Doctors urge Sadiq Khan to cancel Silvertown tunnel over pollution fears

Doctors have accused Sadiq Khan of betraying his commitment to view pollution as a social justice issue, as they handed in a letter to his office calling for him to cancel a major new road tunnel.

The Silvertown tunnel will pass beneath the Thames between Newham and Woolwich, two of London’s most deprived riverside boroughs. Experts say it will massively increase air pollution faced by some of the capital’s poorest people.

Holes have already been dug either side of the river and components for the boring machine, which will dig the four-lane tunnel, are being transported to the northern end, with drilling due to begin this spring.

According to TfL estimates, it will cost about £2bn over 30 years, making it Khan’s biggest infrastructure project as mayor of London.

On Thursday morning, doctors gathered in their scrubs at the Greater London authority’s new headquarters in Newham, where they handed in a letter, signed by 125 health workers, telling Khan there was “no excuse” not to cancel the tunnel.

Silvertown, the letter said, would “funnel traffic, including heavy freight vehicles, into areas of deprivation which already suffer disproportionately from so many adverse social determinants of health.

“You, as mayor of London, have the power to cancel the Silvertown tunnel. There is no excuse not to. It makes no sense and is a health and environmental hazard. We urge you to put a stop to it, to invest the money in projects that will benefit people’s health and reap the rewards of savings to the NHS that such beneficial policies would bring.”

Map of proposed Silvertown tunnel

The action came exactly a week after the mayor had convened a summit on clean air in London’s capital, where he had said it was the poorest Londoners, least likely to own a car, who suffered the most from air pollution. “For me the issue is very simple: it’s one of social justice,” he said.

Dr Jackie Appleby, who helped coordinate the letter, said she could not see how Khan…

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