The problems we are trying to solve

Closed 1 Feb 2013

Opened 29 Oct 2012


Our objective is to reduce the barrier effect of the river and improve access to jobs and services, and new and improved river crossings would help us do this.

From listening to individuals, businesses, and other stakeholders who live, work or do business in East and South East London, and by analysing the data we have on traffic and congestion patterns, we have identified four key problems that we need to address. The four problems are:

1. Regular long delays at the Blackwall Tunnel, particularly during peak times.

2. Frequent closures of the Blackwall Tunnel and the impact of closures on the surrounding road network.

3. The need to replace the Woolwich Ferry infrastructure as it nears the end of its operating life.

4. The need for additional road connections to support growth.


Problem 1: Regular long delays at the Blackwall Tunnel

The most recent parts of the Blackwall Tunnel were constructed in the 1960s, and it now carries far more traffic than it was designed for. As a result, delays are a routine occurrence, and vehicles regularly spend around 20 minutes queuing to enter the tunnel. The congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel is among the worst in London, and many local businesses regard it as their biggest transport challenge.

Problem 2: Closures of the Blackwall Tunnel

We have to close the Blackwall Tunnel at short notice well over a thousand times each year. Often we shut the tunnel because we need to escort away vehicles which are too tall to use it, or to remove dangerous debris from the road. In these cases, the closure may only last a couple of minutes – but because so many vehicles need to use the crossing, even a very short closure can delay a lot of people.

Occasionally, serious incidents like accidents lead to longer closures. Because the Blackwall Tunnel is such an important route, long closures like these can cause problems right across East and South East London. We need to ensure that the road network is able to cope better when closures occur.

We have taken steps to reduce the frequency of these problems, including installing a new system for detecting tall vehicles. However, the fundamental problem is that the tunnel is too small and there are not enough alternative crossings nearby to carry traffic across the river when something does go wrong.

Problem 3: The ageing Woolwich Ferry infrastructure, and the need to plan for a replacement

The Woolwich Ferry provides a useful service for both local and longer-distance traffic, but it is nearing the end of its operational life. Because of its age, it is becoming costly to operate and maintain and often needs to be closed for maintenance work. When it is closed or service is reduced, people have to travel further or wait longer to cross the river. We need to plan now for a replacement to take over when the life of the current infrastructure expires.

Additionally, because of where it is located, traffic queuing to board the ferry can cause congestion on the roads on the north and south side of the river, delaying bus services. The ferry can also cause long delays on the busy A206 – affecting large numbers of people travelling on this important route through South East London.

Problem 4: The need for additional road connections to support growth

In the eastern part of London, access to jobs and services in the Royal Docks, Thamesmead, and Beckton is hampered by a shortage of cross-river connections. Additional crossings for vehicles would help make these areas more attractive places to live, work, or do business.

A lack of connections also means that a lot of traffic has to make long journeys, even between areas that are physically close to one another, and adds to congestion in inner London.

Resolving these four problems would reduce delays, improve reliability, increase the number of connections and support future economic growth.


  • Barking & Dagenham
  • Barnet
  • Bexley
  • Brent
  • Bromley
  • Camden
  • City of London
  • Croydon
  • Ealing
  • Enfield
  • Greenwich
  • Hackney
  • Hammersmith & Fulham
  • Haringey
  • Harrow
  • Havering
  • Hillingdon
  • Hounslow
  • Islington
  • Kensington & Chelsea
  • Kingston upon Thames
  • Lambeth
  • Lewisham
  • Merton
  • Newham
  • Redbridge
  • Richmond upon Thames
  • Southwark
  • Sutton
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Waltham Forest
  • Wandsworth
  • Westminster


  • Public
  • Stakeholders
  • Local residents
  • Local businesses
  • Schools
  • London Boroughs
  • Coach Operators


  • River Crossings