No-one who has crawled through traffic congestion at the Dartford crossings can doubt that there is a problem that needs fixing, and it needs fixing now. Nor do the residents who suffer from dangerously high levels of air pollution need reminding that this is a situation which has long been intolerable.
Our first thoughts on the location are here. But now that the dust is beginning to settle on the announcement of the likely location of the Thames crossing, there’s an opportunity to reflect on what this means for Kent and beyond.
As a solution to the problems suffered at Dartford, the tunnel east of Gravesend performs very poorly indeed. Highways England’s consultation acknowledged that, on opening, the tunnel would draw just 14% of the traffic from Dartford, which is a woefully poor improvement on a situation that is intolerable now and can only become worse in the time it will take a tunnel to be built.
We know from years of observations that building roads to remove congestion is counter-productive; new roads fill with traffic faster than the roads they are supposed to be relieving. CPRE’s report published only last month showed the most comprehensive evidence to date that building new roads is not the solution.
A huge proportion of the goods we trade with mainland Europe and beyond travel through the Channel Port of Dover and the Channel tunnel, and there are ambitious plans to grow traffic through the port of Dover. If the experience of past road building schemes has taught us anything at all, it is that before long Kent’s highways network, even with an additional tunnel across the Thames, will be back at or beyond capacity and we will have endured the environmental and social damage of building and using a tunnel for no long-term solution.
Before destroying communities, landscapes and designated sites, we want urgent attention to be given to developing a sustainable transport strategy. Fostering and encouraging the continued growth in traffic through Kent is not good for the country’s economic resilience. The unprecedented events of 2015, leading to over 30 days’ implementation of Operation Stack, should have taught us the lesson that focusing so much of the country’s imports and exports through the already constrained M2/M20 corridors cannot make economic sense.
We urge government to take a radical re-think of the focus on funneling so much traffic on roads through the South East. We need modal shift which will take freight off roads and on to rail, yet the plans for the new Thames crossing are totally silent on the possibility of addition non-road capacity.
April 24th 2017