The following points have been put forward by local party member Martin Wilson as arguments against another Thames crossing:
Five point summary
- We should be free of road congestion
- We should have acceptable air pollution levels
- We need a more resilient overall inclusive transport network
- This will not happen with the current proposals
- We need to think and act differently
Stand up against the proposals
No parts of the South East meets the standards for the ambient air quality directive. Gravesend Town Centre already exceeds safe pollution levels (EC supreme court). Research has proven that pollution can cause asthma, strokes and heart attacks (QM Hospital, London and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary). Any choice involving the increase of road traffic will only increase the threat from increased air pollution.
Around a quarter of the vehicles using the current crosssing are HGV’s and light vans. As a country we are far too reliant on road based freight. This is currently set to increase by 8% a year and is in willful ignorance of the consequences of our current overburdened road network and knock on effects on our environment and the health and well being of our communities.
What is obvious is that most of the traffic using the Thames crossing has origins from, or is destined for, further parts of the country or even Ireland. The economics are currently in favour of using the cheap Channel crossing and long distances by road.
The consultation document highlights the importance of ‘Stimulating economic growth – unlocking access to housing and job opportunities’. This is just a crass buzzword that does not look at the real situation of what the South East is currently like. All it seems to be proposing is to create a vacuum to pull more growth in the the already over stressed area. It is not the South East that needs this kind of growth it is the more deprived areas of the country, particularly Humberside, The North West, Tyneside and Northern Ireland. House prices in large areas of the the South East are already unaffordable to most first time buyers anyway.
The consultation document conveniently rules out the use of rail in alleviating the situation. This is not surprising as the highways agency is not concerned with rail. As a country we need to consider using other points of entry and exit for our goods, London Gateway, Harwich, Felixtowe, Immingham and Hull are all looking for extra business. All have rail connections and if the national rail infrastructure is weak at the moment, surely it is better to spend £5 billion (a conservative current estimate of this proposal ) on rail upgrades.
A prime example of the shortfall of the current and proposed solutions occurred last summer when for 32 days, Operation Stack had to be implemented due to this over dependence on one route. The cost was £250 million a day to the country as a whole.
The current figures supplied by the Highways Agency (HA) show around 150,000 plus vehicles using the current crossing daily (about 115% to 120% of the capacity) and their projections estimate only 14% of this will use the proposed new route, which is at most 25,000 vehicles daily. This still leaves the existing route at very near to capacity currently and by the time the proposed route C is complete, it will again over capacity with the same inherent problems. Additionally HA think that the proposed new crossing will carry 78,000 vehicles daily, so where will the additional 50,000 odd appear from? This is presumably from the stated ‘Stimulation of Economic Growth’. However I confidently predict that if this sort of thing happens that it will not be economic growth and certainly not stimulating. Not only will the M25 and Dartford crossing(s) be gridlocked but half of the rest of Kent as well.
This is why the idea of allowing increase in road traffic is unworkable and other solutions need to be sought which needs a change in overall government thinking or even a change in government itself.
That withstanding, the plan itself is deeply flawed and none of these shortcomings are of course mentioned in the proposal. I can only comment on the Kent side of things, yet I do not doubt that there are similar shortcomings on the Essex side. Firstly traffic has to get to the the tunnel approach road on the A2 M2 junction. Problems here include:
- The A2 route from Dover is only 2 lanes throughout and would have to negotiate Brenley Corner Roundabout
- Traffic to and from the Hoo peninsula via the A289 Wainscott By pass cannot access the new route unless it travels through Higham on the A226, which is single Carriageway with intervening traffic lights
- To get from the M20 to the new proposed route would involve one of the following: Going Back on itself to use the Detling Hill A249 / Using the A229 Bluebell Hill and trying to negotiate its two complicated and extremely busy junctions with the M20 and M2 / Using the A228 with its many roundabouts and villages.
HA specifically state that no finance has been included for these routes, clearly intending that cash strapped Kent County Council would be left to sort out the mess. This of course makes the overall cost of option C seem cheaper (sic!) than it actually is.
(Party member for Dartford and Gravesham Greens)