Drivers will have to pay to use Blackwall Tunnel in 2025, Sadiq Khan confirms

26 September 2023, 12:34

Sadiq Khan has confirmed that the Blackwall Tunnel will be tolled
Sadiq Khan has confirmed that the Blackwall Tunnel will be tolled. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Drivers will have to pay to go through the Blackwall Tunnel, Sadiq Khan has said.

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The London mayor said Transport for London (TfL) would be bringing in the charge for the Thames to help pay for the new £2 billion Silvertown Tunnel, which will also be tolled when it opens.

Documents published last week appeared to show that drivers would be charged £4 for the Thames crossing between North Greenwich and Poplar.

But Mr Khan said the exact amount drivers would have to pay had not been set yet.

Thousands use the Blackwall Tunnel to drive into south London and south-east England on their commute every day. But Mr Khan said drivers should not be surprised about the new cost.

Read more: Drivers' fury as TfL set to impose toll on the Blackwall Tunnel - as Sadiq Khan risks another clash with motorists

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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Picture: Alamy

"There’s nothing sudden about it," the mayor told the Evening Standard. "The intention is for both the Silvertown tunnel and the Blackwall tunnel… to be tolled.

"What we don’t want to see is displacement as a consequence of one being tolled and not the other.

“Also, the [Silvertown] tunnel hasn’t been paid for using taxpayers’ money or the TfL budget. It’s being paid for by borrowing against future receipts coming in through the tunnels."

The Silvertown Tunnel, which is being built not far to the east of the Blackwall Tunnel, is due to open in 2025.

The entrance of the northbound approach to the Blackwall Tunnel
The entrance of the northbound approach to the Blackwall Tunnel. Picture: Alamy

The tunnel is being built to relieve traffic jams in the Blackwall Tunnel, which Mr Khan has described as "not fit for purpose". The 126-year-old Blackwall Tunnel was forced to close 2,767 times in the year leading up to last September, the most recent figures available.

Because of the lack of bridges in east London, the Blackwall Tunnel is the most easterly fixed road Thames crossing for vehicles in London.

But the Silvertown Tunnel has been controversial because of the extra air pollution its opponents fear it will cause.

Protest group Stop the Silvertown Tunnel said: “There is nothing to stop a future mayor removing tolls on Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels.

The Silvertown Tunnel is currently under construction
The Silvertown Tunnel is currently under construction. Picture: Alamy

"Both we and Greenwich council have legal advice showing that the toll regime as part of the scheme is not legally binding, and a future mayor could remove them leading to increased traffic, congestion and pollution directly caused by the new tunnel.

"In any case tolls do not necessarily remove excess traffic, as shown by the Dartford crossing. When the toll there was increased the traffic levels continued to increase.

"That is why we insist that alternative uses for the Silvertown tunnel - that is, alternatives to cars and lorries such as for walking, cycling, trams and other public transport - should be seriously looked into, as both Greenwich and Newham councils have called for."

Mr Khan pointed out that the Silvertown Tunnel would have a dedicated bus lane.

An illustration of where the Silvertown Tunnel will be in relation to the Blackwall Tunnel
An illustration of where the Silvertown Tunnel will be in relation to the Blackwall Tunnel. Picture: TfL

"At the same time, it will mean that people [like] electricians and plumbers who have got to use their vehicle won’t be stuck in traffic for hours and hours," he said.

The idea of charging for the Blackwall Tunnel was first floated by Boris Johnson, Mr Khan's Conservative predecessor in City Hall.

Susan Hall, the Conservative mayoral candidate, did not commit to removing the tolls if she were to be elected.

She said: "It is right that we scrutinise this to ensure London taxpayers and those who use the tunnels are getting value for money. Any new tolls need to be fair and proportionate."

The Woolwich Ferry is another east London river crossing
The Woolwich Ferry is another east London river crossing. Picture: Alamy

The tolls for the Blackwall Tunnel and Silvertown Tunnel mean that the nearest free river road crossing will be the Rotherhithe Tunnel, a few miles to the West, which links Rotherhithe on the south bank of the Thames with Limehouse to the north.

But the Rotherhithe tunnel is more than 100 years old, has height, width and weight restrictions and is often shut for maintenance.

The Woolwich Ferry, to the east of the Silvertown Tunnel, is also free but has height and weight restrictions, and is often closed at weekends and overnight.

The Blackwall Tunnel charge is likely to upset motorists who have already been stung by the imposition of Ulez across all of London. Drivers of non-compliant cars now have to pay £12.50 per day to use their vehicles in the capital.