Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed that the Riverlinx consortium, comprising of Aberdeen Standard Investments, BAM PPP PGGM, Cintra, Macquarie Capital and SK Engineering & Construction (SK E&C), has been nominated as the preferred bidder to build the Silvertown Tunnel, the new river crossing under the Thames in east London.
The tunnel, which is set to be open in 2025, will link the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks together and, say TfL, will “effectively eliminate the serious congestion and reduce the associated environmental impacts caused by miles of standing traffic around the Blackwall Tunnel area.”
TfL also say the new tunnel will “remove barriers for people in east London needing to cross the river for work or leisure as well as improve the reliability and resilience of the road network for local residents, commuters and businesses.”
The tunnel is the first permanent road crossing to be constructed across the River Thames east of Tower Bridge since the QE2 Bridge at Dartford opened in October 1991.
The Blackwall Tunnel is the least reliable of London's crossings and was closed more than 700 times in 2017/18. The lack of alternative crossings east of Tower Bridge has resulted in almost constant congestion and the approach roads having some of the highest levels of air pollution in London.
TfL say a user charge at both the new tunnel and the existing Blackwall tunnel will ensure overall traffic volumes and associated carbon emissions do not increase. Both tunnels and the surrounding area will also fall within the expanded ultra low emission zone which will do more to improve air quality across all of inner London ahead of the new tunnel opening in 2025.
As well as improved access across the river, the project is also designed to improve access to key development sites on either side of the river, particularly in the Royal Docks area, and unlock major regeneration across Newham and Greenwich.
The project will be procured through a design, build, finance and maintain contract, with payments by TfL starting only once the tunnel is open and available for use. TfL will also be able to reduce payments should the tunnel not meet certain key standards, such as availability for use by traffic and physical condition.
TfL say that funding the project this way “not only shifts financial risks onto the private sector, but also incentivises them to deliver the scheme as efficiently as possible.”
Throughout the summer, the consortium will work to confirm financial arrangements with lenders in respect to the project and set up the supply chain. Only once these are all agreed will TfL award them the contract for the project.
Construction and maintenance costs will be covered via a user charge on both the new tunnel and the existing Blackwall Tunnel. This user charge is a legal requirement as part of the planning approvals and therefore will need to be implemented when the tunnel opens. The exact charge levels for various types of vehicles using the tunnel will be decided closer to the opening date.
Alex Williams, director of city planning at TfL said: “The need for more river crossings in east London, to unlock growth and give residents and businesses better access to jobs and services, has been clear for decades. The Silvertown Tunnel, which is vital to support London's economy, has been designed to resolve the existing congestion problem around Blackwall, improve overall air quality and enable new cross-river bus routes to be introduced.”