Over-height vehicles and lack of fuel have closed Blackwall Tunnel 1,200 times in the last year
Unplanned closures have led to more than 13 days of serious and severe traffic congestion in the local area
TfL funded Road Response Police Team to be based at Blackwall Tunnel for three months to provide additional enforcement and help prevent incidents
The Blackwall Tunnel has been forced to close a staggering 1,200 times in the last nine months simply because drivers didn’t heed height restriction warnings for their vehicles or ran out of fuel.
Figures from TfL show that in the last nine months, the Blackwall Tunnel has had to be closed 1604 times, the majority of which (70 per cent) have been due to drivers ignoring the height restriction warning signs throughout the Northbound tunnel, which has a 4.0m (13′ 0") height limit. Vehicle break-downs were responsible for 287 closures; a third of which were simply due to vehicles running out of fuel.
Although the tunnel closures are often for only a few minutes, the resulting queues and traffic congestion can last for hours. Since April 2010, the Blackwall Tunnels have had to be closed for a total of 157 hours, ultimately causing more than 13 days of serious and severe traffic disruption on the surrounding roads.
To help combat this problem, Transport for London (TfL) is calling on drivers to check before they travel to ensure their vehicles are well maintained, have enough fuel, and comply with the height restrictions in the Blackwall Tunnel.
It has also begun a three month trial which will see a team of roads response police officers based at the Blackwall Tunnel to provide an immediate response to any unplanned incidents, like breakdowns, which cause delays in the tunnel. They will also be working closely with the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) to strengthen enforcement of vehicle standards on the corridor.
A new digital sign has been installed on the Blackwall Tunnel northbound approach, showing the number of over-height and broken down vehicles that have stopped traffic in the last month. It is hoped that by drawing attention to the high number of avoidable incidents that occur every month, it will remind drivers to check that their vehicle is in an appropriate condition and complies with the height restrictions before they travel through the tunnels. "Road signs indicating the locations of petrol stations will also be installed shortly on the Blackwall Tunnel approach roads.
Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor’s transport advisor, said: "We all know how frustrating it is sitting in traffic, even more so when the reason for the jam is so easily avoided. We are asking all drivers using the Blackwall Tunnel to use their common sense and make sure their vehicle is not too high to get through and is not likely to break down or run out of fuel in the tunnel. It sounds simple but these sorts of problems are causing thousands of drivers to sit in pointless traffic jams for hours on end."
Garrett Emmerson, Chief Operating Officer for London Streets, TfL said:
"For every minute the tunnel is closed, it stops up to 60 vehicles getting though. On an average day, these unnecessary closures, many of which occur at peak time, can stop up to 750 vehicles a day passing through the tunnel.
"These closures, even if they only last a few minutes, cause congestion that takes time to disperse. Reducing them on one of the busiest and most congested routes in London is therefore an important part of our work to smooth traffic flow and make journey times more reliable for the Capital’s drivers."
AA President Edmund King said: "Breaking down in any tunnel is not a pleasant experience. However, some can be avoided through simple checks for example, making sure there is enough fuel in the tank and oil in the engine. And if drivers sense their car is not running properly – there are usually tell-tale signs like lumpy running or a misfire – we urge them to turn-off rather than enter the Blackwall tunnel.
"These simple actions may appear time consuming but it is better to inconvenience yourself rather than hundreds of other drivers. Next time it could be you at the back of a preventable queue."