Proposed new tunnels for the capital will not cause a net increase in traffic and could be paid for with the ring-fencing of stamp duty or London-wide road charging, Transport for London (TfL) has suggested.
It did acknowledge however that seamless integration with its existing traffic management systems will be needed.
Digging in a hole? Campaigners worry if TfL is on the right road
Richard de Cani, managing director of planning, told a stakeholder event that TfL was still looking at plans for three strategic tunnels, including the orbital tunnel first proposed by mayor Boris Johnson and two cross-city routes, as well as several smaller tunnels.
But he said cross-city tunnels inside London’s Central Activities Zone have been ruled out.
Mr de Cani said that although the new tunnels were intended to address an expected growth in congestion in the capital, they were ‘not a universal panacea’. He said they were about ‘substituting capacity, not adding to it’.
Mr de Cani said the tunnels could be open from the mid 2020s, allowing for funding being in place.
He said 'we will have to have a very different model in place for how we pay for road space’, suggesting the ring-fencing of stamp duty from expected housing developments and London-wide road charging as possibilities.
Road charging could also be used to ‘manage demand down’, he added.
TfL’s transport planning manager Matthew Rheinberg told the meeting: ‘If the tunnels were to be built they would have to be really seamlessly integrated [into TfL’s transport management systems].'
Mr Rheinberg said that although TfL had been speaking to the National Infrastructure Commission about its plans for shorter tunnels, it had not yet discussed its longer tunnels with the commission.
Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth campaigner, said the key question was whether the tunnels would increase or reduce traffic overall.
She told Transport Network: ‘We can’t dig ourselves out of a hole. We’re already in a deep hole on air pollution – we need to stop digging and tackle the problem.’