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Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels: Fees a matter for mayor, government says

Mark Harper said the decision about tolls on the Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels lay solely with Transport for London

Tolls on the Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels in east London are a matter for the mayor, the transport secretary has said.

Mark Harper responded to a letter from Sadiq Khan where he discussed a low-income residents’ discount on the tolls, which will begin in 2025.

In his response, Mr Harper said the decision about the tolls “lies entirely with you”.

A source for Mr Khan called the response “utter hypocrisy”.

They added that “tolling the Blackwall Tunnel is the brainchild of Boris Johnson, agreed by a Tory government”, and “Sadiq has been clear that no decision has been taken on the amount of Boris Johnson’s toll, but he wants to do far more to support local residents”.

In his original letter, the Labour mayor said he had “reiterated to TfL” the need to consider “targeted support to the poorest Londoners living in the areas surrounding the Blackwall Tunnel”.

He also asked that any discounts should not affect TfL funding given that under the transport body’s current government agreement, it is required to “maximise its revenue”.

Blackwall Tunnel will have a toll from 2025

In his response, Mr Harper said: “Whilst there was clearly discussion of Transport for London’s (TfL) charging proposals as part of planning, I am happy to reassure you this decision lies entirely with you.”

“To be clear, as with Ulez, it is your decision to introduce these charges, your decision how to balance your budget, albeit with the generous help of £6bn of extra funding this government has provided, and it is you who much be accountable at the ballot box for the decision to do so,” he added.

The plans for both tunnels were originally formed by Boris Johnson when he was mayor and signed off by then-transport secretary Chris Grayling.

There was a public consultation in 2015, and a suggestion to give residents in the surrounding areas an exemption was rejected.

A Transport for London (TfL) spokesperson said: “The plan to introduce a charge for using the Blackwall Tunnel as part of the Silvertown Tunnel scheme was proposed in 2012 and formally approved by government ministers in 2018.

“The level of user charge has not yet been agreed, and TfL are working on proposals for a set of discounts and exemptions for people in the local area.”