The public meeting of the Lower Thames Crossing Task Force planned for 18 June 2018 has been cancelled. As recent meetings have seen limited progress being made with Highways England, the task force will consider over the summer how it can continue holding Highways England to account and best represent the interest of Thurrock, ahead of the Lower Thames Crossing statutory consultation later this year.
Thurrock Council is unanimously opposed to any Lower Thames Crossing at the proposed locations for the following reasons:
a) The traffic movement data on which the appraisal partly relies is historic - 2001 demand data. It is the foundation of the Highways England (HE) decision making yet there have been significant new developments in the sub-region over the last decade, and trip making patterns have changed as a result.
b) Route 3 has a slightly higher benefit to cost ratio, but there is no clear headway between options. Benefit to Cost ratios at lower end do not include wider economic benefits but the upper end does.
c) For the Highways England's preferred route (Route 3) these are 2.3 (lower) and 3.4 (upper). For every £1 invested HE claim a return of £2.30 - but this return is made up substantially of time savings arising from traffic on the new route. Given there are significant questions over the accuracy of the data from 2001, there must be questions over the accuracy of the modelling and therefore the travel time savings, and hence over the accuracy of the benefits.
d) Route corridors A and C fulfil substantially different strategic functions. Location C is likely to be less effective in alleviating congestion at Dartford Crossing than location A.
e) If a new crossing is built at location C, when incidents occur on the Dartford Crossing, there is no evidence that the local road network can cope with traffic diverting from the Dartford Crossing to the Lower Thames Crossing. Highways England's preferred option may cause worse community and environmental problems over the wide area, particularly on the key roads of the A13 and A2 when diverting traffic hits bottlenecks.
f) Any gridlock will worsen pollution in the area in increased emissions from vehicles and the number of vehicles. The future modelled scenario has an increased traffic movement from 140,000 vehicles a day now with the existing crossing to nearly 240,000 a day in total by 2041.
g) At the existing crossing traffic volumes in 2025 are predicted to be around 14% lower than a scenario without a new crossing. By 2041 they are predicated to be just 7% lower. This suggests that location C options have very limited benefits in terms of the main objective ' to relieve the congested Dartford Crossing and approach roads'. In consequence, there is unlikely to be a significant long term difference to general traffic conditions at the existing crossing.
h) The detailed information available to Highways England is yet to be published. There is a lack of information to make an informed decision over any route and the strategic case tests have not been met. More information is specifically required on wider traffic flows and impacts on junctions.
i) The need for a new crossing has not been demonstrated. Further work is required to explore alternative modes of travel. More freight could go by rail. It is not shown how the options could support sustainable travel and land use integration as set out in Government Guidance.
j) The environmental harm caused by the scheme has not been fully assessed or quantified, including the impacts on health and local amenity and this may not be out-weighed by any economic or transport benefits - clearly further work is required on air quality and public health before the Government makes a decision. It must be given weight alongside economic and transport benefits.
k) As Option 1 within Corridor A has been reintroduced, after the consultation has started, a full ' like for like' assessment should be provided.
l) The public interest 'compelling case' required for Compulsory Purchase Orders has not yet been met.
m) The consultation has been flawed, with inadequate comparative information, inadequate capacity at venues, and inadequate hard copy consultation materials. The consultation should be at least extended but preferably halted to allow further work.
n) The Council has written two letters to the Secretary of State for Transport to this effect, but has yet to receive a reply. It has also not received a response to its letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
o) What is needed is a full strategic road network and local access road review to maintain resilience over the next 10 years.
p) The Council requests that joint work be instigated by Thurrock Council, the Department for Transport, and Highways England on the effect of pollution from vehicles on the health of residents.
q) Should Government insist on progressing a LTC option after the consultation that Thurrock Council should have a seat around the table to help protect residents and businesses from the least - worst option.