Campaigning charity Living Streets has criticised London mayor Boris Johnson’s proposals for cross-city road tunnels in the capital and challenged his successor to come up with a better way to improve the above-ground environment.
It follows Transport Network’s revelation that three of the four main candidates to succeed Mr Johnson oppose his plans for strategic and shorter tunnels. Only fellow Tory Zac Goldsmith backs the plans.
At a recent stakeholder event, Richard de Cani, Transport for London’s (TfL) managing director of planning, said the cross-city tunnels could provide a range of above-ground benefits.
These might include improved air quality and reduced noise, as well as green space and space for walking, cycling, public transport, and reducing the severance effect of major road corridors.
Only fellow Tory Zac Goldsmith backs Mr Johnson's plans
But Sarah Williams, Living Streets' London campaigns manager, told Transport Network that plans for two East-West cross-city tunnels are misguided.
She said: ‘The population of London is due to soar to 10 million by 2030 and with over-crowding and air quality already causing havoc we need tackle the root of the problem to ensure that London's future status is that of a world-leading city. That means being smart about the way we manage London's traffic, not just sticking it underground.
‘The plan for two cross-city tunnels for more gas-guzzling vehicles would result in more air pollution, not less, and be hugely expensive. We need to focus on ways to encourage more active travel through our capital, to free up roads and improve the local environment. Road user charging is one way in which we can achieve this and it has already been successful.’
She added: ‘We want to see the next mayor conduct a feasibility study in their first 100 days in office to find the best solution that will put walking first and create nicer, less polluted streets.’
The comments are potentially embarrassing for Mr Johnson and TfL, which cited the charity’s work in its recent Streetscape Guidance.
Jack Skillen, the charity’s London director, welcomed that guidance as promoting ‘a collaborative approach … to create places where walking is a natural choice to travel, and in which communities and business can thrive'.