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

Lower Thames Crossing: consultation opens

Infographic from Highways England consultation

In the week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report telling us we need to take immediate action to curb catastrophic climate change, we learn of the opening of the next stage of consultation on plans for the new Lower Thames Crossing (LTC).
The consultation website bills it as the solution to “unlocking opportunities and economic growth for the region and the country… offering new connections and better journeys”.
Earlier stages of consultation promised that the new LTC was essential to solve congestion and air pollution at the existing, undoubtedly over-stretched, Dartford crossings.
Even so, scrutiny of those documents showed that, on opening, a new crossing would reduce traffic flows at Dartford by a pitifully low 14 per cent.
This is a tiny benefit compared with the environmental and community harm that would be caused by the biggest UK road project since construction of the M25.
It is now clear that a new crossing will not be about achieving environmental and public benefits. Rather, it is about creating more vehicle journeys, about intensifying the housing crisis in the South East and about opening up ever more green spaces for development.
Last year, colleagues in CPRE’s national team published research showing unequivocally that increasing road capacity simply resulted in more vehicle journeys: we can’t build our way out of congestion. There’s a good little video summarising the report here.
At a time when we need to radically rethink how we use energy to move ourselves and our stuff around, the government’s focus on new road capacity is out of date.
Instead of investing solely in new roads, we want government to focus on better public transport links, to rationalise the over-reliance on road-based freight movement and to support planning policies that reduce the need to travel by car and support walking and cycling.
Don’t miss your chance to have your say on the proposals: the consultation closes on Thursday, December 20, and the documents can be found here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Response to roads announcement

CPRE Kent has raised its concerns at the roads investment package – worth £1.4billion across the South East – announced by the Government, warning that road building can create traffic and damage countryside. We make the point that past experience has shown that more roads lead to increased traffic which in turn leads to more congestion.

roads campaign cpre

However, we also highlight some positive elements of the announcement – the A21 dualling between Tonbridge and Pembury, although contentious, is a model of how road building should be done, with sensitivity to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The designers listened to campaigners from CPRE Kent and the scheme will include good non-motorised local access running closely parallel separated from the dual carriageway with properly designed crossing points.

CPRE Kent also welcomes the fact that improvements to Junction 5 of the M2 (A249), a notorious congestion hot-spot, are to be carried out and looks forward to finding out more detail of what is planned.

CPRE Kent has argued since 2005 for the introduction of high speed tolls at the Dartford crossing – this is finally happening, but the charity wants the Government to wait to see the full effect of the tolls on improving traffic flow before committing to building any further crossings at Dartford or east of Gravesend which would not only damage the countryside but also increase traffic.

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