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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Ross Lydall

Car drivers face £4 toll to use Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels, TfL draft road signs suggest

Car drivers could be charged up to £4 to use the Blackwall tunnel or Silvertown tunnel, according to official documents.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has approved an updated request from Transport for London to erect road signs informing drivers that they will need to pay to use the tunnels from 2025.

At present the Blackwall tunnels – which carry traffic under the Thames in two two-lane tunnels, one northbound and one southbound – are free to use.

A draft TfL road sign that has been approved by Transport Secretary Mark Harper (TfL)

But a toll will be charged for the Blackwall tunnel when the Silvertown tunnel, which will also be tolled, opens in two years.

Both tunnels have to be tolled to prevent traffic diverting from one to the other.

The documents published on the Department for Transport website suggest the tunnels will be tolled between 6am and 10pm.

Motorcyclists will pay up to £3, car drivers up to £4 and other vehicles up to £8.50.

Drivers will apparently be charged for each crossing, not for a return journey.

Tunnel vision: how drivers will be warned of the toll (TfL)

However, the details contained on the signs can be varied – including the time the toll is enforced. In addition, “the numerals indicating the charges may be varied as appropriate,” the document states.

TfL insisted no decision had been made - and said the figures were simply “placeholders” used to illustrate the design layout of the signs.

Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is building the Silvertown tunnel and who oversees the Blackwall tunnel, has yet to set a figure to use the tunnels.

Confirmation of the toll amount is not expected until much closer to the Silvertown opening date.

However the charges are broadly in line with the Dart Charge levied on drivers to use the Dartford crossings. Car drivers pay £2.50 and larger vehicles £6.

Mr Khan has previously suggested that residents of Newham and Greenwich will receive a discount.

The latest design of the signs were approved by Mr Harper on Wednesday, September 20. It is understood that earlier versions of the signs were approved by the DfT last year.

Drivers will have to pay the fee online rather than at a toll booth.

Tunnel diversion sign (TfL)

It appears TfL has been granted the power to levy the toll under its congestion charging powers.

There will also be signs advising drivers that they are approaching a tunnel that they need to pay to use – and indicating how to divert to a toll-free alternative route.

Mr Khan has been accused of hypocrisy for building the Silvertown tunnel while campaigning globally on air pollution and climate change.

He says it will help reduce pollution at Blackwall tunnel, which is jammed on a daily basis, especially northbound.

A spokesperson for the Stop the Silvertown tunnel, which spotted the DfT approval of the road signs, said: “Ulez expansion faced fierce resistance - but it also had political support, because it was intended to reduce exisiting pollution.

“The proposed new toll on the Blackwall tunnel brings no benefits at all; it is there only to remove the new, extra traffic, congestion, pollution and CO2 emissions that will be generated by the Mayor’s own Silvertown tunnel.

Tunnel vision: work on the Silvertown tunnel is nearing completion (Ross Lydall)

“ The decision as to whether to toll Blackwall or not is a decision that will be made by the next mayor - and, right now, it is a lose/lose decision - either they will take the politically difficult step of charging motorists to use an existing crossing just to bring traffic and congestion back to the status quo, or they will decide not to charge, and allow traffic, congestion, pollution and CO2 to ramp up by up to 30 per cent, and public health to suffer as a result.

“The greener, fairer alternative we are advocating is to restrict Silvertown when it opens to just public transport and active travel only.”

A TfL spokesperson said: “In order to obtain necessary approvals for the new road signage required for the Silvertown tunnel, a submission for the potential signs has been made to the Department for Transport.

“No charges have been finalised yet and any times and costs within the submission are indicative to allow for approval to be obtained.

“The final charges will be made ahead of the Silvertown tunnel opening in 2025 once further modelling, including assessments on concessions, are completed.”

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