Blackwall Tunnel tidal flow closure spells access problems for LCY users

26 Apr 2007 by business traveller

If you're using Blackwall Tunnel to reach London City Airport (LCY) from South London in the morning peak then allow at least an extra 30 to 60 minutes to complete the trip.

Traffic mayhem on the A102 southern approach to the Blackwall Tunnel is the result of the sudden decision by TfL (Transport for London) to close the "tidal flow" last week. This special lane, in use for almost 30 years, has been a vital queue-buster for motorists heading northbound through the tunnel. It operates in the morning peak hours between Monday and Friday inclusive and increases road capacity by a third.

Yesterday morning, for example, traffic reports on local radio told of three and four mile tailbacks on the A2/A102 heading north with delays of at least 60 minutes to reach the tunnel entrance. Surrounding roads were also heavily congested so public transport users are also victims.

TfL says it has had to close the tidal flow following safety concerns expressed by the Metropolitan Police. A TfL spokeswoman told Business Traveller, "Public safety and the efficient operation of traffic through Blackwall Tunnel is our primary concern. The increasing number of 'near misses' in this enclosed environment had posed a significant safety risk and endangered lives. The decision to stop the tidal flow was taken jointly with the Metropolitan Police and was aimed at delivering the highest possible safety standards to London's travelling public."

"TfL anticipates there will be some increase in congestion on the south approach to the tunnel as a result of this decision. Changes in traffic flows will be monitored and congestion mitigated wherever possible."

TfL has released a video of the near misses. These took place on the north side of the tunnel and were caused by impatient drivers making illegal overtaking manoeuvres.

Closure of the tidal flow has resulted in a flood of complaints from road users. Critics maintain that the tidal flow could be operated safely provided it is given greater police enforcement and better signage.

The Blackwall Tunnel is a vital economic link between South London, Canary Wharf, LCY plus the expanding areas to the east of the capital. Alternatives for road users would be the Rotherhithe tunnel (which is also heavily congested) and the Dartford tunnel which is impractical for many as it is some distance down river.

It seems inconceivable that the authorities can stand by and ignore the mounting chaos now experienced in the morning peak.

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Report by Alex McWhirter

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