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All you need to know about Sadiq Khan’s new £4 road charge

Transport for London has announced the expected tolls for using the Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels under the Thames from spring 2025.

But is there a way for drivers to avoid the £4 peak hour charge? Here’s all you need to know about Mayor Sadiq Khan’s latest road charge.

Where is the Silvertown tunnel?

The Silvertown tunnel is immediately east of the Blackwall tunnel in east London. It runs under the Thames, connecting the North Greenwich peninsula in south London with the Silvertown area just west of the Royal Docks in east London. Its southern end is immediately adjacent to the Blackwall tunnel while its northern end is only about 100 yards west of London mayor Sadiq Khan’s new City Hall.

How much will it cost to use the Silvertown tunnel?

There are three “price bands”. For most of the time between 6am and 10pm, car drivers will pay £1.50 per crossing. This applies seven days a week. But the charge increases to £4 for northbound journeys between 6am and 10am and southbound journeys 4pm to 7pm on weekdays. Between 10pm and 6am there is no charge.

What about the Blackwall tunnel?

The charges are exactly the same for the Blackwall tunnel as the Silvertown tunnel: £1.50 at most times, £4 during the two peak periods and free between 10pm and 6am.

How much will it cost for a “round trip” during peak hours?

It will cost £8 a day for drivers heading north through the Blackwall or Silvertown tunnel during the morning rush hour and south during the evening peak.

Is there a way to avoid paying the Silvertown and Blackwall tunnel toll?

Yes – travel between 10pm and 6am. There are no overnight charges. But if staying up late or getting up early is not possible, the only other way to avoid the toll is to catch a bus through the tunnel or the DLR from and to an adjacent station – these will be free for at least a year after the Silvertown tunnel opens. More details are below.

How does the toll compare to other road charges?

The Dartford crossing (on the M25) costs £2.50 per crossing for car drivers. The Ulez is £12.50 a day while the congestion charge is £15 – both for unlimited trips.

(TfL)

Why are the Blackwall and Silvertown tunnels being tolled?

The Silvertown tunnel was built using a PFI (private finance initiative) scheme – about £1bn for the construction of the tunnel and £1.2bn in loan repayments. Transport for London needs the income from toll charges to repay its £2.2bn debt.

Why can’t Silvertown be tolled but not Blackwall?

TfL says that if charges were imposed only for one tunnel, then no drivers would use it – and all would continue to use the other (free) crossing. This would defeat the purpose of building Silvertown, which is to reduce the delays, congestion and pollution at Blackwall by effectively halving the load.

Do I have to do anything to qualify for the £1.50 off-peak rate?

Forks. This is crucial. All motorists have to register their vehicle(s) with TfL’s Auto Pay system, which is already in use for the congestion charge and Ulez (ultra-low emission zone). TfL already has about 1.3m vehicles registered. This means that the toll is automatically charged to the driver’s debit or credit card. Drivers who fail to register for Auto Pay will be charged £4 during charging hours.

What about motorbikes, taxis, minicabs, vans and HGVs?

Motorcyclists will pay £2.50 at peak times and £1.50 off-peak. Transit-size vans will pay the same as cars. Large vans will pay £6.50 peak and £2.50 off-peak. HGVs will pay £10 at peak times, and £5 off peak.

When will the charges start?

The charges for both tunnels will be imposed from Spring 2025 when the Silvertown tunnel opens to traffic. An exact date has not been announced yet. The tunnel is opening slightly ahead of schedule – the expectation had been that it wouldn’t open until Summer 2025. The entire project – first envisaged in 2012 when Boris Johnson was mayor – is about four years late.

How many drivers use the Blackwall tunnel?

The Blackwall tunnel is used by about 100,000 vehicles a day. It is expected that about half of its traffic will divert to the Silvertown tunnel.

What about cyclists?

Cyclists are not allowed to ride through the Blackwall tunnel and will not be allowed to ride through the Silvertown tunnel, both for safety reasons. However TfL is setting up a bike “shuttle bus” – cyclists will be able to load their bike onto the bus for a free ride through the tunnel. The charge will be free at least for the first year. One of the two lanes in each of two Silvertown tunnels (northbound and southbound) will be a bus lane.

What about bus passengers?

In an attempt to lure Londoners out of their cars, cross-river trips on the 108 or 129 bus – plus the new Superloop SL4 route through the Silvertown tunnel, linking Grove Park and Canary Wharf from next year – will be free for at least one year for journeys that start in Newham, Tower Hamlets or Greenwich.

Will the DLR be free?

Yes – for some journeys. DLR trips in the immediate vicinity of the tunnels – such as between Cutty Sark and Island Gardens or Woolwich Arsenal and King George V – will be free for at least one year.

What happens if drivers don’t pay the correct toll?

A £180 fine will be imposed, reduced to £90 if paid within a fortnight. However, only one penalty charge notice a day will be issued, regardless of the number of unpaid crossings.

Is there any help for low-income Londoners, NHS patients or small businesses?

Forks. Low-income Londoners living in 12 east or south-east London boroughs, including Newham, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich, or in the City of London, can apply for a 50 per cent discount. NHS staff and patients will be able to get the charge reimbursed. Drivers with blue badges will be exempt.

Low-income Londoners can apply for the 50 per cent discount if they live in Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, Bromley, City of London, Greenwich, Hackney, Havering, Lewisham, Newham, Redbridge, Southwark, Tower Hamlets or Waltham Forest. They need to be in receipt of a Government benefit such as income support, jobseekers allowance, universal credit, pension credit, child tax credit, working tax credit, carer’s allowance or housing benefit.

Small businesses in Newham, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich can apply for a £1 discount on the off-peak charge for at least one year.

Will taxis be exempt?

Black taxis, yes – and some minicabs, namely those that can take wheelchairs or are “zero emission capable”. TfL says about 40 per cent of minicabs will be exempt.

What does Sadiq Khan have to say?

Mr Khan said: “Local residents and business owners currently face chronic congestion and pollution in the area around the Blackwall tunnel. When it opens in 2025, the long-planned new Silvertown tunnel will help deliver quicker, more reliable journeys in east London by easing congestion and making journeys up to 20 minutes faster.”

Are the tolls and discounts set in stone?

No. TfL is holding an eight-week consultation. Depending on the outcome of the consultation, the proposed tolls and discounts could be amended. The TfL board, chaired by Mr Khan, will have the final say later this year. There is also the likelihood that the £4 peak toll will increase occasionally with the inflation rate, in order to maintain its deterrent effect.

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