The Road Haulage Association has welcomed the government’s confirmation of a new Thames Crossing, but is warning that the 10-year timescale could mean there is little or no effect on traffic congestion.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling announced yesterday (12 April) that the Lower Thames Crossing will link the A2 and the M25, and is expected to carry 4.5 million heavy goods vehicles in its first year.
Chris Grayling said it “wasn’t the first time” he had been caught in Dartford Crossing traffic after turning up an hour late to a meeting at the crossing offices on Wednesday afternoon.
The organisation, which is responsible for operating and improving England's motorways and major A roads, rejected a shortlisted option to build a bridge or tunnel next to the existing Dartford Crossing.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will confirm the Government's preferred plan, which would be subject to planning permission.
“It is an outrage” – said all three Council Leaders in Thurrock today (12 April) after Government finally announced their plans for a new Lower Thames Crossing after keeping residents in the dark for months.
“But we have to ask – where are the consultation results from the first round they promised to send us? Where are the replies to the e-mails and letters we have sent Highways England sharing our concerns?
“Where is the information on air quality and congestion we have asked for? Indeed, where is our reply to the 17 objections we presented them with more than a year ago? Residents across the borough are going to be affected by this and it appears Highways England just simply don’t care.
“If we are going to put forward a further well-informed and factually accurate response outlining the impact on Thurrock, we need the information we’ve requested and been promised – all of which remains undelivered.
“It is hardly a level playing field while they refuse to stick to their own schedule and fail to share any of the information this decision is based on with us.
“Although we have been looking at all the routes, this announcement will mean we can try and unpick some of the detail, but as feared, this option– which Highways England described as ‘would impact local ecological and heritage sites’ appears to be their favoured choice – is truly the worst choice out of a terrible bunch.
“We will keep residents fully informed on the next steps as and when we know them.
“What more can I say – I have been continually outraged and disappointed at every stage of this process, it is obviously the wrong decision for Thurrock and we continue with our objections to this flawed plan.
“Furthermore, I would respectfully request the Secretary of State for a meeting to outline how this decision was made, as Highways England appear to have ignored Thurrock residents.”
Leader of the Thurrock UKIP group, Cllr Graham Snell agreed, saying: “I am extremely disappointed to hear the announcement but it does enable us to start the next round of fighting for Thurrock.”
“We have all been waiting for Highways England to make the announcement – any announcement – for months but as always, they work to their own schedule regardless of how many people are in limbo waiting to know if a new crossing is going to destroy their homes and communities.
“I had a small hope that they would have come to their senses and relook at the information presented rather than push this fundamentally flawed proposal.”
Leader of the Thurrock Labour group, Cllr John Kent, said: “Now is the time for Thurrock – its people, it’s businesses, and its council – to come together and fight as one.
“We don’t want our green belt destroyed and we don’t want our homes destroyed.
“We don’t want an ill-thought through scheme thrust upon us and the country as a whole.
“And most of all, we don’t want the queues, congestion, and pollution shifted five miles downstream as a new motorway cuts our borough in half.”
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling arriving in Dartford as Lower Thames Crossing confirmed for east of Gravesend
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will be at the Dartford Crossing this afternoon to fully unveil plans for the long-awaited project, more than a year after 47,000 people took part in Highways England’s consultation.
While many in Gravesham opposed the consultation’s tunnel, dubbed Option C, months of campaigning to persuade the government not to build another crossing at the existing site in Dartford has proved successful.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has announced the location of the new lower Thames Crossing to accompany the current crossing at Dartford.
'Option C' or linking the A2 with the M25 has been revealed as the preferred option meaning a new tunnel will be built under the River Thames east of Gravesend.
The route will run from the M25 near North Ockendon, cross the A13 at Orsett before crossing under the river east of Tilbury and Gravesend.
The planned route will run from the M25 near North Ockendon, cross the A13 at Orsett before crossing under the Thames east of Tilbury and Gravesend. A new link road will then take traffic to the A2 inn Kent near Shorne, close to where the route becomes the M2.
The planned route will run from the M25 near North Ockendon, cross the A13 at Orsett before crossing under the Thames east of Tilbury and Gravesend.
A new link road will then take traffic to the A2 near Shorne, close to where the route becomes the M2.
Here, we list all the reaction we have received so far to the controversial announcement.
Mr Metcalfe said: “I am obviously very disappointed and upset by the announcement today that the Secretary of State for Transport will proceed with Highways England’s recommendation for a New Lower Thames Crossing at location C and with Route 3.
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson said: “We were expecting an announcement last week which understandably didn’t take place due to the terror attack.
“The Government is prevented from making some announcements during the period of Purdah and therefore its hand may be forced on this.”
Purdah is the pre-election period that prevents central government from making controversial announcements.
Mr Johnson said he was meeting the transport secretary Chris Grayling today to discuss what the legal position is.
Dartford Labour leader Jonathan Hawkes said the delay means a longer period of uncertainty.
He said: “Yes, it does now appear that the decision on where to site a new crossing has been kicked into the long grass until the summer.
“Any announcement now would risk breaking purdah rules for the Kent County Council elections. It remains incredibly frustrating that the government are still delaying making a decision.
“All the time a decision isn’t made, the uncertainty for residents and businesses continues, the congestion increases and the air pollution, now at levels in Dartford similar to central London, gets worse.”
Both Gareth Johnson and Dartford Labour have backed Option C, a crossing east of Gravesend.
Kent County Council election is on May 4.
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Earlier this week senior figures in both Dartford and Gravesham both confirmed they were expecting a decision in the coming days, with one claiming transport secretary Chris Grayling was due to make his announcement at some point today.
However, there have also been suggestions the announcement could be pushed back in light of yesterday’s terror attack in Westminster.
The Department of Transport have not yet commented either way.
Both boroughs have been waiting to find out whether a new crossing will be built in the Gravesham countryside or at the existing crossing in Dartford, since the end of a consultation last year.
The consultation was the largest ever for a UK road project with more than 47,000 responses.
Highways England ran the consultation and used the opportunity to voice its support for Option C - a bored tunnel east of Gravesend.
Since then, the government has remained tight-lipped on its preference, with the Department for Transport saying a decision will be made ‘in due course’.
As both boroughs wait with baited breath, there is widespread belief in both areas that the government will give its backing to Option C.
Ahead of the decision, read our essential guide to the Lower Thames Crossing, here.
New research published by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) today reveals that road-building is failing to provide the congestion relief and economic boost promised, while devastating the environment .
The research, the largest ever independent review of completed road schemes in England, arrives as Highways England starts consulting on which road schemes will receive funding, set to triple to £3 billion a year by 2020 .
Drawing on the research, CPRE’s report The end of the road? directly challenges government claims that ‘the economic gains from road investment are beyond doubt’ ; that road-building will lead to ‘mile a minute’ journeys; and that the impact on the environment will be limited ‘as far as possible’ . The report shows how road building over the past two decades has repeatedly failed to live up to similar aims.
Traffic was found to increase much more in road corridors with new schemes than background traffic in the surrounding area. Schemes completed eight to 20 years ago demonstrated a traffic increase of 47%, while traffic more than doubled in one scheme . All new schemes put pressure on adjoining roads, while there were negligible reductions in journey times . We repeatedly see the cycle of more roads generating more traffic and congestion which leads to demands for more roads; in other words, building roads leads to building more roads.
Road schemes failed to deliver the boost to jobs and local economies so often promised. Of roads promoted for their benefits to the local economy, just one in five demonstrated any evidence at all of economic benefit, and that was weak.
More than half of the road schemes analysed harmed protected landscapes and designated environmental sites, including National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, ancient woodland and historic places. Overall, there was evidence that 80% of schemes built damaged the surrounding environment. The case studies also revealed specific examples where attempts to protect rare animals and plants failed.
Ralph Smyth, head of infrastructure and legal at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said:
“The Government is keen to sell the biggest road-building programme since the 1970s, but this is a programme that will forever fail on its own terms, producing a depressing, self-perpetuating cycle of more and more roads that do little for the economy and harm the countryside.
“This landmark research shows that any benefits from road building are far smaller than thought but the harm much worse. The Road Investment Strategy needs to be reset – not receive three times more funding.
“Rather than looking to the past, the Government must invest in a forward looking mobility strategy that puts quality of life ahead of the car. The Government should reopen old rail lines, offer people travel options in town and countryside, and harness new technology to make more efficient use of road space. It should promote new housing on brownfield sites closer to jobs and services, rather than unleash car-dependent sprawl on green fields.
“We are seemingly stuck in an ideological traffic jam from which we cannot escape. Building ever bigger roads should be the last resort – not the default choice.”
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson and council leader Jeremy Kite desperate to have new Lower Thames Crossing built east of Gravesend
A letter is winging its way to the transport secretary as part of an 11th hour bid to have the new Lower Thames Crossing built east of Gravesend.
The government is tipped to announce their decision on the location of the long-awaited crossing in the next week, and Dartford MP Gareth Johnson and the borough council leader Cllr Jeremy Kite are desperate for it to be further down the river.
Both have signed a letter sent to transport secretary Chris Grayling MP today, urging him not to approve of another crossing at the existing site in Dartford.
"We urge you to make the right decision – right for our region, right for motorists, right for air quality, right for local people and right for the economy," the letter reads.
"If our country is to continue to prosper as we widen our economic horizons - as we know it can - it needs a commitment to the right infrastructure, not just the cheap or easy solution.
“Residents and motorists can see that only Option C provides the necessary resilience to keep our region and economy moving."
It continues: “We have, as I hope you know, been making our points robustly but reasonably for many months now.
"We have done so because we know how catastrophic a failure to provide a new crossing away from Dartford would be – to health, to the well-being of local people, to the economy, to ambition and to growth.
"It is time for the right decision and your commitment.”
Mr Johnson said another crossing at Dartford would be "catastrophic" for the area, adding that the roads could not cope with the situation as it was and that pollution levels were already dangerously high.
The government has been urged to make a decision on the third Thames crossing by business chiefs who say the indecision is hurting the county’s economy.
Critics of the proposal for a crossing east of Gravesend include Kent County Council's Gravesham East councillor Bryan Sweetland, who has said building there would not solve Dartford's traffic woes.
The reports found polluted environments cause the deaths of 1.7 million children every year, but that many of the deaths could be prevented by interventions already known to work, such as providing cleaner cooking fuels to prevent indoor air pollution.
“A polluted environment is a deadly one, particularly for young children,” said Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO. “Their developing organs and immune systems – and smaller bodies and airways – make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”
The harm from air pollution can begin in the womb and increase the risk of premature birth. After birth, air pollution raises the risk of pneumonia, a major cause of death for under fives, and of lifelong lung conditions such as asthma. It may also increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer in later life.
The reports present a comprehensive review of the effect of unhealthy environments and found that 570,000 children under five years old die each year from respiratory infections such as pneumonia, while another 361,000 die due to diarrhoea, as a result of polluted water and poor access to sanitation.
The WHO estimates that 11% to 14% of children aged five years and older currently report asthma symptoms, with almost half of these cases related to air pollution. It also suggests that the warmer temperatures and carbon dioxide levels linked to climate change may increase pollen levels, making asthma worse.
“Investing in the removal of environmental risks to health will result in massive health benefits,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO director of environmental and social determinants of health. For example, tackling the backyard recycling of electrical waste would cut children’s exposure to toxins which can cause reduced intelligence and cancer.
In October, the UN’s children’s agency Unicef made the first global estimate of children’s exposure to air pollution and found that almost 90% – 2 billion children – live in places where outdoor air pollution exceeds WHO limits. It found that 300 million of these children live in areas with extreme air pollution, where toxic fumes are more than six times above the health guidelines.
The WHO announced in May that air pollution around the world is rising at an alarming rate, with virtually all cities in poorer nations blighted by unhealthy air and more than half of those in richer countries also suffering.
Research in 2015 revealed that more than 3 million people a year die early because of outdoor air pollution, more than malaria and HIV/Aids combined. Chan told the BBC on Monday that air pollution is “one of the most pernicious threats” facing global public health today and is on a much bigger scale than HIV or Ebola.
Consisting of the Dartford Tunnel and QEII Bridge, the crossing - officially known as the A282 - connects the M25 north and south of the River Thames.
It has now been reclassified.
In a letter obtained by the BBC, government minister Therese Coffey conceded the error.
She added that the Department for Transport (DfT), which is responsible for road classification, confirmed the rural status "was incorrect".
However, the DfT told the BBC it was Defra that designated the A282 as a rural road.
For 15 years the council has carried out its own air quality measurements, and each year the area around the crossing has been above the EU's target for nitrogen dioxide.
It said it passed the data to Defra, but no action was taken.
Councillor Keith Kelly, the council's head of transport and infrastructure, said the revelation was "shocking" as for years key pollution data was not seeing the light of day.
He added he was "hugely concerned" about the state of people's health because, despite the crossing being labelled as an A road, the eight lane dual-carriageway was effectively a "motorway running through the middle of our town".
It is "one of the least reliable sections of the UK's road network" and "congestion at the crossing quickly backs up to affect local roads".
Public Health England has estimated Dartford has one of the highest percentage of deaths that can be attributed to long-term exposure to particulate air pollution in Kent.
Particulates are the deadliest form of air pollution due to their ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and blood streams unfiltered.
Thurrock, at the northern end of the crossing, has the highest estimated percentage in the East of England.
Defra has now promised to include the data "in any future assessments reported to the EU".
BBC Radio Kent Breakfast
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During Dartford council’s budget meeting on Monday night, leader Cllr Jeremy Kite (Con) said he had reason to believe that an announcement “was not very far away”, a view shared by Kent county councillor Bryan Sweetland (Con).
It comes as an open letter published today - signed by the Port of Dover, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Freight Transport Association - warns the failure to make a decision threatens to bring the South East to a standstill.
Cllr Sweetland, one of the most vocal critics of Highways England’s preference for a crossing east of Gravesend, thinks Chancellor Philip Hammond may reveal where it will be built during Wednesday’s Spring Statement.
The statement will be delivered a few weeks before the start of purdah, the build-up to the county council elections in May, during which the government cannot make an announcement that could be seen as advantageous to any candidates.
“I really don’t believe a crossing at Gravesend will solve the problems at Dartford.
“When money is tight the government needs to make sure every penny is spent on a solution that has a good chance of solving the problem.”
Highways England’s preferred crossing, which would burrow through part of Cllr Sweetland’s Gravesham Rural ward, could cost upwards of £6 billion.
The vast majority of county councillors also back the Gravesend crossing and leader Cllr Paul Carter described it as “a once in a lifetime opportunity”. Cllr Sweetland quit as cabinet member for commercial services in protest.
He said: “The solution they’re pushing for is 10 or 12 years old and times have changed. When this was first put forward there was no mention of Paramount or Ebbsfleet, but the KCC stance hasn’t changed.
“Labour and the Conservatives have been quite united on this in Gravesham, it’s just about the only thing we are united on.
“Whatever the decision, people in Dartford are still facing another 10 years of congestion.”
The government has been urged to make a decision on the third Thames crossing by business chiefs who say the indecision is hurting the county’s economy.
A letter signed by the Port of Dover, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Freight Transport Association and the London Chamber of Commerce to the Treasury warns the failure to make a decision threatens to bring the South East to a standstill.
In a stark message the government is told the continuing uncertainty risks damaging the economy.
Highways England chose a multi-billion tunnel east of Gravesend as its choice rather than a crossing at Dartford.
In a letter due to be published today in the City AM newspaper, the government is told that the existing crossing is creaking under the pressure of 50m crossings a year and the lack of progress “threatens to bring to bring the south east to a standstill".
It says the government’s failure to decide the location of the crossing is “simply not good enough.”
There has been some speculation that an announcement could be made in next week’s budget.
Leader of the Conservative group and the council, Cllr Rob Gledhill, UKIP leader, Cllr Graham Snell and Labour group leader, Cllr John Kent, have co-signed a letter to Highways England to lodge their complaint about how they are communicating with residents over the Lower Thames Crossing.
The letter states: “By ignoring the role of the local authority, elected members and officers, in ensuring our residents are well informed and have the right information to be clear on what is happening with the future of the Lower Thames Crossing, you are undermining the strategic partnership which should exist between our organisations. This is very disappointing and of major concern.
“It is with outrage – if not surprise – that we find ourselves having to write again to lodge a formal complaint about your repeated approach to communicating with our local community without our prior knowledge which demonstrates a lack of respect for the council’s community leadership position.”
Leader of the Council, Cllr Rob Gledhill said on Friday (24 February): “The situation Highways England has created is completely unacceptable.
“Without an announcement on the route, to send letters to residents completely out of the blue will no doubt cause them concern.
“Highways England must now make sure we are properly informed before any action is taken so we can help residents who may be worried about what is to come.”