under the Thames will be the first in London in over 30 years. A modern tunnel combined with a user charge and improved cross-river public transport will improve the reliability and resilience of the wider road network.
Our plans also include improvements for walking, cycling and the areas near the tunnel entrances as part of major regeneration of both sides of the river.
Incidents with larger, unsuitable vehicles frequently cause delays and closures of the Victorian-built Blackwall Tunnel. Idling traffic builds up, often leading to tailbacks of several miles in just a few minutes. This increases journey times as drivers choose longer routes to avoid the tunnel.
The Silvertown Tunnel scheme will eliminate this chronic congestion in east London and will improve journey times and keep traffic moving efficiently.
Benefits of the scheme
When it opens in 2025 the Silvertown Tunnel will:
Effectively eliminate delays and queues at the Blackwall Tunnel, with journey times up to 20 minutes faster
Reduce the environmental impact of traffic congestion on some of London's most polluted roads
Provide more opportunities to cross the river by public transport with a network of zero-emission buses offering new routes and better access to more destinations
Our short film explains why the Silvertown Tunnel scheme is needed.
Watch our 'drive through' film to see how the new tunnel would link to the existing road network.
How we're doing it
RiverLinx consortium won the bid to design, build, finance and maintain the Silvertown Tunnel after a competitive procurement process. The consortium is made up of abrdn, Invesis, Cintra, Macquarie Capital and ecoplant.
Since construction work started in 2020, we have set up worksites in Newham and Greenwich and also completed:
The launch chamber on the Newham site for the tunnel boring machine (TBM) - this is where it started to dig out the southbound tunnel towards Greenwich
Strengthening of the river wall so the TBM can pass underneath - this has improved flood defences in line with the Thames Estuary 2100 plan
A decked car park to be used temporarily by the O2 during the main construction phase
A coach park for local events industry use during the works
Geotechnical surveys and in-river ground investigations
Demolition works and utility diversions
Assembling the TBM in the launch chamber ahead of tunnelling
A decked car park to replace former car parking space in an area now within the construction site
Building a conveyor system to remove excavated materials from the site via barges along the river Thames - this is part of the project's wider commitment to keep construction traffic and associated emissions to a minimum
We're also working to:
Excavate the rotation chamber in Greenwich (where the TBM will turn 180 degrees to return for the northbound tunnel) and the retrieval chamber in Newham (where it will finish and be disassembled)
Prepare for the Boord Street bridge works and realignment of the A102 to merge it with the entrance to the new Silvertown Tunnel
Finalise designs for the walking, cycling and landscaping improvements which will be delivered around either side of the tunnel entrances
Tunnel boring machine
It's traditional in tunnelling projects to give the TBM a female name in honour of someone who has made an outstanding contribution to her sector or community.
Our TBM has been named 'Jill' in honour of Jill Viner - the first female to drive a London bus in June 1974. Jill Viner is a fitting choice because of the new cross-river bus opportunities the tunnel will create, plus Jill's contribution to the history of women bus drivers in London and equality within the transport industry.
TBM 'Jill' has been specially manufactured for the scheme and is the largest by diameter to ever be used in the UK.
Cutter-face or shield diameter: 11.91 metres, equivalent to nearly three double decker buses
Length (when fully assembled): approximately 82 metres
Weight (when fully assembled): 1,800 tonnes (1,200 tonnes of this is the shield which makes it 95 times heavier than a double decker bus)
About the dig
We're now digging the first bore - tunnelling works will take several months to reach Greenwich. TBM Jill will be then turned to make her return journey to Newham.
The total drive will be 2,244 metres and when finished will have excavated nearly 600,000 tonnes of material to form the tunnel. This will all be moved by barge to keep construction traffic to a minimum.
The excavated materials from tunnelling are reused on site where possible and also go towards helping to restore and create new farmland in Essex as part of landfill restoration projects.
Edmund Halley Way to Millennium Way southbound slip closure
Monday 16 January at 07:00 to Thursday 19 January 2023 at 18:00 - the slip road from Edmund Halley Way to Millennium Way southbound will close
To exit the peninsula, traffic will be diverted to Millennium Way northbound, then turn at Meridian Gate roundabout and join Millennium Way southbound
Millennium Way southbound total closure
Works starting on Monday 23 January 2023 will last for three weeks
The southbound carriageway between Edmund Halley Way and Millennium Way southbound will be completely closed
During the works, some disruption on the A102 may be expected as traffic enters and exits the Blackwall Tunnel on the south side of the river. Plan ahead and leave more time for your journey.
If your destination is not central London, including longer distance trips by HGV drivers, you may want to consider using the Dartford Crossing to complete your journey. For the latest information on how roads are operating in the area, check traffic status updates.
Other construction works
The Silvertown Tunnel scheme includes several above-ground developments including new buildings and other structures as well as landscaping on both sides of the river. These are currently in the design and development stage with final design approvals yet to be agreed.
Boord Street bridge
The proposed Boord Street pedestrian and cycle bridge will replace the current concrete footbridge that crosses the A102 Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road - the new bridge will be approximately 40m further south. Designed to be fully accessible, the new bridge will play an important role in connecting the existing pedestrian and cycle network across the Greenwich Peninsula.
Designs have been developed for two 'portal buildings' above the entrances of the tunnel on each side of the Thames. These will house the operations centre to manage and maintain the tunnel in the future.
Designs include green roof-top gardens to encourage biodiversity and create attractive views.
Silvertown Tunnel Implementation Group
The Silvertown Tunnel Implementation Group (STIG) was set up under the terms of the Development Consent Order (DCO) issued by the Department for Transport. It includes representatives from London's boroughs, the GLA and National Highways.
We're required to consult with STIG on matters around planning and operating the scheme. This includes air quality and traffic monitoring, the setting of user charges and proposals for the new bus services.
Once the Silvertown Tunnel opens, drivers must pay a user charge for using either the Blackwall or the Silvertown Tunnel. The exact charge levels for various types of vehicles using the new tunnel will be decided closer to the opening date.
This user charge will pay for building and maintaining the tunnel - but its main purpose is to help us manage traffic levels. (It's a legal requirement of the planning approvals to have this in place when the tunnel opens.) Any surplus revenue will be reinvested in London's transport network.
We will only start paying the Riverlinx consortium once the tunnel is open and available for use. We will also be able to reduce payments if the tunnel doesn't meet certain standards, such as being available for traffic.
Without the Silvertown Tunnel, congestion and air quality around the Blackwall Tunnel are predicted to get worse as London's population grows.
User charges for the new tunnel, as well as the new cross-river bus network, will help us manage the environmental impact of traffic. We are committed to ensuring the scheme delivers an overall improvement on air quality.
Air quality in London has improved since we were granted permission to build the Silvertown Tunnel due to the progress of the Mayor's Transport Strategy. This includes the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to the North and South Circulars.
It's important that we test any improvement in air quality against pollution levels at the time of opening rather than from our previous work in 2016. For this reason, we are updating our initial forecasts which will guide user charging decisions and help us to identify if any local changes are needed. The outcomes of this work will be shared in 2023.
Since December 2020, we've been monitoring air quality and specifically nitrogen dioxide (NO2) to ensure that the impacts of the Silvertown Tunnel are fully understood, and we get the overall air quality improvement expected.
As part of this work, we installed 38 new air quality monitors at 35 locations in the boroughs of Greenwich, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Southwark and Lewisham. Three of the 38 air quality monitors are continuous monitors which sample the air around the unit in 15-minute intervals and the data is reported live on the London Air Quality Network website. Other monitors are diffusion tubes installed on lamp posts on key roads and provide us with monthly averages of NO2 levels.
This report also contains air quality data from selected local authorities, to give us an understanding of actual air quality levels on roads around the scheme before it opens.
We will continue to monitor air quality (NO2) before and after the opening of the tunnel and will publish our annual reports online.
Supporting local residents and businesses
We are legally committed to a wide range of improvements and measures to reduce the impact of the new tunnel and support the wider local area.
£1m worth of support for local businesses to help them adapt to the user charge when the Silvertown Tunnel is operational. This could include helping businesses with staff travel planning or funding potential infrastructure such as cycle racks and electric vehicle charging points
Extensive monitoring, particularly around air quality, done both before and after the opening of the tunnel. Regular reports will be published online and if readings suggest impacts are worse than originally anticipated, we will review what else we can do to address them
A user-charging discount to specifically help low-income residents in the host boroughs of Greenwich, Newham and Tower Hamlets. This could look similar to the existing TfL Bus & Tram Travelcard which offers a 50% discount on public transport for those who get certain state benefits
£2m in bus concessions for local residents to help promote the new cross-river bus services which will run through the tunnel, as well as supporting them to move away from private car use wherever possible. We will also enhance river crossing facilities for cyclists and pedestrians across the local area
2025: Planned opening of the new tunnel
2024: Registration opens for user-charging accounts (for both Silvertown and Blackwall tunnels)
2023: Opening user charges and cross-river bus network proposals developed
Winter 2022/23: TBM turns and tunnelling begins northwards
September 2022: Tunnelling begins southbound towards Greenwich
Spring 2022: TBM is assembled
2020: Main construction activity starts
2019: Preferred contractor announced and contract awarded
February-October 2018: Ground and river survey work
May 2018: DCO gives the go ahead by the DfT
2016-2017: Hearing and examination process
April 2016: We apply to the Secretary of State for Transport for the DCO
We need to own the land (including subsoil) required for the Silvertown Tunnel, and must acquire new rights (including restrictive covenants) to protect the new tunnel infrastructure from potentially conflicting future development and for the health and safety of it users.
The DCO includes powers which enable us to secure the necessary land and rights compulsorily. While our preferred approach is to acquire land and rights by agreement with landowners, we have also followed a legal process to enable us to acquire compulsorily the land and rights needed for the Silvertown Tunnel through the use of GVDs.
The legal documents associated with the GVD process are:
The Silvertown Tunnel (North Portal Access) GVD 2022. The online GVD is an unexecuted version of the document, but identical in all material ways to the executed version which is signed, sealed and dated 19 December 2022
The Silvertown Tunnel South Portal (Greenwich) GVD 2022. The online GVD is an unexecuted version of the document, but identical in all material ways to the executed version which is signed, sealed and dated 30 November 2022
The Silvertown Tunnel Greenwich Highways GVD 2022. The online GVD is an unexecuted version of the document, but identical in all material ways to the executed version which is signed, sealed and dated 21 July 2022
Copies of executed GVDs can be inspected at our offices at: 5 Endeavour Square, London, E20 1JN.
We held a consultation on the Silvertown Tunnel scheme October-November 2015 and before that October-December 2014.
Consultation October-November 2015
These documents are intended to help explain the Silvertown Tunnel scheme in more detail to a non-technical audience. Our consultation booklet provides an overview of all the key elements and effects of the scheme.
The following documents outline our assessment of a range of alternative options for addressing the challenges at the Blackwall Tunnel and what effect the Silvertown Tunnel scheme might have on users of the River Thames.
Outlines the user charging proposals for the Blackwall and Silvertown Tunnels and sets out TfL's reasons for proposing user charging, the proposed structure and implementation of the charge and the objectives TfL would take into account in setting the charge and varying it in the future.
Details the main transport impacts of the scheme for all forms of travel and what measures would be taken to minimise any adverse impacts. It also examines road network impacts and impacts on public transport networks and walking and cycling.
Sets out the outline scheme design. It demonstrates why it is a suitable response to the site and its setting, taking into account existing and future planned development and that it can be adequately and safely accessed. It also sets out the design principles which will inform the detailed design, providing examples of how the scheme may develop in the future.
Preliminary environmental information report (PEIR)
Describes the scheme and the main alternatives considered. A non-technical summary of the PEIR is also available - it summarises the PEIR in plain English.
The PEIR sets out the environmental baseline information, provides an assessment of likely environmental effects and, where necessary, describes mitigation measures that would avoid, reduce or offset the adverse environmental effects.
Assesses the opportunities for minimising CO2 emissions during construction and operation of the tunnel. It considers the implementation of passive design measures, energy efficiency, and low and zero carbon technologies.
These reports contain supplementary information about the Silvertown Tunnel scheme or its impacts. We have published them because they are referenced in some of the reports included in the Main case section.
Health impact assessment (HIA) scoping opinion
Sets out the matters that were identified as relevant for consideration in the HIA and a proposed scope and methodology. This was consulted on with relevant health related stakeholders and the results of this informed the development of the preliminary HIA.
In March 2015 we published a consultation report, setting out the range of issues raised in the consultation held at the end of 2014. In June 2015 we then published a 'Responses to issues raised' report, setting out our response to these issues.
This section contains historical reports relating to the need for a crossing to relieve congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel and resolve other issues; the options we considered for addressing these problems; the case for a new tunnel and the impacts the tunnel might have.
Assessment of needs and options
Outlines the need for a new river crossing and assesses eight potential new crossing options to identify a preferred solution
Sets out the evidence for investing in a new crossing to address the congestion and road network resilience issues at the Blackwall Tunnel - it considers alternative options for addressing these issues and comments on the benefits that a new tunnel, with associated user charging, would provide, and presents an economic appraisal of the proposed tunnel scheme and includes an outline of the financing and procurement strategy
Consider the existing transport network and travel demand in east and south-east London, with a specific focus on demand for river crossings - assessing the impacts of the proposed tunnel on transport, including construction impacts and also presenting potential mitigating measures
Outline our initial assessment of the equalities impacts of the scheme
Outline our initial assessment of the impact of the scheme on health
Summarise environmental work undertaken to date as part of the environmental impact assessment process for the proposed tunnel and include an initial indication of the environmental impacts of the scheme and potential mitigation measures (includes five appendices with drawings)
Reports that support the documents in the Main case section and outline the principle impacts of the tunnel and the case for building a new crossing
Documents that deal with the process of considering options for new crossings
Environmental impact assessment
Outlines the proposed methodology to be used to assess the environmental impacts of the scheme and the information that will be included within the Environmental statement - it was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for comment on 25 June 2014
Contains the scoping opinion as provided by the Secretary of State in respect of the proposed content and methodology of the Environmental statement for the Silvertown Tunnel - it was provided to TfL following submission and consideration of the Environmental impact assessment scoping report in June 2014