Members of the LTCA Steering Committee (including Adam Holloway, Bryan Sweetland, Leslie Hills, Robin Theobald, and parish councillors) met with representatives of Highways England today, 8th September 2017, to discuss progress with the Lower Thames Crossing.
LTCA Blog: LEGAL CHALLENGE - CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) Kent has engaged Richard Buxton Environmental & Public Law.
CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) Kent has engaged Richard Buxton Environmental & Public Law, leading environmental law firm, to mount a challenge by issuing a pre-action protocol letter to the Department for Transport, on the following grounds:
A pre-action protocol is the first step in any judicial review process, and requires the defendant to provide a detailed response within a defined period.
In addition to providing funding, LTCA also provided information to CPRE's lawyers to support a possible challenge.
Any legal action that is taken must (a) have a good chance of success, and (b) do more than just delay the project, extending the time people suffer blight.
Don't assume that the local election purdah constraints will prevent the Government making an announcement on the crossing. This is a national issue, and there is every chance that the decision will be announced THIS WEEK, possibly as early as TOMORROW.
EDIT: It is understood that an announcement WILL be made on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 12, 2017.
Those who the LTCA represent are NOT Nimbys - they all take the view that this doesn't just affect them and their local communities - it affects the whole region, the UK economy, users of the M25 and the Dartford Crossing, as well as the people suffering from congestion and pollution in Dartford and Thurrock.
If it’s Option C, it’s the wrong decision. The consultation was a travesty, Dartford will still be over capacity, and the frequent stoppages for hazardous loads will continue. This would be a missed opportunity to fix it once and for all.
Whatever the decision, we need to know what mitigation measures they are going to put in place to safeguard the environment, protect the communities affected, to reduce pollution, to prevent Kent and Essex from being concreted over in the pursuit of growth at any price.
Answers to Parliamentary Written Questions Submitted by Adam Holloway March 2017
The Department for Transport has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (67032):
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 28 November 2016 to Question 54114, how many times per month traffic is stopped at the Dartford River Crossing to allow hazardous and oversized vehicles to use the tunnels for each month since November 2016; what the average duration of each such stoppage has been; and when the future work referred to in his Answer will be undertaken to model the potential reduction in the number of escorted vehicles per day. (67032) Tabled on: 08 March 2017
Mr John Hayes: The number of times that traffic has been held at the Northbound Dartford Crossing on a red light in order to escort vehicles are as follows;
This does not count the total number of occasions when escorts occurred. To minimise the number of times necessary to hold traffic to escort vehicles, staff are trained to conduct escorts when traffic is held at red lights by the Traffic Safety System for others reasons e.g. extracting an over height vehicle before it enters the tunnels. Due to a number of operational activities carried out at the same time as the escort it can be difficult to determine an exact average duration that each escort may take. However, the majority of escorted dangerous goods vehicles and abnormal loads going through the Dartford tunnels do take less than two minutes on each occasion. A new arrangement is being developed to accurately measure the duration of each crossing and Highways England anticipate making decisions on when new arrangements could become available later this year.
The answer was submitted on 16 Mar 2017 at 10:37.
The Department for Transport has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (67074):
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will place the cost-benefit analysis of Option A14 of the Lower Thames Crossing in the Library; and what the data sources and supporting information were for that analysis. (67074) Tabled on: 08 March 2017
Mr John Hayes: Option A14 for the Lower Thames Crossing was assessed by Highways England as part of the Options Phase appraisal. The cost-benefit analysis demonstrated that the route would represent poor value for money with a benefit-cost ratio of 0.4. The appraisal was based on a level of design development and environmental assessment appropriate for the wide range of options considered at this early stage of the project. The cost-benefit analysis uses costs built-up from Highways England’s cost database for UK highways projects, the results of traffic forecasting for this option which include greenhouse gases, accidents, vehicle operating costs, noise, reliability and wider economic impacts and have been measured in line with DfT’s WebTAG guidance. As requested, the cost-benefit analysis will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses shortly.
The answer was submitted on 16 Mar 2017 at 10:41.
The Department for Transport has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (67097):
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will make a revised estimate of traffic volume forecasts for 2025 and 2041 as published in tables 4.3 and 4.4 of volume 5 of the Lower Thames Crossing Pre-Consultation Scheme Assessment Report, published in January 2016, using information from traffic surveys undertaken since that report was published, including information from ANPR cameras and traffic counters. (67097) Tabled on: 08 March 2017
Mr John Hayes: Highways England will produce revised traffic volume forecasts as part of the development phase of the scheme. These forecasts will be informed by data collected from a number of sources, including ANPR cameras and traffic counters. This revised modelling work is expected to be completed in 2018 at the earliest.
The answer was submitted on 16 Mar 2017 at 10:54.
The Department for Transport has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (67152):
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will
(a) set out the data sources, supporting information and the assumptions used and
(b) estimate traffic volumes per (i) day and (ii) peak hour for (A) Option A14 and (B) Option C of the Lower Thames Crossing Option on (1) the existing Dartford Crossing, (2) a new Option A14 crossing, (3) a new Option C crossing, (4) the A282 between junction 30 and junction 2 of the M25, (5) the A2 between the M25 and the A227, (6) the A2 between the A227 and the M2, (7) the A227 between the A2 and the A20, (8) the A228 between the M2 and M20 and (9) the A229 between the M2 and the M20. (67152) Tabled on: 08 March 2017
Mr John Hayes: a) The data sources, supporting information and assumptions used in Highways England’s traffic modelling have been set out in the Pre-Consultation Scheme Assessment Report which is available on the Lower Thames Crossing public consultation website. b) The estimate of traffic volumes requested for Option A14 was aggregated in terms of changes in traffic flows across the network, and then compared with other options (including Option C) in terms of overall economic performance. Consequently the breakdown of traffic volumes is not currently held in the form requested. The estimate of traffic volumes for selected links for Option C is reported in the Pre-Consultation Scheme Assessment Report.
The answer was submitted on 16 Mar 2017 at 11:01.
Highways England invited 1.2 million people to respond to the consultation. The majority of these would have understandably based their views on the Consultation Booklet and made their choice accordingly.
The Consultation Booklet was a clear recommendation for Option C, in fact consultees were only given the option of choosing between variants of Option C. There were no questions on any other options.
Unfortunately, from reading the booklet, people would have been completely unaware that Option C is still expected to leave the Dartford Crossing with more traffic than its designed capacity.
They would have seen that Option C is expected to reduce traffic at Dartford by 14%, but they would have been completely unaware that traffic levels at Dartford are forecast to increase by 14% by the time the new crossing is opened, and that traffic volumes at Dartford would still be very similar to today’s levels even after Option C is built.
They would have been completely unaware that traffic at the Dartford Tunnels was being held up for between 800 and 900 times a month on average to allow petrol tankers and other hazardous loads to be escorted through, and that traffic was being brought to a standstill for 2 minutes or longer on each occasion. They would also have been unaware that there are no plans to remove these restrictions at Dartford.
They would have read that the scheme objectives include the need to improve safety and to minimise adverse effects on the environment. They would have been completely unaware that Option C will result in twice as many accidents and casualties as Option A, and will produce double the amount of additional CO2 emissions.
Even if these aspects had been clearly stated, consultees might still have decided to go with Option C, but at least it would have been an informed decision.
It begs the question why Highways England chose not to come clean about these issues. Were they worried that people would send them back to the drawing board to come up with a better scheme?
And why is it that anyone who publicises these issues to Option C supporters is labelled a Nimby? Why do they object to us making people aware of these issues? Why do they want to hide them?
Here are some facts.
We recently submitted the following Requests for Information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
LOWER THAMES CROSSING – OPTION A14
LOWER THAMES CROSSING OPTION C (Route 3)
LTCA Blog: Not building a new crossing at Dartford would be 'catastrophic' following new congestion figures
LTCA response to recent press
“It would be catastrophic” not to build another Thames Crossing at Dartford following new figures showing the amount of time drivers spend in traffic.
New figures released by data company INRIX show that drivers spend on average 32 hours per year in traffic jams during peak times in the UK.
These figures show the urgent need for a second Thames crossing to alleviate the pressure at the Dartford Crossing, but not for it to be east of Gravesend.
A local MP said: “We are trying to deal with a problem in Dartford that should have been dealt with 15 years ago but nothing was done at that time to plan for the increased congestion on our local roads and we are therefore, to a certain extent, playing catch-up.”
There is nothing in the report that identifies the need for having a Lower Thames Crossing away from the current over-congested Dartford Crossing. On the contrary, it highlights the urgent need to address the problems which cause the congestion at Dartford.
Figures previously released by a satnav company showed the average speed approaching the Dartford tunnels anticlockwise on the M25 during rush hour was just 7.75mph.
Option A14 would finally remove all M25 through traffic from the existing crossing and from the A282 through the populated areas of Dartford, putting it deep underground, dramatically reducing traffic congestion on the approaches to Dartford.
Dartford residents have been suffering for far too long. To build another crossing east of Gravesend while leaving the problems at Dartford would be catastrophic to the people of Dartford.
We also need measures to tackle the existing problems to help the traffic flows in Dartford whilst any new crossing is being built.
It has been more than a year since Highways England invited feedback on plans for another tunnel linking Kent and Essex.
More than 47,000 people took part in the consultation but there has been no announcement from Highways England.
We all know that the Dartford Crossing will still be over capacity after a new crossing east of Gravesend is built – Highways England's own forecasts say that there will still be between 136,700 and 138,900 vehicles a day at Dartford, which will increase up to 153,000 a day within 15 years. Since its capacity is only 135,000 a day, and the frequent tunnel closures for petrol tankers and high vehicles will still need to take place, we can be confident that the congestion at Dartford will continue and get worse.
But let’s consider Option C. Highways England forecasts that its preferred route will be used by 65,300 vehicles per day when it opens, increasing to 74,400 within 15 years. How will these vehicles get to and from the proposed new crossing?
Highways England forecasts that traffic using the A2 west of the A227 (Tollgate) will decrease by 19,400 vehicles a day. We can reasonably assume that this is traffic that would have used the Dartford Crossing, but which will in future use Option C.
Highways England also forecasts that traffic using the M2 between junction 2 (for the A228) and junction 1 (where the Option C link road joins) will increase by 27,300 vehicles a day. We can reasonably assume that this additional traffic will be made up from vehicles that would have previously used the M20, but which will now use the M2 to get to & from the new crossing.
Some of this will extra traffic will use the M2 and A2 all the way to & from Dover, but a significant amount will be using the A229 Blue Bell Hill and the A228 through Cuxton and Halling to get to & from the M20. This will have a serious impact on congestion on these roads and their junctions with the M2 and M20.
They also forecast that traffic using the A226 east of Gravesend will increase by 8,400 vehicles a day. This will presumably be made up with traffic going to & from the new junction on A226 between Chalk and Shorne. The extra traffic west of the new junction will be going to & from Gravesend, which will impact all the feeder routes, such as Thong Lane, Rochester Road, Old Road East, and Valley Drive.
The extra traffic east of the new junction will be going to & from Strood and the A289 Wainscott Bypass, since neither of these will have direct access to the link road.
So quickly doing the sums, we have 19,400 + 27,300 + 8,400 = 55,100 extra vehicles. But that is 10,200 short of the 65,300 vehicles predicted to use Option C.
If they’re not using the A2, and they’re not using the M2, and they’re not using the A226, which roads are these 10,200 vehicles going to use?
The only road left is the A227 through Meopham. This currently carries a fraction under 10,000 vehicles a day, so traffic through Meopham could potentially double. Much of this extra traffic will use rat runs through places like Sole Street, Cobham, and Shorne.
Note that this is when both the crossings at Dartford and the new crossing east of Gravesend are working normally. If there is an incident at Dartford, up to 139,000 extra vehicles would be diverted from the M25 to the new crossing east of Gravesend, on top of the 65,000 it is expected to carry.
In these circumstances, we can expect to see the A2, M2, A226, and all the connecting roads to be totally gridlocked.