Exclusive: London mayor candidates clash on Johnson's tunnel plans

 

Outgoing mayor Boris Johnson’s proposals for new road tunnels in the capital have become an issue in May’s election after Labour and Conservative candidates for London mayor took opposing positions.

The Liberal Democrat and Green Party candidates sided with Labour candidate Sadiq Khan in opposing the plans.

Last month Mr Johnson and Transport for London (TfL) announced proposals for two East-West cross-city tunnels and up to nine smaller tunnels or ‘flyunders’, which they said are needed to tackle increasing congestion in London. TfL is also considering an inner orbital tunnel.

But with three of the four main candidates coming out against the proposals, they now depend on Mr Goldsmith winning the election.

Mr Khan told Transport Network: ‘These proposals don’t seem to be grounded in any form of reality. Instead of focusing on improving capacity on public transport, building the new tube and rail lines London needs, and making walking and cycling easier and safer, Boris Johnson is still coming forward with these pet fantasy projects.

‘London needs a Mayor who will get on with planning for London’s long-term infrastructure needs, including the successor to Crossrail and Crossrail 2.’

A spokesman for Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith told Transport Network: ‘Zac supports the principle of these innovative tunnels that have the potential to tackle congestion and free up land for housing. Investment in the transport infrastructure is vital for the future of our City, but it can only happen by protecting funds and this would be put at risk by Khan’s £1.9 billion experiment with the TfL budget.’

But Liberal Democrat candidate Caroline Pidgeon was scathing in her opposition to the proposed tunnels. She told Transport Network: ‘Its all pie in the sky. We should be investing in infrastructure that gets people out of cars – like Crossrail2, the extension to the Bakerloo Line and river crossings like a cycle/pedestrian bridge between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf.’

Sian Berry, the Green Party’s candidate, told Transport Network new road-building would make air quality in the capital worse. She said: ‘At a time when car use in Central London is actually falling, it defies belief that the outgoing Mayor is trying to bequeath two hideously expensive road projects on London. Building new roads always leads to more traffic – just look at the M25, which was billed as the answer to London’s traffic problems and is now derisively known as Britain’s largest car park.

‘Frankly I don’t think there’s much danger of these two East-West tunnels ever being built – the enormous financial costs, the planning hurdles and widespread public opposition would see to that.’

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