It is important during the consultation regarding a possible new Lower Thames Crossing that opposition to it is united. This will avoid the proponents of the crossing dividing the opposition to it. With that aim in mind I have spoken to many people his year and a possible common position has emerged. This is to make the point that any consultation on a new Thames crossing is premature.
There are good reasons for saying this which are as follow:
1. The high speed tolls at Dartford will not be fully operational until 2014.
2. Road traffic has fallen recently bringing into question all demand predictions as they are based on 2009 figures.
3. The new port in Essex effect on freight transport is not yet known.
4. The proposed VIN tax on HGV’s entering UK ports could affect the number of HGV’s needing to cross the river Thames.
5. More time is needed to access how a greater use of water and rail could reduce road traffic, which would generate more jobs and cause less pollution then a new road crossing.
6. The number of junctions on the south side of the river is a major cause of traffic congestion. Changes to the road layout need to be examined as an alternative to a new crossing.
Much has been made of the jobs created at Dover by all the foreign registered lorries going through the port but very little is said about the cost of road repairs and the issues to the public’s health that the pollution causes. The cost argument alone should rule out a new crossing.
There is evidence that the cost predictions are wrong for all of the proposed options. Option B does not allow for improvements to the A13 or the A13/ M25 junction. Looking at the map for option C it does not appear that the crossing allows for the predicted rise in sea levels. Past experience with projects such as the A2 widening at Gravesend show road building costs are often underestimated.
It is worth remembering that the closer a crossing is to the estuary the greater the cost. Unlike in Scotland any crossing will be paid for with tolls. The M6 toll project has shown how reluctant people are to pay any subsequent high fees.
Any new crossing will not solve the congestion problem, it will simply increase pollution in Kent. This is a hard concept for some people to grasp but there are lots of studies from this country and around the world that prove this beyond any doubt. This is why CPRE Protect Kent is so against a new crossing for so long. I personally remain as committed to fighting any new crossing of the river Thames in Kent as I have in the last 13 years as when I first became involved with this issue.