Mayor calls for new measures to secure the success of London's roads

04 February 2016
  • Two new east-west cross-city tunnels to reduce congestion by up to 20 per cent and save the London economy £1bn each year


  • Smaller tunnels and ‘flyunders’ in locations around the capital to unlock land for thousands of jobs and homes, while cutting congestion and improving the environment


  • Devolution of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) to ensure revenue is reinvested in the capital’s roads


  • Looking at the potential for greater management of freight to improve safety and reduce congestion and emissions


  • Transport for London Board approve work on planning submission for Silvertown Tunnel


With London’s population forecast to grow from 8.6m people to 10m by 2030, today (4 February) the Mayor of London set out wide ranging plans for the long-term improvements he believes will be required to ensure the capital’s roads are able to cope with this growth. The Mayor and TfL have been considering the potential for different types of measures including a network of congestion-busting tunnels, incentives to improve freight movement, and changes to the way Londoners pay for road use.


During his term in office, the Mayor has created a major £4bn roads programme for London, the largest investment in the capital’s roads in a generation. This has included an unprecedented £1b investment in cycling, new major projects to transform dozens of key junctions across the city, the rollout of world-leading technological innovations to get more capacity out of the road network, and an urgently-needed maintenance and renewals programme for London’s aging road network.


As a result, London’s road network has been able to support the city’s rapid population growth and intensifying development. However, the Mayor has set out further measures that will be needed looking forward to manage the extra one million trips per day that are being added to the capital’s transport network every five years. If left unmanaged, congestion could potentially increase by 60 per cent over the next 15 years in central London, 25 per cent in inner London and 15 per cent in outer London unless these strategic plans are put in place.


Last year the Mayor asked Transport for London to look into the potential for new tunnels to relieve congestion in London. Today he set out plans for the preferred option that has emerged from this work, two major east-west cross-city tunnels. Transport for London has now been tasked with carrying out further detailed feasibility studies into these new tunnels, which could reduce congestion by up to 20 per cent in central London and attract investment to the areas above them, whilst radically improving the quality of the local environment and creating new space on the city surface for pedestrians, cyclists and buses. Potential ‘routes’ have now been identified for these new tunnels, drawing on experience from other cities such as Stockholm and Boston. 


A number of smaller tunnels and ‘flyunders’ across London have also been identified that would see roads moved underground, unlocking land at the surface for thousands of new homes and open space.  As an example, two locations – the A13 in Barking and the A3 at Tolworth would have the potential to release land for up to 6,000 homes combined, with a broader significant regeneration impact across a wider surrounding area.


The Mayor has also called on the Government to consider devolving the revenue from Vehicle Excise Duty to London. This would allow the Mayor to ensure that money collected from London’s road users is directly invested into the capital’s roads rather than diverted into general national tax revenue. It would also address the fact that none of the £500m per annum raised from VED on London-registered vehicles is currently spent on the capital’s roads.


Transport for London has also initiated work to explore how the logistical burden of several charges could be eased. With schemes such as the Congestion Charge and Low Emission Zone (LEZ) already in place, the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) being implemented in 2020, and the proposed charges on the Blackwall and future Silvertown tunnels, the Mayor believes there could be an opportunity to simplify payments through a more integrated approach.  


TfL will examine whether charges could be integrated to form a single, more sophisticated method of paying the road use in the capital, without charging motorists more. Combined with devolution of VED, a new system could simultaneously address London’s particular challenges, e.g. congestion and air pollution, make drivers’ lives easier with a single payment mechanism whilst ensuring they do not pay more overall than they currently do.


The Mayor has also highlighted the need to look at the impacts of the increasing amount of freight traffic on London’s roads. Over 90% of all freight in London is transported by road, and during the morning peak period 30% of all central London traffic is freight related.  The number of vans on London’s roads increased by 10% between 2011 and 2014.  Responding to calls from a number of quarters for better management of freight movement in the city, the Mayor has asked Transport for London to look at how freight coming into the city could be better managed, making it easier for deliveries to happen while decongesting the capital’s roads. This will include exploring in detail a range of options for banning or charging certain freight vehicle types at certain times of day. It will also consider what further incentives could be put in place to support more efficient use by freight of road space, such as consolidation centres.


The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP, said: “London is booming and, as our great capital thrives, our ambitions for the veins and arteries that keep our city alive must grow with it. Around eight of every ten journeys in London are made using our roads – whether by car, taxi, motorbike, bus, cycle, foot, or freight – which is why it is vital that we think big. We must deliver long-term solutions that will not just make the most of the space we have for road users, but bring environmental and amenity improvements to local areas. I am proud of the many congestion-busting measures we have introduced in my term in office, such as lane rental for roadworks, automating traffic lights, cutting delays from disruption through more effective and efficient use of police resource, and investing in decongesting key junctions and corridors. Our major programme of capital investment in the city’s roads is transforming neighbourhoods across the city, making our roads safer, and cleaning up our air. But we need to go further. By pushing forward strategic initiatives we are outlining today, we will lay the foundation for the next wave of improvements to everyone’s experience of the road network across the city.”


The Mayor has asked Transport for London to:


  • Further develop strategic road tunnels: Latest analysis from TfL suggests that two cross-city tunnels could reduce congestion by up to 20 per cent in central London, provide £1bn per year savings through journey time reliability alone and free up substantial space for new homes, walking, cycling, public transport and greenery. The first tunnel, known as the Northern Cross City Corridor, has been investigated by TfL and would run from the A40 at Park Royal to the A12 at Hackney Wick. Further feasibility work is currently underway to focus on alignment and portal locations, as well as looking at alternative options including an orbital tunnel. Such a tunnel could be built and opened by the mid to late 2030s and funded through road user charges. A second tunnel could potentially run from the A4 in Chiswick to the A13 in Beckton.


  • Bring forward a series of transformational “flyunders”: Feasibility studies and business cases are underway this year for nine mini-tunnel or flyunder locations which have the greatest potential to unlock housing and provide significant regeneration benefits. These could provide new land for walking, cycling, new housing and public space, developing new areas of London and relieving congestion. A proposed 1.3km A13 Riverside Tunnel at Barking will not only improve traffic flow but transform a severely blighted area, creating a new neighbourhood of over 5,000 new homes and acting as a catalyst for the building of another 28,300 homes in London Riverside, while creating over 1,200 new jobs and unlocking significant business and commercial growth in the surrounding area. It is anticipated that a significant portion of the funding would be generated by the tunnel itself and the housing it would enable.


  • Call on the Government to devolve Vehicle Excise Duty: If London retained the city’s share of Vehicle Excise Duty it would ensure a significant funding stream to be able to dramatically improve the capital’s roads. VED from the 2.9m registered vehicles in London equates to £500m in revenue each year. The Mayor has asked TfL to explore whether that revenue could ultimately be integrated with other charges to form a single, easier way of paying road use without asking London motorists to pay any more.


  • Develop new policy options to better manage freight in London: To further reduce congestion, emissions and improve safety, work  is underway to fully understand the potential benefits and challenges of a freight ban or charge at certain times of day for certain vehicle types.


London’s roads and streets account for 80 per cent of the public space in London, 80 per cent of all journeys and 90 per cent of all goods moved. Every year 3.8 billion journeys are made by lorries, cars, motorbikes and taxis within the capital – more than 400 journeys for every Londoner. In public transport there are nearly twice as many trips by bus as by Tube and trips by other forms of transport, including walking and cycling are increasingly rapidly.


This is why the Mayor has continuously worked over the past 8 years to transform London’s road network. His key initiatives during his time as Mayor have included:


  • Significantly expanding the use of innovative technology on the roads, including the world-leading ‘Split Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique’ (SCOOT) to get more capacity out of junctions through traffic light timings. The introduction of SCOOT has proven to reduce delays by up to 12 per cent at each junction where it is installed. By May 2016, almost 4,000 sites will be using this technology across London – double the number since the Mayor came into office in May 2008. By 2018, more than three-quarters of London’s 6000 junctions will be upgraded with SCOOT, helping to reduce congestion.


  • Creating a ‘Lane Rental’ scheme which creates new financial incentives to shift roadworks out of the busiest times at the busiest locations. It is already seeing over 90 per cent of work in lane rental areas carried out during quieter periods – massively reducing disruption on the roads. All surplus money raised through the Lane Rental scheme is reinvested into measures to further tackle congestion.


  • Setting up the first-ever Roads Task Force, an independent body representing a broad range of road users, to carry out a major strategic review of London’s roads strategy and propose long-term solutions to improve the capital’s roads. It published a final report in July 2013 and TfL’s programme of work has followed on from this report.


  • Increasing the overall level of focus and resource on roads enforcement to decongest London’s roads and make them safer. This has included for example Operation Safeway, involving thousands of officers, zero-tolerance ‘congestion busting’ road corridor teams, and halving the average time to reopen roads after major accidents.


  • Bringing forward a number of new east London river crossings to support growth in east London and tackle growing congestion. This includes for example the Silvertown Tunnel, and crossings at Belvedere and Gallions Reach – all underway to be delivered within the next 10 years.


  • Creating a new £4 billion Roads Modernisation programme – the biggest investment in roads in a generation – which is seeing the city’s roads undergo major improvements. These include the renewal of key road infrastructure like the Hammersmith flyover, a step-change in cycling investment, and the modernisation of major roads and junctions such as Henlys Corner and Fiveways Croydon. It also includes dramatic improvements to out-dated gyratory systems such as Elephant & Castle, Wandsworth town centre and Kings Cross. These traffic dominated environments, relics of 1960’s urban planning, are being transformed, delivering enhancements for general traffic, cyclists, pedestrians and the public realm.


Richard de Cani, TfL’s Managing Director of Planning, said: “With London’s population set to soar over the next few decades we need to take a different long term approach to how we use London’s road space, to manage capacity and better utilise valuable land for housing and creating public spaces. The planning we do today, including exploring better ways to fund vital infrastructure, will benefit Londoners for generations to come, helping make London a better place in which to live, work and travel.”


An exhibition at New London Architecture (NLA) provides members of the public with the opportunity to have their say on a number of possibilities for the future of London’s roads. Streets Ahead: The future of London’s roads runs at NLA Galleries until February 24.


It was also confirmed today that work on the vital Silvertown Tunnel in east London could begin as early as 2018 and be fully operational by 2022/23. The Transport for London Board has given the green light for the submission of a Development Consent Order to Government for permission to start construction.


The Silvertown Tunnel, linking the Greenwich Peninsula with the Royal Docks, would help support the delivery of thousands of new homes and jobs and is vital to relieving pressure at the Blackwall Tunnel, which is currently east London’s only major road crossing.  As well as reducing congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel, the Silvertown Tunnel will enable TfL to radically improve bus services in the area, as only one bus route currently crosses the river east of Tower Bridge.


The Silvertown Tunnel will enable up to 37 buses per hour to cross the river in each direction, providing an important public transport link that will connect communities such as Stratford and Canary Wharf north of the river, with Eltham and Charlton in the south. 

More than 4,000 people responded to a public consultation by Transport for London on the plans, which ran for eight weeks from early October 2015, with 58 per cent of respondents supporting the construction of the tunnel and 31 per cent opposed.


The plans for Silvertown form part of the Mayor’s wider proposals for the future of river crossings in the Capital. The vision, which was outlined last year in TfL’s Connecting the Capital report, proposes 13 new tunnels and bridges built across the Thames – increasing the total number between Imperial Wharf and Dartford by more than a third, and the number for pedestrians and cyclists by nearly 50 per cent.

Notes to editors

  • Images and a brochure accompanying the ‘Streets Ahead: The future of London’s roads’ exhibition are available from the Mayor of London’s press office via the contact details below.

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