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Silvertown Tunnel, London, UK


The Silvertown Tunnel is a proposed new motor tunnel under the River Thames, London, that is set to open in 2025 [1]. TfL (Transport for London) states its primary objective is to relieve traffic from the heavily congested Blackwall Tunnel [1]. However, the project has been met with strong resistance from local activists and environmental groups who are calling on Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, to halt the plans. 

The tunnel is projected to start in Newham, North-East London. Newham is a multicultural borough that suffers some of the worst rates of poverty and inequality in the city. It also has the highest level of air pollution in the United Kingdom [2]. Project planners claim that the tunnel will not add more vehicles to the roads or increase pollution in the borough, however this has been heavily criticised, with counter-claims it will actually increase traffic by 15-30% [3].

Since the plan was first proposed, community groups, environmentalists, trade unions, political groups and residents have mobilised in resistance to the project. They have formed a coalition under the overarching group ‘Stop Silvertown Tunnel’ [4].  This group has been active and gradually expanding since 2013. Its latest campaign in February 2022 was publicly supported by over 50 groups, and saw hundreds of residents take to the streets in protest. Despite this resistance, plans to start tunnelling are due to start imminently in summer 2022 [1].

 In February 2022, more than 125 health professionals signed a letter calling the project “an assault on the health of East Londoners”, that would “funnel traffic, including heavy freight vehicles, into areas of deprivation” [5]. Local grassroots network ‘Mums for Lungs’ have similar concerns, and have been holding open meetings to discuss resistance to the project [6]. Their primary concern is the health of young children in the area, who already suffer disproportionate levels of respiratory conditions compared to children in other parts of the city [7]. 

Environmental groups, including Extinction Rebellion, have also publicly opposed the plans. They state that the construction of the tunnel will make it impossible for London to meet its climate pledges. In contrast to the policy makers claims, a 2020 report made by Simon Pirani, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, claims that the tunnel will lead to increased dependence on car use, causing higher rates of pollution and greater social inequalities [8]. Extinction Rebellion have made several actions against Silvertown Tunnel, such as three members locking themselves to a rig in the middle of the Thames [9], a protest outside the headquarters of Macquarie Capital [10], and a walk from Newham to City Hall to deliver a letter to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan [11].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Silvertown Tunnel, London, UK
Country:United Kingdom
State or province:London
Location of conflict:London
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Length: 1.4 km + 0.6 km of access ramps

Amount of excavation: 600,000 m3

TBM details:

Diameter: 11.91 metres across

Length: approximately 82 metres

Weight: 1,800 tonnes

Project area:100
Level of Investment for the conflictive project2,500,000,000.00
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:600,000 - 1,500,000
Start of the conflict:24/12/2012
Company names or state enterprises:Riverlinx SPV from United Kingdom - SPV for contract
Riverlinx LTD from United Kingdom - Consortium comprising comprising Cintra, Aberdeen Standard Investments, BAM PPP, Macquarie Capital and SK E&
Cintra from Spain - Construction
Abrdn (Abrdn) from United Kingdom - Investment
Invesis from Netherlands - Investment
Ferrovial Construction UK from Spain - Joint Construction, Design and Civil Engineering alongside BAM Nuttall and SK E&C
BAM Nuttall from United Kingdom - Joint Construction, Design and Civil Engineering alongside Ferrovial Construction UK and SK E&C
SK Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd. ((SK E&C)) from Republic of Korea
Riverlinx CJV from United Kingdom - Construction Joint Venture
Macquarie Capital from Australia - investment
Relevant government actors:TfL - Transport for London
Mayor of London
Department for Transport
British Government
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Stop the Silvertown Tunnel -

Mums for lungs -

Extinction Rebellion -

Transport Action Network -

Speak Out Woolwich -

Network for Clean Air -

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Noise pollution
Potential: Air pollution, Global warming
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood


Project StatusUnder construction
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The tunnel is being constructed and there are no plans for it to be paused or stopped

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[7] Gustafson, G. (2020). Children breathe their own air: Reflections on children’s geographies, the urban political ecology of air pollution, and ongoing participatory action research with undergraduates near an east London primary school. Area, 53, 106 - 113.

[1] Transport for London - Silvertown Tunnel. (Online, last accessed 03.05.2022).

[2] Noble, Will. (2020). Newham Has 'Most Toxic Air In The UK', Study Finds. The Londonist, 03.02.2020. (Online, last accessed 03.05.2022).

[3] Mortimer, J. (2022). TfL bosses 'can't push for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and the Silvertown Tunnel at the same time'. My London, 22.02.2022. (Online, last accessed 03.05.2022)

[4] Stop Silvertown Tunnel. (Online, last accessed 03.05.2022).

[5] Gayle, G. (2022). Doctors urge Sadiq Khan to cancel Silvertown tunnel over pollution fears. The Guardian, 24.02.2022. (Online, last accessed 03.05.2022).

[9] Busby, M. & Murray, J. (2020). Three Extinction Rebellion activists held after Thames rig protest. The Guardian, 25.07.2020. (Online, last accessed 03.05.2022).

[10]. Newsflare (2021). Climate Activists from Extinction Rebellion gather in London to demand end to Silvertown Tunnel project. MSN, 29.10.2021. (Online, last accessed 03.05.2022).

[11] Transport for London. Silvertown Tunnel. In Transport for London website, visited on 28/06/2022

[11] Talora, J. (2021). Silvertown Tunnel: Extinction Rebellion protest at City Hall. Ealing Times, 22.04.2021. (Online, last accessed 03.05.2022).

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[6] Mums for Lungs Facebook Page, 'Open meeting: How to Stop the Silvertown Tunnel' . Shared 20.01.2022.

[8]. Transport Action Network, Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition, Speak Out Woolwich, Extinction Rebellion Greenwich (2020). The Silvertown tunnel is in a hole, so STOP DIGGING Report.

Meta information

Contributor:Emily Earnshaw - [email protected]
Last update28/06/2022
Conflict ID:5907



Silvertown Tunnel Route Proposal

Source: Transport for London:

Protestors at the 'Stop Silvertown Tunnel' demonstration, 2022

Photo credit: Stop Silvertown Tunnel Source:

Protestors hold signs: 'This air is killing us', 'Our kids our air'.

(Photo credit: