The Government has given backing to the broad principle of a package of east London river crossings saying they could have “the potential to transform local areas and the road network for the better”.

The Government was responding to recommendations from the Transport Select Committee, released in March, which said the crossings, including the proposed Silvertown Tunnel and a crossing at Gallions Reach, were “long overdue”.

In its official response to the committee, the Government recognised that it had no direct powers over the crossings – these are a matter for devolved authorities – but states: “It is essential that a sufficiently long-term view is taken in respect of the planning of new river crossings and the realisation of the benefits they can offer.

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“It is often not straightforward to attribute the impact of new transport connectivity, when there are also many other initiatives that enhance the attractiveness of an area.

“However, it is clear from evidence following implementation of schemes, including the Jubilee Line extension, that enhancements to cross river connectivity have facilitated urban regeneration – in this case the development of Docklands as a financial business district, which in turn increased development density and employment levels.”

Friends of the Earth’s London Campaigner Jenny Bates disagrees. She said: “The Government must realise that building new road river crossings in east London cannot go ahead if it is to show it is serious about meeting EU air pollution limits in the shortest time possible, as required by the Supreme Court.

A queue of traffic on the approach to Blackwall Tunnel

“New roads, and particularly new river crossings, would just generate new additional traffic, which would in turn make congestion in the area worse, and add to air pollution.

“Instead a comprehensive package of non-road crossings and complimentary measures, such as London-wide road user charging, would benefit all road users and help cut pollution.”

The Government’s response comes just days after Hackney Council passed a motion demanding the Silvertown Tunnel be axed citing increases in traffic and air pollution.

On the air quality issue, the Government said: “Highways England carries out a full environmental assessment, including of air quality effects, before any work takes place.

“Mitigation measures are put in place where a project is likely to lead to a breach of the air quality thresholds.”

TfL’s head of planning projects Matt Yates said: “We welcome the Government’s response to the Transport Select Committee’s recommendations which support the need for more river crossings.

"We are working to deliver an ambitious programme of new crossings, including the Silvertown Tunnel and fixed link crossings at both Gallions Reach and Belvedere.

“By improving transport links between areas, we can provide the catalyst that will lead to thousands more homes and access to jobs that are vital to supporting London’s future economic growth.”