Wednesday, October 10, 2018

New Lower Thames Crossing Consultation Launched and Welcomed by Freight Groups

Tunnel Proposition to Ease M25 Congestion Will Suit Road Hauliers - Except for the Cost
Shipping News Feature
UK – Highways England has launched the next phase of statutory consultation for the planned Lower Thames Crossing which ultimately aims to relieve congestion at the existing Dartford Crossing. The multi-billion pound road link beneath the River Thames will connect Kent, Thurrock and Essex through the longest road tunnel in the country in a project that the Government says is the largest single road investment venture in the UK since the M25 was completed more than 30 years ago. Freight and road haulage groups are pressing for urgent completion of the scheme.

On the south side of the Thames, the new road will link the tunnel to the A2 and M2 in Kent. On the north side, it will link to the A13 and junction 29 of the M25 in the London Borough of Havering. The crossing and the new connecting road network should, according to Highways England, provide quicker and more reliable journeys locally, regionally and nationally.

The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced the link to be the preferred route in April 2017 after the initial consultation attracted over 47,000 responses. Changes to the plans have been made in response to the feedback, which includes provisions for rest and service area on the Essex side and improvements to the design in order to reduce the visual impact on either side of the tunnel, as well as accounting for the effects on the environment and traffic.

The government is proposing to charge users of the new tunnel with a free-flowing e-charging system, similar to the Dart Charge at the Dartford Crossing where drivers do not need to stop but pay remotely. This has raised objections from a variety of sources, many who say the toll road will simply be another money making exercise, ironically just as tolls on the River Severn crossings are about to be consigned to history.

In its first year, more than 27 million drivers are forecast to use the crossing, of which 4.5 million are expected to be heavy good vehicles, reducing the number of vehicles using the Dartford crossing by 22%. When the first Dartford tunnel was constructed promises were made by the then government that tolls would be imposed only until the scheme was paid for, something which has never happened.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says that it fully supports this scheme and has urged government to proceed with construction of its approved route across the Thames to increase capacity and connectivity on this vital part of the country's road network. Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s Head of Road Network Policy, explains:

“The FTA, which represents more than 17,000 UK logistics businesses, urges government to press ahead with construction of the scheme as soon as possible to ease congestion and improve road capacity in this area.

“Traffic congestion at the Dartford Crossing is already unbearably high and it is predicted to return to pre-Dart Charge levels by 2020. The M2 / M25 route is a vital cog in the country’s freight machine and it must continue to work as smoothly as possible to ensure that British companies can trade without delays both domestically and internationally.

“The logistics industry is a lifeblood of the UK economy and needs an efficient and effective road network to continue stocking Britain’s factories, retail outlets, schools, hospitals and homes with the raw materials and goods they need to continue operating efficiently. While the Lower Thames Crossing is a great milestone, a nationwide road upgrade is desperately needed to empower businesses to trade without friction.”

Photo: A computer generated image of the proposed new Thames road tunnel.