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Lower Thames Crossing: last chance to have your say

Bridget Fox's picture
Dartford crossing approach

Today (Thursday 24 March) is the last day for consultation on the proposed Lower Thames Crossing.

Highways England’s preferred option C is a new motorway standard road linking the M2 to the M25, with a tunnel under the river Thames between Gravesend and Tilbury. An alternative option A would see an additional road route added at the overloaded Dartford crossing. 

We have submitted a consultation response expressing objection to both options and proposing practical and sustainable alternatives. 

Thank you for taking part - the consultation is now closed.  You can view our response here.

Increasing capacity at Dartford is unsustainable, given the dreadful air and noise pollution problems already occurring daily. Yet a new road elsewhere would simply redistribute traffic rather than solving the problem – the project traffic reduction at Dartford is just 14% - at serious environmental and financial cost. And that’s without the known phenomenon of induced traffic – as already seen at Dartford.

To quote Highways England, “Analysis of traffic data shows that traffic demand at Dartford has responded in step with capacity; such that whenever new capacity has been provided, it has filled up and created the need for more capacity. This has been a recurring pattern since the second tunnel was opened at Dartford in 1980 and then the QEII Bridge in 1991. Today there is insufficient capacity to cater for current and future traffic demand.”  Dartford is an object lesson in the failure of “predict & provide” road planning, but one that Highways England and current Government thinking has clearly failed to learn.

We’ve joined our voice with those of community groups in Kent and Essex, local authorities, environmentalists and thousands of individuals who are deeply critical of the impact of a route that goes through the North Kent AONB, past the Lower Thames RAMSAR (internationally significant) waterfowl site, encroaches on the Tilbury flood plain, destroys ancient woodlands and cuts villages in half.

Nor does the economic case add up. Highways England estimates that the new road – even with the cheapest variant of Option C – will cost up to £5.7bn to deliver a reduced travel time between the M2 and M25 of just 10 minutes: that’s £570M a minute.

There is massive pressure on Kent’s motorways, and on the Dartford Crossing in particular, from road-based freight, arriving at the Channel ports for distribution across the UK. Operation Stack – where lorries park on the M20 to relieve port congestion – already costs the economy an estimated £250m a day and will not be addressed by the Lower Thames Crossing. In fact, the new road risks reinforcing this overloaded route as an option instead of offering real alternatives.

In the final days of the consultation, there were reports that businesses in Kent, who had previously been some of the most vocal supporters of the crossing, were turning against the plans, as awareness grew of the problems caused by induced traffic on local roads.

Too often new roads are presented in isolation, as if the traffic magically dematerialises at either end, with the real impact on the surrounding road network and local communities overlooked. 

A more sustainable solution would encourage more freight to arrive at ports north of the Thames: both DP London Gateway and Tilbury have capacity, and London Gateway has a state-of-the-art railfreight terminal.  There is also underused freight capacity on existing HS1 rail links from Calais to Barking.

Shifting the balance of freight would relieve pressure on the existing Dartford crossing, and combined with other measures such as variable peak time charging and “smart queuing”, could manage demand to acceptable levels without a new road crossing being required.

Thank you for taking part - the consultation is now closed.

 

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