|Location Map ( geo)|
|Entering the northbound tunnel|
|Kent • Middlesex|
|Transport for London|
| 1897 (1st Bore)|
1967 (2nd bore)
The first Blackwall Tunnel was opened in 1897 in an age before motor vehicles. As such it is designed for horse drawn traffic and includes a number of tight bends, reputedly to prevent horses seeing daylight in the distance. By the 1960s, traffic levels had reached the point where a second tunnel was required; this was built to the east of the original tunnel and to a more modern aligment. The new tunnel opened in 1967 and now carries southbound traffic, leaving the original tunnel to carry northbound traffic.
In the 1970s, the two tunnels were incorporated into the East Cross Route, one of the few London Ringway Projects to see the light of day.
When roads were first numbered, the Blackwall Tunnel and its approach roads were allocated the number A102, which it still holds today.
While the tunnels themselves are not listed, several of the features are.
- Northern portal and parapet to the Blackwall Tunnel Grade II
- Southern gatehouse to the Blackwall Tunnel Grade II
- NORTHERN VENTILATION SHAFT TO THE BLACKWALL TUNNEL SOUTHBOUND Grade II
- SOUTHERN VENTILATION SHAFT TO THE BLACKWALL TUNNEL SOUTHBOUND Grade II
For many years in the morning peak hour, a tidal flow system operated through the southbound tunnel, enabling three northbound lanes to operate across the river, with only one southbound lane available. This could not be reversed in the evening peak period as the northbound tunnel is now deemed incapable of taking two way traffic. Tidal flow was suspended in 2007 (check) following representations from the police.
Tidal flow was operated using a mix of traffic signs and physical barriers. The southern cross over was situated between the Blackwall Lane junction and the tunnel portal, with the northern crossover being situated north of the A13 underpass. (A second crossover exists north of the tunnel portal; this is only used when there is a full closure of the northbound tunnel).
A third bore has been proposed on a number of occasions due to the lack of capacity of the existing tunnels and in particular, the deficient design of the northbound tunnel. By the early 1990s the idea of a third bore had given way to a dual 2-lane bridge. The existing tunnels would be retained as south facing slip roads to the A13. This would in effect give D4 capacity through the crossing. In addition, a north facing junction would leave the new bridge to provide a direct link to Prestons Road (A1206). Despite the line of the bridge being protected in 1990 the scheme was later abandoned.
The current proposal to provide additional capacity is the Silvertown Tunnel although this will not connect with the A12 at its northern end.