Boris Johnson ‘inspired’ by Boston’s Big Dig to rebuild some of London road network underground

Boris Johnson has highlighted three spots in south west London as possible sites for a new underground road system.

The Mayor of London was inspired by a visit to Boston, Massachusetts, where the Central Artery-Tunnel Project, commonly known as the Big Dig, helped significantly reduce traffic as well as helping the surrounding surface area regenerate.

Mr Johnson worked with Transport for London (TfL) to consider 70 different locations in the capital before nominating spots in Richmond, Hammersmith and Tolworth, as well as two in north and east London.

“Rebuilding some of our complex and aging road network underneath our city would not only provide additional capacity for traffic, but it would also unlock surface space and reduce the impact of noise and pollution,” he said.

“I am inspired by what the ambitious people of Boston have achieved here at the Big Dig, both in terms of reducing congestion and how they have dramatically improved the quality of life on the surface.

“In London we face similar challenges on our roads, but this could also be a fantastic opportunity to better shape our city and support economic growth.”

The A3 at Tolworth is one potential location, where sinking the road into an underground tunnel would help ease congestion and reduce pollution, while having additional benefits of providing land for new homes.

The A316 at Chalkers Corner, another congestion hotspot, is another candidate with the hope of also improving facilities for pedestrians and cyclists above ground.

And the A4 in Hammersmith is on the shortlist, where a fly-under would replace the existing viaduct and allow the town centre to be reconnected to the Thames.

Completing the set are sites in Barking and New Southgate and the project hopes to unlock growth and make the city a more attractive place to live and work by improving the key road networks in the capital.

TfL will now work with local authorities to draw up more detailed plans, including funding proposals, before reporting back to the mayor in May.

The scheme has already proven divisive among the political figures in the Tolworth area, with Green parliamentary candidate Claire Keogh supporting the proposals.

“It could potentially address the problem of pollution,” she said. “It would be worth the investment if the issues in the area are considered properly.”

Conservative candidate James Berry was also largely positive about the plans, but Labour candidate Lee Godfrey highlighted some of his worries.

“I would be concerned about potential costs and disruption to local residents while the tunnel was being built,” he said.

If passed, the proposals will form part of the mayor’s 2050 Infrastructure Plan, where an expected population of 11.5 million in London within 35 years has sparked plans to reduce congestion by up to 20%.

In addition the scheme hopes to create 170,000 new jobs through the additional surface space freed up by the tunnels.

Picture courtesy of Stephen Lock, with thanks

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