My right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Transport (Patrick McLoughlin), has made the following ministerial statement:
In May 2013 the government consulted on options for a new road crossing of the Lower Thames between Essex and Kent to the east of London. In December 2013 I announced government’s decision to discard one of the options and that I was obtaining technical advice on points raised during consultation for the 2 remaining location options: A (near to the site of the existing crossing) and C (a new link connecting the A2/M2 with the A13 and M25).
I am today (15 July 2014) publishing the government’s response to the consultation, referencing the technical advice and outlining the next steps.
The May 2013 consultation invited views on:
- the need for a crossing
- where to locate a new crossing
- the type of crossing, whether by a bridge or tunnel
The response reflected a broad range of views. Most of those who replied to the consultation agreed that congestion at the existing Dartford crossing and resilience of the surrounding road network were a problem. There was no consensus on how to address these issues.
A number of respondents made the point that the Dartford free flow charging scheme (Dart Charge, the remote payment system to replace the booths) would reduce congestion. Some suggested that this could remove the need for a new crossing altogether, while others believe it would be premature to take a decision until the full benefits are known.
Dart Charge will be introduced from October 2014 and is expected to improve driving conditions on the existing crossing. However, by the middle of the next decade, capacity will be exceeded so that journey times become more unreliable and the surrounding road networks seriously congested.
As part of the M25 orbital route around London, the Dartford Crossing is a crucial part of the country’s strategic road network in the South East of England. More particularly, the adjacent localities are currently less prosperous than comparable areas but have the vision and capacity to continue to undertake large scale development.
There are ambitious plans for new homes and jobs across Essex, Kent, Medway, Southend and Thurrock. The Chancellor recently signalled government’s support for these plans by announcing the creation of Ebbsfleet Garden City in Kent. Up to £200 million of funding will be made available as improved infrastructure is vital to the prospects for making this happen.
A new crossing is a vital part of our aspirations for a better future both locally and nationally by providing vital links for businesses and citizens within the area, with the rest of the country and further afield to Europe. Our focus must be to identify where and how to deliver that new crossing.
We obtained technical advice on particular issues raised by consultees about the alternate locations for a new crossing. This included possible air quality impacts, potential mitigation of environmental impacts, additional investment likely to be needed on the surrounding road network, and how the two locations could serve the ambitious development plans. The advice has given a greater understanding of the potential impacts of a new crossing at each location, which now need to be considered in more detail.
We will now develop and appraise route options at both locations (options A and C) in order to identify a proposed solution. We will observe the actual effects of Dart Charge once it is introduced and work with local government, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, businesses and other key parties to better understand aspirations for growth and implications for the road network.
By undertaking more detailed work on route options at both locations, we will identify solutions that best meet the aspirations of government and stakeholders, whilst demonstrating value for money. By taking this approach we will not delay the opening of a new crossing which we currently estimate to be 2025, if publicly funded.