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Silvertown Tunnel

London, United Kingdom




5 years


£1 billion (expected)


United Kingdom
Project achievements

Economy boosted

Supporting the creation of thousands of new jobs

Environment benefitted

Reduces congestion and subsequent emissions from idling vehicles

Greater accessibility

Features new cycle link and two-way footbridge with step-free access

First new road crossing east of Tower Bridge in over 30 years

Silvertown Tunnel is going to be a 0.9mi (1.45km) long twin-bore tunnel passing underneath the River Thames in East London, connecting Silvertown with North Greenwich.

It’s being built to help alleviate congestion in the area, particularly through Blackwall Tunnel, which is currently one of two fixed routes between the Dartford Crossing and Tower Bridge.

It also aims to improve cross-river public transport options by allowing new zero-emission bus routes to cross the Thames.

Blackwall Tunnel originally opened in 1897. Due to its narrow design, it has become increasingly congested and inefficient, leading to delays, collisions and limited capacity for public transport as only single-deck buses can use the tunnel.

According to BuildUK, Silvertown Tunnel aims to “reduce congestion, improve journey times and make the surrounding area more attractive to businesses and residents, boosting the regional economy.”

The tunnel, which is being created with the largest tunnel boring machine (TBM) in the UK, will feature two lanes in each direction, one which will be dedicated for double-decker buses, coaches, and heavy goods vehicles.

Road user charging at the new Silvertown and existing Blackwall Tunnels will help to manage traffic levels.

The project will also facilitate improvements for pedestrians and cyclists, as it will also deliver a step-free access footbridge allowing people to cross from the A102 to the Thames Path safely, alongside a range of new walking and cycling routes around the tunnel portal.

Did you know …

  1. The TBM on the project has been named Jill in honour of Jill Viner, who in 1974 was the first woman to drive a London bus.

  2. It’s estimated that more than 100 apprentices will be trained throughout the project.

  3. A discount for using the tunnel will be available to low-income residents in the boroughs of Greenwich, Newham and Tower Hamlets as well as support for small local businesses.

How the Silvertown Tunnel is being built

The tunnel is being built using a TBM. Since construction started in 2020, worksites have been set up in Newham and Greenwich.

The site in Newham was the launching point for the TBM, where the machine started to dig out the southbound tunnel. To do so, the river wall had to be strengthened, which also improved flood defences.

Geotechnical surveys and in-river ground investigations have taken place.

A conveyor system has been set up to remove excavated materials from the site via barges along the River Thames – this also helps to reduce the project’s emissions and improve road safety in London, as it removes thousands of lorries from local roads.

The rotation chamber in Greenwich has now been excavated and is being prepared to receive the TBM. Once it breaks through, the TBM will be turned 180 degrees in stages to return and dig the northbound tunnel.

The retrieval chamber is also being created in Newham – this is where the machine will be disassembled once it’s done its job!

Designs for the walking, cycling and landscaping improvements are also being finalised as the team starts the wider highway works at the surface to tie the new tunnel into the existing road network.

The team will also construct new buildings above the tunnel portals which will house the tunnel’s operation and maintenance facilities.

Difference the project can make

The tunnel will relieve pressure on the existing Blackwall Tunnel, which is the only strategic road crossing of the River Thames in east London, where much of the city’s population growth in population and new jobs is expected to take place.

By adding another crossing at this location, journey times across Blackwall Tunnel are expected to be 20 minutes faster.

Transport for London (TfL) modelling has also shown that congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel will be effectively eliminated during peak hours, which will reduce emissions from idling cars stuck in traffic.

Furthermore, user charges will be introduced across Blackwall Tunnel and Silvertown Tunnel, which will help ensure that traffic levels across the local area are effectively managed. It will also help discourage unnecessary car journeys.

A range of further benefits for local residents will also help encourage greater public transport use – further reducing emissions in the area.

With the introduction of the tunnel, 20% of businesses in the area have said they’ll be able to take on more staff supporting the creation of thousands of new jobs.

The project is the first step in major regeneration planned on both sides of the river around the Greenwich Peninsula and the Silvertown area of the Royal Docks.

As part of this, the project has cleared many of the existing industrial sites, constructed new flood defences, and is creating new habitats to ensure a net-increase in bio-diversity across the area.

Once tunnel construction is complete, the construction site will be released to enable the development of new riverfront neighbourhoods.

Project milestones

According to TfL:

  • 2020: main construction starts
  • Spring 2022: TBM ‘Jill’ assembled
  • September 2022: tunnelling began southbound, towards Greenwich
  • Winter 2022/23: TBM turned around in Greenwich, tunnelling begins northwards
  • Throughout 2023: further traffic and environmental assessments to inform opening user charges and cross-river bus networks proposals developed
  • 2024: user charges finalised and account system delivered
  • 2025: planned opening for Silvertown Tunnel, including road user charging system and start of new bus routes operating

People who made it happen

  • Riverlinx CJV (Construction Joint Venture) made up of BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Construction and SK ecoplant.
  • Transport for London