Boris proposes East-West road tunnels

The Mayor of London has proposed two massive road tunnels under central London to relieve congestion, one beginning at Park Royal, and the other in Chiswick.

The proposals come amid a number of proposals which would be funded by a combination of user charges and the retention by the Mayor of vehicle excise duty charges on London cars.

The Mayor says that if left unmanaged, congestion could potentially increase by 60 per cent over the next 15 years in central London, 25 per cent in inner London and 15 per cent in outer London unless these strategic plans are put in place.

In 2015 the Mayor asked Transport for London to look into the potential for new tunnels to relieve congestion in London. Now he has set out plans for the preferred option that has emerged from this work, two major east-west cross-city tunnels.

Transport for London has now been tasked with carrying out further detailed feasibility studies into these new tunnels, which the Mayor believes could reduce congestion by up to 20 per cent in central London. Potential ‘routes’ have now been identified for these new tunnels, drawing on experience from other cities such as Stockholm and Boston.

A number of smaller tunnels and ‘flyunders’ across London have also been identified that would see roads moved underground, unlocking land at the surface for thousands of new homes and open space including the A13 in Barking and the A3 at Tolworth.

The Mayor has also called on the Government to consider devolving the revenue from Vehicle Excise Duty to London.

Transport for London has also initiated work to explore how the logistical burden of several charges could be eased. With schemes such as the Congestion Charge and Low Emission Zone (LEZ) already in place, the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) being implemented in 2020, and the proposed charges on the Blackwall and future Silvertown tunnels, the Mayor believes there could be an opportunity to simplify payments through a more integrated approach.

TfL will examine whether charges could be integrated to form a single, more sophisticated method of paying the road use in the capital, without charging motorists more. Combined with devolution of VED, a new system could simultaneously address London’s particular challenges, e.g. congestion and air pollution, make drivers’ lives easier with a single payment mechanism whilst ensuring they do not pay more overall than they currently do.

The Mayor has also highlighted the need to look at the impacts of the increasing amount of freight traffic on London’s roads. Over 90% of all freight in London is transported by road, and during the morning peak period 30% of all central London traffic is freight related. The number of vans on London’s roads increased by 10% between 2011 and 2014. The Mayor has asked Transport for London to look at how freight coming into the city could be better managed, making it easier for deliveries to happen while decongesting the capital’s roads. This will include exploring in detail a range of options for banning or charging certain freight vehicle types at certain times of day. It will also consider what further incentives could be put in place to support more efficient use by freight of road space, such as consolidation centres.

Boris Johnson said: “London is booming and, as our great capital thrives, our ambitions for the veins and arteries that keep our city alive must grow with it. Around eight of every ten journeys in London are made using our roads – whether by car, taxi, motorbike, bus, cycle, foot, or freight – which is why it is vital that we think big. We must deliver long-term solutions that will not just make the most of the space we have for road users, but bring environmental and amenity improvements to local areas.

“By pushing forward strategic initiatives we are outlining today, we will lay the foundation for the next wave of improvements to everyone’s experience of the road network across the city.”

The first east-west tunnel, known as the Northern Cross City Corridor, has been investigated by TfL and would run from the A40 at Park Royal to the A12 at Hackney Wick. Further feasibility work is currently underway to focus on alignment and portal locations, as well as looking at alternative options including an orbital tunnel. Such a tunnel could be built and opened by the mid to late 2030s and funded through road user charges. A second tunnel could potentially run from the A4 in Chiswick to the A13 in Beckton.

Boris’ plans also include a series of “flyunders”, projects putting flyovers or major roads underground and liberating the space they currently take up for development. Feasibility studies and business cases are underway this year for nine mini-tunnel or flyunder locations which have the greatest potential to unlock housing and provide significant regeneration benefits.

Richard de Cani, TfL’s Managing Director of Planning, said: “With London’s population set to soar over the next few decades we need to take a different long term approach to how we use London’s road space, to manage capacity and better utilise valuable land for housing and creating public spaces. The planning we do today, including exploring better ways to fund vital infrastructure, will benefit Londoners for generations to come, helping make London a better place in which to live, work and travel.”


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