MP Neil Coyle has slammed Transport for London, saying he fears residents living beside Rotherhithe Tunnel face having ‘horrific’ toxic pollution levels pumped into their homes.
One of the tunnel’s two vents is located next to homes in Rotherhithe Street, where residents are said to have noticed the vent was opening to let out pollution more frequently a couple of years ago.
After joining residents at a meeting with Transport for London (TfL), the Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP told the News the company admitted pollution levels in the tunnel had risen – and that they had not monitored them properly.
“It was a massive surprise and I couldn’t believe the admission,” he said. “They’ve admitted that they were not monitoring effectively at all.
“The systems they had in place until early 2016 weren’t monitoring the pollution levels properly so drivers, pedestrians and cyclists going in and out of the tunnel weren’t aware that TfL could be putting them all at risk.
“It has left pollution pumped into people’s homes immediately next to the vents.
“The toxicity levels are still horrific.”
TfL said it carried out additional monitoring from November 2017 to January 2018 as part of a feasibility study into a refurbishment of the tunnel and in response to residents’ concerns over pollution.
Ben Plowden, TfL’s director of strategy and network development, told the News: “Our monitoring shows that the Rotherhithe Tunnel and surrounding areas suffer from high levels of pollution.
“We are continuing to make improvements wherever possible, including making changes to the ventilation shafts to improve air quality for nearby residents.
“We are also carrying out feasibility studies to understand how we can refurbish the tunnel to reduce air pollution in the long term.
“We remain committed to improving air quality right across the capital through the T-Charge, cleaning up London’s bus and taxi fleet, bringing in the expanded Ultra Low Emissions Zone which will include the Rotherhithe Tunnel in 2021, and encouraging more Londoners to walk and cycle.”
Rotherhithe Tunnel is 110 years old and was designed for horses and carts rather than the volume of traffic using the tunnel today.
There are five permanent environmental monitors evenly spaced along the length of the tunnel.
These are continuously measuring carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and visibility, and will activate the tunnel ventilation system automatically if a threshold is reached.
The tunnel control system was changed in 2016 and the new system has implemented a more effective fan operation cycle.