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Northbound Blackwall Tunnel safety improvements completed more than a year early

Improvements designed to significantly reduce closures – last year 1750 incidents forced the northbound tunnel to close the New HGV lane, new ventilation fans, better lighting, upgraded CCTV and new communication systems installed throughout the 114 year old tunnel Overnight closures end 05:00 on Friday 11th November, as work is completed 13 months ahead of initial projections.

Essential safety works on the northbound Blackwall Tunnel have been completed over a year ahead of schedule. As a result overnight closures will end and motorists will regain full use of the tunnel from 11 November.

The improvements bring the 114 year old tunnel up to date with the latest safety standards, and are designed to significantly reduce the number of incidents which force the tunnel to close. They include the installation and commissioning of new upgraded ventilation fans in the tunnel’s four shafts, improved incident detection as well as installation of new lighting, upgraded CCTV and new communication systems throughout the tunnel.

New safety inlets have been constructed in the tunnel wall with emergency phones and fire extinguishers providing a safe area for drivers whose vehicles break down in the tunnel. These will allow TfL to direct emergency services to specific incidents, helping them deal with any potential disruption more rapidly.

TfL have also introduced an additional lane for HGV vehicles on the northbound Blackwall Tunnel approach which will enable all over-height vehicles to be diverted away from the tunnel before they reach the entrance reducing unnecessary delays. Last year over-height vehicles caused the northbound Blackwall Tunnel to be closed 1448 times, leading to a total of 56 hours of avoidable closures.

To allow this lane to become operational, changes to the traffic layout on the Blackwall Tunnel will be implemented on Friday 4 November. Metropolitan Police Service Traffic-trained Police Community Support Officers will be on site for the first two weeks of operation to direct traffic, minimise disruption and ensure that vehicles adhere to the new traffic layout, which is initially on an experimental basis.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said: "It will be of huge relief to drivers who use the tunnel that we can finally bring the overnight closures to an end and I am very pleased that TfL have been able to do so over a year ahead of schedule.

"One of the reasons the tunnel is a notorious traffic hotspot is due to the number of times over-height vehicles try to scrape their way through. Last year a whopping 83 per cent of closures were for that reason and we hope the new trial over-height lane will greatly reduce the number of such incidents."

The scale of refurbishment works carried out is such that a similar programme of work within the tunnel should not be required for another 25 years. Conscious of the inconvenience that such major improvement schemes can cause Londoners, TfL has worked hard with its contractors to change working methods to prevent the need for closures and complete the refurbishment as quickly as possible.

By completing the works 13 months earlier than initially projected, the tunnel will now remain open overnight during the busy Christmas shopping period. As with any infrastructure, some routine maintenance will still be necessary. However, following the completion of these works, TfL will be reducing the planned maintenance closure regime from weekly to fortnightly, and only between 01:00 and 08:00 on Sunday morning. A new closure regime will be established before the end of the year.

Garrett Emmerson, Chief Operating Officer for London Streets at TfL said: "TfL and its contractor BAM Nuttall have thrown everything at this project to get these vital works completed as quickly as possible while ensuring that disruption to local residents and road users was kept to a minimum.

"Completing this project 13 months early and with fewer weekend closures than we originally anticipated is a massive achievement and one that Londoners will welcome."

Jay Moorhouse, Project Manager for contractor, BAM Nuttall, said: "BAM Nuttall is proud to have played a major role in the refurbishment of the Northbound Blackwall Tunnel. The success of the project is a tribute to the collaborative relationship between Transport for London, BAM Nuttall, VVB and Mott MacDonald."

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