Major concern at possibility of third Blackwall tunnel at Silvertown based on flawed DfT data

In the 2012 budget the Coalition Government announced an extra £15 million to help make some of London's junctions more safe for cycling.

More money for dangerous junctions is badly needed, but as LCC campaigns officer Charlie Lloyd said on the BBC yesterday, this amount is little more than "a welcome gesture".

Mayor Boris Johnson no doubt agrees because he's on record saying it would take £150 million to even begin tackling London's dangerous junctions.

There are some indications, particularly with the recent junction review, that politicians and planners are waking up to the need to protect cyclists on the road, but there are also very worrying signs that policies that actively encourage motor traffic are back on the agenda.

Recent pronouncements from the Prime Minister on private road finance sound ominously like the Government is looking for a means to expand the national road network, presumably in some ill-conceived notion that this is the best way to boost economic growth.

And the budget appears to give the green light to a highly contentious new motor traffic tunnel in East London:  

"The Government will explore the case for using the Planning Act 2008 to streamline the planning process for the proposed additional river crossings in East London, for example at Silvertown, which will reduce peak period delays and congestion in the area." 2012 Budget p40

Urban motorways divide communities

The last thing London needs is another road-building project with a similar inpact to the M11 link road into north-east London.

It was predicted the M11 would create wealth and remove congestion from local town centres but quite the opposite happened.

Neighbouring local streets now suffer higher levels of dangerous rat-running from the extra car journeys generated by this urban motorway.

And local neighbourhoods are divided by the roads physical presence, much like they are in Barnet, where a protest ride will take place this weekend.

And as LCC's Gerhard Weiss says: "Are the communities in Leyton and Leytonstone really wallowing in cash following the construction of this concrete corridor that carves up their communities?

"If they are, they must be very modest people because they don't show their wealth very much."

When we meet with Transport for London planners there's still a worrying acceptance that building roads automatically generates wealth.

And a recent Department for Transport report predicts large increases in motor traffic in coming years. 

These predictions ignore the reality, which has seen widespread behaviour change and falling motor traffic in London, since the early 1990s, in times of prosperity as well as recession.

Numerous studies predict extra road capacity creates journeys but not growth: as the Goverment advisory body SACTRA said in 1998:

"The pervasive, often implicit, assumption that the benefit of improved accessibility will always accrue to the target area may often be misplaced: the possibility of the net impact running counter to regeneration objectives cannot be ruled out." SACTRA 1998

Support local wealth-creation

Isn't a better model for wealth-creation encouraging sustainable local transport that contributes to the economy, improves people's health, quality of life, sense of community and wellbeing, and creates successful neighbourhoods?

The area around Broadway Market is a classic example of this.

On the other hand, a Silvertown tunnel (or 'Blackwall tunnel 3', as it should be named) would generate thousands of extra daily motor trips in Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Greenwich and Lewisham - boroughs that already suffer from too many cars.

For example, do we really want to see motor traffic at Bow roundabout doubled in the near future?

Make no mistake, 'Blackwall tunnel 3' is not a link for local communities; it's explicitly designed to double capacity for journeys by car that are fed by major arterial routes north and south of the river.

Yes, the Blackwall tunnel is congested at peak hours (see photo), but this is reason to find ways to reduce the number of motor journeys, instead of wrecking local communities.

What's certain is that if politicians follow these flawed DfT predictions, and create extra capacity on our roads, this will encourage more motor vehicles unnecessarily on to our streets.

It's deeply disappointing that these arguments have been won in the past (when road-building programmes were halted in the 1990s), but we might have to win them all over again 20 years later.