I know that you have many huge and complicated decisions to take regarding our national infrastructure, and there are many factors that you need to take into account. However, I hope that I can make some simple points about the proposed Lower Thames Crossing which may help. The fundamental issue that needs to be made here in the light of recent news is that a crossing east of Gravesend cannot address the congestion or the deadly pollution at Dartford etc. I declare my interest as a resident east of Gravesend who would be affected by a crossing east of Gravesend as suggested by Highways England. However, my concern includes others who have effectively been misled into thinking that a route east of Gravesend will solve their problems or that a long tunnel at Dartford is not, in reality, an option that is still being considered. Expanding on this slightly, I would make four quick points.
- First, and perhaps most significantly, Highways England's ideas about a crossing east of Gravesend, will not solve the fundamental problem of congestion at Dartford. (HE's own figures show clearly that even after a new crossing is built east of Gravesend the congestion at Dartford will remain.)
- Secondly, the problem at Dartford is not just one of congestion but one of pollution. Recently this has been highlighted in a dramatic way when it was revealed that the Dartford crossing was not being modelled for air pollution due to being incorrectly classified as a rural road.
- Thirdly, the relative costs of achieving a new crossing at Dartford and a new crossing east of Gravesend appear to have been unfairly manipulated by HE to exclude the elements that are needed to make a crossing east of Gravesend viable (eg what had been called Option C variant) but including everything that might be included at Dartford. Similarly, HE in the most recent consultation did its best to reduce the apparent options to variants of a crossing east of Gravesend, and so many of the positive comments about versions of this crossing are predicated on a notable bias in the presentation to downplay the possibility of another crossing at Dartford. (In a previous consultation most people wanted a new crossing to be at Dartford.)
- Finally (for now), the long-tunnel option (sometimes referred to as Option A14) underneath Dartford appears to be the best way to address this issue. The long tunnel - stretching back essentially to the A2 and going beyond the current crossing - will complete the M25, disaggregating local traffic and motorway traffic. It (Option A14) will not only solve the congestion problem but allow a way to address the pollution by extracting and treating the vehicle emissions. Unless the problem of vehicle emissions at Dartford is addressed, the people of Dartford and Thurrock will continue to be subjected to the current unacceptably high levels of pollution. A crossing east of Gravesend cannot address the congestion or the deadly pollution at Dartford etc.
It seems to me obvious that the DfT must realise that a crossing east of Gravesend on its own could not solve the Dartford problem and that another crossing of some kind at Dartford will have to be constructed in any event. The east of Gravesend crossing seems to me to be a bizarre sub-optimal compromise that attempts to do several things, but actually does nothing very well. Why not do the truly strategic and historic thing for the national infrastructure, ie complete the M25 by including the long tunnel under Dartford? This is something which will bring the quickest and greatest relief to Dartford and to all who use the crossing for many years to come.
Founding Member, Abridge2far