Campaigners have claimed that the Lower Thames Crossing project will not solve traffic problems in south Essex.
The £8bn project was created by Highways England as a solution to congestion at the Dartford Crossing.
But the Thames Crossing Action Group (TCAG) says that data from Highways England itself indicates the new crossing won’t take enough cars away from Dartford.
The controversial plans, which include an underwater road tunnel connecting Tilbury, Essex, and Kent, is on its way to being resubmitted to government for approval this year.
But the group believes giving the green light to the project would be a “criminal” use of taxpayer’s money, and points to a video released by Highways England as ‘proof’ that it won’t solve the capacity issue.
Dartford Crossing over-capacity
The video outlined that the Dartford Crossing was originally designed for 130,000 vehicles a day but is now regularly used by over 185,000 – causing traffic, incidents and huge tailbacks across the local road network.
Crucially, it explains that the Lower Thames Crossing would take 36,000 vehicles off the Dartford Crossing and almost double road capacity across the Thames, east of London.
But the TCAG has pointed out that by only taking 36,000 vehicles off the Dartford Crossing, it would still leave it 19,000 vehicles over capacity – not including any predicted traffic growth.
“This is not something we have only just discovered but the latest video from Highways England highlights the fact in a slightly more obvious way,” Laura Blake, chair of the TCAG said.
“When you watch the video, it says the Dartford Crossing is running at 50,000 vehicles over-capacity and that the Lower Thames Crossing will take up to 36,000 a day away.
“What that proves is it will still be over capacity, not including the fact there will also be traffic growth.
“You can’t talk about spending £8.2bn to solve problems on the Dartford Crossing and have figures showing that’s not going to do that and make it a lot worse.”
“It is not worth £8.2bn of taxpayers’ money”
Highways England states that the new road will connect the existing road network at a number of locations, providing almost double the road capacity over the Thames, east of London to:
- M25 junction 29
- A13 and A1089 in Thurrock
- A2/M2 east of Gravesend
However, Laura claimed Highways England had failed to take into account the forecast traffic growth, which would add to the issue of over-capacity on the Dartford Crossing.
In the Highways England Environmental Impact Assessment report in 2017, they outlined that forecast traffic growth was expected to increase traffic volume by around 23 per cent by 2025.
This, Laura claims, is another reason why the capacity issue is a fundamental flaw in the plan.
“Highways England says traffic growth will be somewhere between 17 to 23 per cent,” she said.
“Normally we use an average of 20 per cent so if you are already over capacity and there is 20 per cent growth on top of that, it just proves it is not worth £8.2bn of taxpayers’ money.”
Laura added that she also doesn’t believe Highways England has addressed how traffic will migrate across the roads when there are accidents.
“If the Dartford Tunnels are closed and traffic wants to migrate to the Lower Thames Crossing, they will go down the A2,” she said.
“There is only one single lane on the A2 to the Lower Thames Crossing so all that traffic will be trying to go through one lane – it’s a bottle neck.”
Laura added that routes coming down the M25 towards the QE2 Bridge would also cause problems where drivers would have to travel past the Stanford junction, along the motorway, past the roundabout and back onto the A13 to join the Lower Thames Crossing from the Orsett Cock roundabout.
She explained: “Alternatively, to try to get off the M25, if traffic is coming around hoping to get across, if they try to come off the M25 on on the Lower Thames Crossing, at that point there are five lanes of traffic there and only two lanes on the Lower Thames Crossing.”
“It would be criminal if this goes ahead”
Among the chief concerns of the group are the environmental and health impacts on local residents.
A recent investigation found that throughout its lifetime, the Lower Thames Crossing would produce 1.5 per cent of the UK’s annual carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Two million tonnes of greenhouse gases would be emitted by simply constructing the crossing, with a further 3.2 million tonnes emitted over the crossing’s 60 years of operation.
This has been something that has deeply concerned the TCAG, as well as Thurrock Council.
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Laura added: “A lot of people want to believe in Highways England, they are in charge of our roads and spend taxpayers’ money and want to fix it but if it does go ahead, people will realise they should have taken more notice.
“I feel frustrated and angry that this has been going on for so long and negatively impacting so many people’s lives already.
“It’s impossible, the level of distress this is already causing some people and the level of stress with Highways England being so evasive in sharing information and misinformation.”
Laura added: “It would be criminal if his goes ahead because of the sheer damage and the amount of taxpayer’s money and it’s not going to solve the problems.”
Laura is keen to encourage individuals to keep having their say in future consultations.
“Diverting over 13 million vehicles away from it every year”
A Highways England spokesperson stressed the benefits of the project and how it would double road capacity across the Thames, east of London.
They said: “The proposed Lower Thames Crossing is part of the largest investment in our road network in a generation.
“If given the green light it will add billions to the economy and play an important role in our economic recovery by supporting tens of thousands of jobs and opportunities for businesses during construction.
“The Dartford Crossing is one of the most important transport links in the UK, connecting the regions key manufacturing centres, distributions hubs and ports.
“But it is massively over capacity; designed for 135,000 vehicles a day, it can see over 180,000 vehicles using it on a busy day.”
They added: “The Lower Thames Crossing will almost double road capacity across the Thames east of London, and significantly ease congestion at Dartford and the surrounding network by diverting over 13 million vehicles away from it every year.”
A detailed traffic report from Highways England including a forecast was shared during consultations in 2018 and 2020 which can be found here.