Construction of the 1.4km twin-bore tunnel under the Thames in east London could begin in early 2019, with completion in 2023.
Cintra Global and Hochtief PPP Solutions are on the shortlist to design and build the tunnel. Both are ultimately Spanish owned, Cintra by Ferrovial and Hochtief by ACS. A Skanska Strabag joint venture was also shortlisted but withdrew.
The new road tunnel will pass under the River Thames between Silvertown and north Greenwich, in London, connecting to the A1020 Silvertown Way/Lower Lea Crossing on the north side with A102 Blackwall Tunnel Approach on the south side. The tunnel generally follows the alignment of the Emirates Airline cable car.
The main purpose of the new tunnel is to relieve traffic congestion and improve reliability at the existing Blackwall Tunnel by providing an alternative river crossing route between the Royal Docks and Lower Lea Valley area and Greenwich Peninsula. Tolls will be charged.
The transport secretary’s decision to approve the scheme – controversial locally due to traffic and pollution concerns – was welcomed by the Freight Transport Association (FTA), which represents the interests of the logistics industry. "The new crossing at Silvertown will provide welcome relief for those moving goods and services across the Thames in and around East London," said Natalie Chapman, head of urban policy at the FTA. "For too long, the Blackwall Tunnel has acted as a key pinch point on the capital's road network, with its long-term congestion problems and air quality issues causing misery for those using the route and those living nearby.
"East London is a key growth area for the capital in terms of construction and employment, and the new Silvertown Tunnel is a priority connection which FTA has campaigned strongly for, to ensure that businesses and householders can be properly served with the goods and services that they need. It is vital that the construction of the link gets under way quickly, but this should only be the start for improvement of the road network and links between the north and south banks of the Thames.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also approved. He said: “I’m delighted that the green light has been given to progress with the Silvertown tunnel. New river crossings are vital for the future prosperity of east London, and the scheme will have a substantial impact unlocking new jobs and economic growth, while easing congestion and poor air quality in the area."