Bramshot Avenue subway in line for upgrade from Silvertown Tunnel money

Siebert Road subway
The upgrade is designed to make the subway more pleasant and cycle-friendly

The subway linking Bramshot Avenue with Siebert Road is to get a £50,000 upgrade as part of measures to mitigate the impact of the forthcoming Silvertown Tunnel on the area, Greenwich Council documents reveal.

The revamp of the 50-year-old subway is among an expanded package of measures to go with the controversial river crossing between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks, which is due to open in late 2024 or early 2025. Work on the tunnel is due to begin by the end of this year.

A scrutiny panel of councillors rejected an earlier £349,000 package of “neighbourhood enhancements” which focused on expanding the current, limited, low emissions neighbourhood in east Greenwich in May. This has now been increased to £700,000.

There is very little for Charlton in the new package, but it does target some areas just outside – commuters who use Westcombe Park station will notice some difference by the time the work is finally done, which may not be until the tunnel is completed.

The new package includes £50,000 for improvements to Siebert Road subway, which links Westcombe Hill in Blackheath with Eastcombe Avenue in Charlton – a busy route for local schoolchildren and commuters using Westcombe Park station or buses to North Greenwich. It is partly aimed at making it safer for cyclists to use. Similar subways at the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout already permit cycling.

Improvements promised include “lighting improvements to the entrances and within the underpass itself, “planting on ramp approach to tunnel to enhance public realm and slow cycles”, “planting and environmental improvements on Siebert Road side to make link more appealing to users”.

Footbridge improvements

Another £50,000 will go on improvements to the footbridge over the A102 between Farmdale Road, east Greenwich, and Westcombe Park station. This will comprise of “lighting along the entirety of the bridge”, “resurfacing with buff anti-skid surfacing”, “repainting railings” and “planting where appropriate and minor bridge repairs”. 200m long 4m wide bridge.

Soap fans will recall the bridge from a 2005 episode of EastEnders…

The bulk of the extra cash, however, is going at the footbridge’s eastern end, with a £275,000 scheme to improve the approach to the bridge at Farmdale Road. Before the A102 was constructed in the late 1960s, this was the end of Westcombe Hill – and the road has barely been touched since it was severed decades ago.

Plans here appear to be encouraging a pedestrian and cycle route towards the Thames – arguably, this is something that perhaps should have been included in the Ikea planning agreements, which merely include signage along this particular route. They include “footway improvements, decluttering and planting on Farmdale Road”, “resurfacing of Farmdale Road”, “continuous footways on both Farmdale Rd and Aldeburgh Street”, “toucan/parallel [pedestrian/cycle] crossing shifted to ped/cyclist desire line into Aldeburgh Street”, “greening on both sides of the railway bridge”.

A further £75,000 is set aside for the decades-overdue screening of the western side of Farmdale Road from the A102 slip road.

Separately, a planned noise barrier for the Blackheath side of the A102 will be doubled in length so it runs from near Invicta School to the railway line at Westcombe Park, protecting neighbours of the dual carriageway in SE3 from road noise, following heavy lobbying from residents. No such protection is planned for the Charlton side, where there has been no lobbying.

The council paper discussing the improvements can be read here, full details of the improvements can be seen here. (See also From The Murky Depths’ take on this.)

Siebert Road subway graffiti
Occasional graffiti has livened up the bleak subway under the A102

Council still backs the tunnel – despite what councillors said

The tunnel, which is backed by Greenwich, Bexley and Tower Hamlets councils, but opposed by Newham, Lewisham, Southwark and Hackney, was given planning consent by transport secretary Chris Grayling in May 2018.

An attempt to change Greenwich’s stance on the tunnel was defeated in an internal meeting of the council’s ruling Labour group last week, in part thanks to two Peninsula ward councillors – Stephen Brain and Denise Scott-McDonald – going back on their previous opposition to the tunnel. Neither would comment on their change of heart on the tunnel, but The Charlton Champion has been told that Brain changed his mind because of the increase to the mitigation package.

The elephant in the room – the A102 roundabout

Nothing in this agreement deals with the dangerous junction between Woolwich Road and the Blackwall Tunnel approach. It was originally due to be dealt with as part of plans for Cycle Superhighway 4 to Woolwich, which was then cut back to Deptford Creek Bridge.

City Hall has pledged to deal with the junction by “late 2023”, according to papers released by the mayor’s office last year.

Woolwich Road roundabout
Two cyclists have died at the Woolwich Road roundabout in the past decade

Now the A206 will be covered a by a new, separate plan for a cycle route between Greenwich and Woolwich. A consultation earlier this year on removing Greenwich town centre’s one-way system was the first step in that process. (Locals will get a preview of how this could work on Sunday, when The Big Half half-marathon closes part of the town centre.)

City Hall’s walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman said on Tuesday: “I’m excited about that, because unlocking that town centre unlocks the cycle route down to Woolwich. We now have the funding for that cycle route and we are working with the borough to deliver that.

“The plans are working well, it is unlocking the next phase and the money is in place to do that. The designs are being worked up for that new route all the way down to Woolwich.

“The Angerstein roundabout will be part of that. Greenwich is working up an interim scheme to make it a bit safer.

“But, as part of the longer route from the town centre to Woolwich, that is a core focus. That and the Woolwich Ferry roundabout are two hotspots for road danger.

“I’m seeing initial plans to make that [the Angerstein roundabout] safer for cyclists and pedestrians, at the moment it is a horrible area. That work is ongoing, the new [council] leadership are really behind it, it’s very exciting.”

While the flyover dates from the construction of the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach in 1969, the original layout of the junction featured a more complex arrangement with traffic lights and longer slip roads from the A102 to the south. The current roundabout dates from a reworking of the junction about 10 years later, which itself had traffic lights installed in the late 1990s.

Will Norman material from Tom Bull, the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. See how The Charlton Champion uses material from the Local Democracy Reporter Service.


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Silvertown Tunnel consultation comes to Charlton House: Six reasons why the toxic tunnel’s a rotten idea

A102 jam
Just another soutbound jam on the A102 past Eastcombe Avenue. The Silvertown Tunnel will make this worse

The Silvertown Tunnel – the planned £1bn new road between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks – hasn’t been mentioned much on here, because this site’s main writer has banged on about it a lot over there and also helped found the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign. I’d be boring myself, not just you, if I banged on about here too.

But with the “final” consultation into the scheme in full swing, TfL is taking its promotional roadshow to Charlton House on Saturday, between 12noon and 5pm. (It’ll also be there between 12noon-7pm on Thursday 26 November.) It’s fortunate TfL is coming to Charlton at all – documents released to this website under the Freedom of Information Act show that it wanted to go to Mycenae House, Blackheath, while Greenwich Council tried to suggest The Woolwich Centre. Charlton seems to have been a happy compromise.

This isn’t going to be even an attempt at fence-sitting. Whether you’re a resident who’s sick of fumes and jams, or a driver who just wants to get from A to B – or both, as about half of us are – then the Silvertown Tunnel is a dreadful idea. This toxic tunnel is the biggest threat to the area’s environment in many years.

You might believe that public transport is the area’s biggest priority, or you might want to see a new road built elsewhere (be careful what you wish for). But the Silvertown Tunnel is a failure from both a tree-hugging and a petrolhead point of view. Here’s why.

1. It’ll make our roads busier. It’s a well-known fact, and one that TfL concedes, that new roadbuilding has an unfortunate habit of generating new traffic. It suddenly becomes a bit easier to drive to Stratford Westfield than shop more locally, then lots of people do it too, then… you’re back at square one. TfL seeks to deter new traffic (and pay off that billion quid) by slapping a toll on not just the new tunnel, but that Blackwall Tunnel it sits next to. This is a) spending £1bn and causing an awful lot of disruption, then crossing your fingers and hoping you don’t screw it up, and b) not very fair on anyone who really does have to drive through the pipe, charging them for a journey that others in London get to do for free. Previously, TfL has admitted to a 20% increase in traffic on the approach roads – all that’s got to come from somewhere. A suppressed Greenwich Council report admitted the tunnel would overwhelm local roads.

2. It depends too heavily on the A102. The Silvertown Tunnel is aimed at curing jams approaching the northbound Blackwall Tunnel, which have blighted the area for at least the past 35 years. But it doesn’t consider the effect heading southbound, where queues through the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout are commonplace. Last Thursday, a burst watermain at Falconwood caused congestion back through Eltham, back through Kidbrooke, and over the Woolwich Road flyover. Extra traffic generated by a Silvertown crossing would make these queues far worse. (And we’ll still get it in the neck whenever the Dartford Crossing has problems, as is happening right now.)

3. Air quality in Charlton is already foul. Studies from both the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign and the Charlton Central Residents Association have already made clear that we’re breathing illegally polluted air. At Bramshot Avenue in January 2014, NtST measured 104 microgrammes of nitrogren dioxide per cubic metre, next to a subway used by scores of children to get to school. The EU legal limit is 40µg/m³. On Woolwich Road, close to where M&S has since been built, the level was 76µg/m³. Even in residential areas, quality is bad – CCRA recorded 54µg/m³ outside Fossdene school in February 2015, along with 38µg/m³ in sleepy Elliscombe Road. Some of Greenwich Council’s offical statistics (up to 2013) are also available. Tunnel backers will tell you that it’s about cleaning up the air by getting traffic moving – but by increasing traffic on local roads, this aim is likely to backfire.

Charlton Central Residents' Association's figures over a limited area from February 2015. The EU limit is 40, although anything in the 30s isn't great either, frankly.
Charlton Central Residents’ Association’s figures over a limited area from February 2015. The EU limit is 40, although anything in the 30s isn’t great either, frankly.
The No to Silvertown Tunnel results from January 2014.
The No to Silvertown Tunnel results from January 2014.

4. The tolling really hasn’t been thought through properly. We don’t have much experience of toll roads in this country. And judging by some of TfL’s background documents, it doesn’t have much of an idea of who uses Blackwall to go where and why. Put these two together, and you’ve got a problem. The only comparable case to compare with is Dartford, which is also heavily congested. It also appears tolling won’t be taking place at weekends – leaving Greenwich Ikea and Stratford Westfield to generate even more queues.

5. More HGVs on our roads. Sick of heavy lorries thundering through our streets? The Silvertown Tunnel will have a special HGV (and bus) lane so it can attract the lorries that can’t use the Blackwall Tunnel, before depositing them on the north side where they’ll have to find their way through several sets of traffic lights to find the A12 again. A new tunnel means more lorries at a time when we need less. (Hackney Council is objecting to the scheme on these grounds.)

6. If the tunnel is a disaster, we’re stuck with it – and its jams. Because the tunnel’s dressed up as a common-sense scheme – and what monster is against a scheme to remove traffic jams? – there’s a likelihood that many people and some politicians are sleepwalking into this. Even if Blackwall Tunnel jams are freed up for a few years, all that traffic’s got to go somewhere, and some other places will be jammed up instead. It could be Woolwich Road, it could be Greenwich town centre. TfL plans to build its way out of trouble by building new crossings at Gallions Reach and Belvedere – but what happens if they get cancelled? Curing jams is difficult. There’s no easy answer to the Blackwall queues. But just jumping for the first thing someone offers you is deeply irresponsible – and could have irrevocable consequences for this area’s future.

Want more arguments? Here’s a Silvertown Tunnel mythbusting guide.

So, it’s worth you signing up to the consultation and saying no. Contrary to what some might tell you, the tunnel isn’t a done deal – the next mayor can cancel it as soon as he or she takes office. You might like to tell Sadiq Khan and/or Zac Goldsmith you’re opposed. And tell your local councillors, MP and assembly members too. (Matt Pennycook wrote about his scepticism last year.)

Finally, there’s also a public meeting in Greenwich on 12 November, where you can find out more about the scheme and why it’s a dreadful idea. It’s at the Forum, and starts at 7.30pm.

No to Silvertown Tunnel poster

Pollution in SE7: Silvertown Tunnel public meeting tomorrow

Silvertown Tunnel public meeting, 16 October
You may have heard about London mayor Boris Johnson’s proposals to build a new Silvertown Tunnel – effectively a third Blackwall Tunnel – between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. It’s likely this would attract more traffic to the area, making Charlton’s roads even more polluted.

During the summer, a couple of the Charlton Champion’s contributors took part in an air pollution monitoring study. The results are worrying – with EU air quality limits being broken on both Woolwich Road and Charlton Road, and with levels at Fossdene School only just under the limit.

There’s a public meeting tomorrow at 7pm at the Forum at Greenwich, Trafalgar Road, London SE10 9EQ. Speakers are transport consultant John Elliott, the Campaign for Better Transport’s Sian Berry, King’s College London air quality expert Dr Ian Mudway and Clean Air London’s Simon Birkett. If you can, please come along and find out why the tunnel’s a bad idea for drivers, and a bad idea for Charlton reisidents.

There’s more about the study on the No to Silvertown Tunnel website, and extra details and opinion over at 853.