Tuesday, November 7, 2017

New River Thames Crossing Plans Alter as Freight Trucks Made a Consideration

Revisions Meet with a Mixed Reception
Shipping News Feature
UK – The new proposed crossing over, or rather under, the River Thames, planned to be the nearest to the mouth of the estuary, is always going to be somewhat controversial right up to, and indeed after, the cars and HGVs start to roll through it. Whilst the average motorist or freight truck driver will doubtless welcome the development, many locals are upset at the continuing uncertainty of the precise details of what is envisaged.

Obviously it is important however for all due consideration to be given to both the size of the actual tunnel and the approach roads, and indeed to the actual route between Essex and Kent in a scheme which it is hoped will relieve the constant traffic flow, and all too regular delays, when travelling via the Dartford crossings, themselves for many years the subjects of controversy. Highways England have made up to date information available to all and anyone is free to sign up for updates by email HERE.

Whilst Highways England cogitate on the details of the final scheme there will be a further consultation next year and the opinions expressed at that time will help shape the development of proposals before an application for a Development Consent Order is submitted to the authorities.

There has already been some tinkering with the original incarnation which in Kent now sees the A226 junction removed from the scheme to reduce local traffic impact, to anyone familiar with the area an eminently sensible move, the A2 will host a new junction design and widening of the A2 to M2, junction 1 to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow, whilst roads on either bank are likely to see upgrades to three lanes, as opposed to the original two, in a bid to future proof the plans.

Essex unsurprisingly now sees the planned route deviate around the huge landfill site in Ockenden. There will be a new junction adjacent to east Tilbury with a link road specifically to aid the throughput of HGVs. For some residents the best news is the redesign of the A13 meaning the proposed junction with the A128 is removed from the scheme. This notification was met with guarded optimism by locals who otherwise were likely to have been forcibly moved.

One such affected body is the South Essex Wildlife Hospital, a well-respected charity which relies entirely on public donations to fund its work rescuing sick and injured wild animals from hedgehogs to badgers on a daily basis and which had hitherto feared it might be uprooted by the original plans. Sue Schwar founder of the Hospital, commented:

”It’s good news that the A128 will not be so badly hit by this scheme as previously proposed although we await details of the final plans. One factor to consider is the amount of traffic which is likely to reroute from other roads and the potential widening of the A128 to accommodate this which might prove a hazard to us in the future.”

As to the final design of the tunnel, its overall length and the actual size and siting of the entrances, there are currently no firm plans, so residents in both counties will doubtless be watching carefully as things develop. What is certain is that there will be a cost, the Dartford crossing was to have been free from charges when paid for, a pattern started in 1963 with the opening of the first tunnel and which continued until the final PFI payment on the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge in April 2003.

It was then that the Highways Agency reneged on that agreement, deciding that the charges would continue, despite all previous promises, and ongoing tolls be payable to itself under the auspices of the 2000 Transport Act. So don’t anyone have high hopes of a free ride under the river via the new link in this lifetime if history is to be believed.

Photo: A picture of a deer rescued by SEWH.

Editor’s Note:Despite many people’s ideas of the county, the area of Essex around the development site is alive with wildlife, as evidenced by DP World's experience when, to construct the deep water port of London Gateway on a site at Stanford le Hope which seemed hopelessly polluted by years of oil refining processes, the company spent vast amounts of time and money to relocate thousands of wild creatures and develop new environments to accommodate them. For some simple and enterprising ways to aid the South Essex Wildlife Hospital, simply click HERE.