Lower Thames Crossing: is it only going to make things worse on our roads?

Travelling could be grim on the A227 if a range of development proposals comes to pass (pic Google Earth)

The Lower Thames Crossing, should it be built, would merely exacerbate traffic congestion in north-west Kent, says Alex Hills, chairman of Dartford and Gravesham CPRE.
“The A227 section that runs from the A20 to the A2 and that paces through Vigo, Culverstone, Meopham and Istead Rise is facing a massive increase in traffic,” he said.
“Work by the Gravesham Rural Residents Group (GRRG) has proved that lorries are already using this road as a cut-through.
“With 3,000 houses planned for Borough Green and Gravesham Borough Council pressing to build on Green Belt in the area, this road already faces a huge hike in traffic. A new Thames crossing would drastically increase it yet further.
“The road has pinch-points at Wrotham Hill, near Culverstone Green primary school, Meopham Green, the listed George Inn and the shops near Meopham station.
“These pinch-points make it unsuitable for large HGVs, which is why we are calling for a weight restriction to be put on the road, along with other traffic measures.
“The safety of the children attending the two schools and residents’ health and well-being on the road must take priority. To put things in perspective, it can take minutes to cross the road now, so any increase in traffic is going to really impact on people’s lives.”
Given the potential effect on the area, Alex wants to see Highways England provide the appropriate mitigation if the new crossing becomes a reality.
“Highways England has admitted that the new crossing will increase the traffic using the A227, yet it is reportedly not going to pay for the required mitigation measures.”
CPRE Kent is requesting clarity on the issue of mitigation and wants to see a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis as part of that process.
Alex concluded: “It is not right that Kent County Council should be forced to pay for problems caused by a Highways England project that will not solve the problems at the Dartford crossing, will increase traffic congestion and will increase air pollution.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

We can’t rely solely on the car forever

The proposed KenEx tram service could cut congestion significantly (pic KenEx, Thames Gateway Tramlink)

With the prospect of the Lower Thames Crossing between Kent and Essex threatening swathes of countryside on both sides of the river, Alex Hills, chairman of Dartford and Gravesham CPRE, says we should be demanding a better transport system

Since the 1950s, successive governments have pursued a transport policy that has had the car as the main form of transport on the basis that building new roads reduces congestion.
This policy has proved to have no basis in fact, with the truth being that building new roads increases congestion and proves more environmentally damaging than suggested while failing to provide the claimed economic benefits.
Other countries did not need the CPRE report The end of the road: Challenging the Road Building Consensus to tell them that an integrated green transport system is needed.
Locally, we have seen the Dartford tunnel built, which would apparently end congestion, then another tunnel and then a bridge – and now a new, very damaging, crossing that would increase both congestion and air pollution in the area.
CPRE is not anti-car – far from it – but to have a sustainable green transport system that does not destroy people’s health there needs to be more investment in other forms of transport.
Gravesend is a hostile environment for cyclists, with existing cycle routes like the ones on the Wrotham and Rochester roads being dangerous for them.
In the town centre, cyclists are banned while in other places there are signs saying ‘Responsible cyclists welcome’.
The bus service in our rural areas is appalling, while train services are struggling to cope with demand.
Green travel plans are not just about infrastructure – they are also about ensuring that trains, trams and buses connect properly so people do not have excessively long waits. They are also about ensuring our transport systems are more disabled- and senior citizen-friendly.
There is some good work being done in this area, with cycling plans being developed for Dartford town centre, Stone Parish Council developing its own cycling plan and Ebbsfleet garden city working extremely hard to develop a green travel plan, while the proposed KenEx tram line would help tackle congestion in the area, reducing traffic at the Dartford crossings by 10 per cent.
Even with other walking and cycling projects, all these projects comprise just a small amount of what is needed.
Rural areas cannot be accessed by non-road transport. For example, there is no pedestrian or cycle path between Istead Rise and Meopham. The goal for district councils, the county council and the government should be to make the car the transport option of last resort.
To get people to use public transport, it needs to be reliable, affordable and able to reach destinations in reasonable time.
Currently, it takes two hours to get from Gravesend to Maidstone by bus and 25 minutes by car – given the choice, no one is going to choose the bus.
To get more journeys completed by walking and cycling, these options need to be made safer, with separate walking and cycling paths away from roads.
It is time we demanded a better transport system.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Lower Thames Crossing… aiding and abetting a killer of thousands

The proposed Lower Thames Crossing will add further strain to Gravesham’s environment

With the prospect of the Lower Thames Crossing between Kent and Essex threatening swathes of countryside on both sides of the river, Alex Hills, chairman of Gravesham CPRE, offers his view on government roads policy while also asking if we’re all doing our bit to tackle air pollution

By continuing to build poorly planned new roads, the government is assisting a deadly force that slaughters 40,000 to 50,000 people a year. This serial killer preys on everyone, especially the young and old – and it is air pollution.
The World Health Organisation is calling for drastic action. It is estimated that up to one-third of asthma-related hospital admissions are caused by air pollution.
This year has seen many new studies on other harmful effects, including damage to unborn children, brain damage and even obesity.
The physical cost to the nation runs into many millions of pounds, aside from the mental suffering, which cannot be priced.
Yet, despite this, the government continues to plan schemes such as the Lower Thames Crossing between Gravesham in Kent and Thurrock in Essex, knowing it will not remove the problems of congestion at Dartford.
The new crossing will increase traffic congestion on both sides of the river and on all north-south routes through Kent, resulting in many more deaths through increased air pollution.
There has been much talk about zero-emission electric cars, but there is no such thing as zero-emission.
Electric cars produce pollution through their tyres, the manufacture and disposal of components (especially the battery, which uses rare metals that are open-cast-mined), building the infrastructure required to support them and the production of the electricity to charge the batteries.
We, of course, are part of the problem and also part of the solution.
Government could do so much more – solar panels on industrial buildings, heat-pump installations in new housing estates and improved building standards including better insulation.
There urgently needs to be a sustainable green transport plan.
There are small things we can all do:

  • Ensure our vehicles are well maintained
  • Make one less car journey per week
  • Use energy-efficient products
  • Walk or cycle to school, work or shops

There is no one simple solution to our air quality crisis, but are you at least playing your own small part?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

We still have to fight for Gravesham’s Green Belt, says district chairman

The proposed Lower Thames Crossing will add further strain to Gravesham’s environment

Many doubtless gave a hefty sigh of relief on Wednesday when Chancellor Philip Hammond gave an assurance that the country’s Green Belts were safe from development.
However, all is not necessarily as rosy in the garden as it might seem. Alex Hills, CPRE Kent’s committee chairman for Gravesham, is preparing to fight proposals for 2,000 homes in the area of the Metropolitan Green Belt that falls within the district.
CPRE will be joining its talents with other members of the Gravesham Rural Residents Group, a group formed in 2011 to defend the Green Belt.
“The group is ready to fight again as people in Gravesham care about the Green Belt,” said Alex.
“In this area healthcare is at breaking point, air pollution is at dangerous levels – every one of our services is at breaking point, water supply and flooding risk in Kent are now pressing questions and our roads face gridlock – the Thames crossing alone will cause a doubling of the traffic on the A227, which run north to south right through Gravesham.
“Is it not time we questioned the growth targets?
“Governments of different colours for many years have shown that they have no understanding of what sustainability means – people need to stand up and say enough is enough.
“We need to spell out to the government what living in this area is really like as it is clear they do not know – if they did, housing targets would have been drastically reduced.
“We need our councillors to turn round to the government and say we can not build more houses as there is not the infrastructure for them.
“We need all the South East MPs to do their job and say enough is enough.
“Standing up to excessive development is not about being a nimby – it is about protecting essential services for everyone.
“It is also about fixing the broken planning system that allows developers to build what they like where they like when they should be building the properties people need, where they are needed.”

Friday, November 24, 2017

Strongly opposed to damaging new crossing

CPRE Kent has raised significant concerns about the proposed Lower Thames crossing including fears over air quality, transport, devastation of areas of countryside and the complete failure of strategic planning which means it won’t even solve the problem.

Responding the Highways England consultation, we have stressed that we are strongly opposed to option C (bored tunnels from Gravesend) but we would also oppose option A at Dartford because of the longer-term induced traffic growth, congestion and reduction in air quality.

Artist's impression of the bored tunnels

Artist’s impression of the bored tunnels

Director Hilary Newport said: “The planned crossing would damage important areas of countryside that are a vital ‘green lung’ to the urban population of the Medway towns, providing recreation and the opportunity for quiet enjoyment of the countryside which is so important for physical and psychological health.”

These areas include ancient woodland and Metropolitan Green Belt. There would also be an impact on the wider area, a loss of amenity in and around Shorne Country Park and the open landscapes to the north.

Post Opening Performance Evaluation (POPE) studies for new roads schemes have repeatedly shown that new road routes do not just relieve congestion, but create and attract new traffic.

There is already an over-reliance on the channel corridor and the channel crossings for the transport of goods to and from Europe. This should be an issue of national concern for the UK’s resilience and security. Not only is there the need to implement Operation Stack during periods of disruption, but even during normal operations, the Dover ‘Traffic Assessment Project’ (’Dover TAP’) is frequently used to hold back port-bound HGVs on the A20 to limit congestion and air pollution in Dover Town Centre. This of course simply displaces the same congestion and air quality concerns to other parts of the roads network. Continue reading

Proposed Lower Thames Crossing will cause huge damage

Highways England has announced its recommendation for a crossing east of Gravesend for the Lower Thames Crossing. A consultation is set to start today (26th January), with Highways England believing the Gravesend crossing, or “Option C” provides “double the economic benefit” compared to an additional crossing at Dartford.

The proposed option would see a bored tunnel built to the east of Chalk which is east of Gravesend, with a new road being built from junction 1 of the M2. It would join the M25 between junctions 29 and 30.

We recently (Jan 12) set out our policy on options for a new Lower Thames Crossing, in which we called for a wider, more resilient solution, including investment in ports north of the Thames to disperse the cross channel movement of freight.

QE2 Bridge by Diamond Geezer, flickr

QE2 Bridge by Diamond Geezer, flickr

We have also highlighted the effects of option C on Gravesham. We fear this will destroy ancient woodland, destroy important wildlife habitats which are home to protected species and destroy productive farmland, needed to feed our growing population. It will ruin the beautiful landscapes and panoramic views which make Gravesham so special. And it would have a devastating impact on Shorne Country Park, one of the area’s most important educational, environmental and recreational assets, used by so many people, including horse riders, walkers, cyclists, runners and families or those who just seek the tranquillity and peace so vital to our busy lives.

The crossing itself would not cause all the damage. Continue reading

Lower Thames Crossing

CPRE Kent, working together with CPRE Essex, has produced a policy statement on the Lower Thames Crossing. We are calling for a wider, more resilient solution, including investment in ports north of the Thames to disperse the cross channel movement of freight.

QE2 Bridge by Diamond Geezer, flickr

QE2 Bridge by Diamond Geezer, flickr

We believe better operation of the existing Thames crossings within a sustainable transport strategy would:

  • Be free from congestion
  • Have acceptably low air pollution levels
  • Be part of a dispersed strategic transport network and channel crossing system, resilient to economic, security and weather issues
  • Reduce the number of loaded trucks parking up overnight and at weekends on local roads
  • Offer a partnership with fleet managers for an end to unsocial working conditions for drivers
  • Promote more diversion to rail and unaccompanied trailer operations
  • Herald the beginning of a lower impact future for transport through Kent and Essex

To read the full policy statement click here.

December 15th 2015