Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Lower Thames Crossing – daily delay costing economy millions

Dartford Crossing is often congested
The Secretary of State for Transport has announced the government is to consult on options for a new Lower Thames Crossing – but why does it have to wait until late 2015 or early 2016 to ask businesses and residents where they want it?

Could it be because there’s a general election in less than a year and the government is concerned either of the two options being proposed could damage the electoral chances for some of their colleagues? 

Could it be because the first consultation, which had 5,700 responses, showed a difference of opinion that might influence the election, especially in Thurrock? The only good news to date is that Option B was kicked out as it would have dealt a body blow to the Paramount London theme park plans.

In its press release, the government:

  • confirms there is a need for a new crossing
  • advises that, as there is as yet no clear preference, government will develop and appraise route options for both location options A and C before choosing where to site a new crossing. (Option A is at the existing crossing and Option C is a new link connecting the A2/M2 with the A13 and M25).

With 140,000 vehicles using the crossing every day, the impact of the ongoing delays on the economies of Kent, Essex, London, and wider UK are staggering. Take this ‘back of the envelope’ calculation:

  • The crossing adds an extra 10 minutes to the average journey time in either delays or by setting off early to avoid being late, that’s 23,333 hours each day
  • Let’s accept 60 per cent of traffic is business-related – that’s 84,000 vehicles a day x 10mins lost each x 260 working days
  • That’s more than 3.6 million hours of productive time lost each year to business
  • Or 455,000 working days lost each year, based on an eight hour day

Now the government is suggesting it would cost in the region of £3 billion to build a new crossing, a figure strongly challenged by Kent County Council.

The question should be: Not how much will it cost to build, but how much is the lack of a new crossing costing the UK economy? How much more efficient would the local economy be with a new crossing?

And if Option C, the one proposed from east of Gravesend, is the one adopted, just think about the positive knock-on effect for Kent which would be felt as far away as Dover with improved traffic flows on the M2.

It’s a win-win for Kent, so the consultation should not be delayed. If, as the government confirms, ‘there is a need’ why wait. 

If government wants Ebbsfleet Garden City, Paramount London and the delivery of Thames Gateway, it needs to be brave, bold and drive forward plans for a new crossing, rather than sit on the electoral fence.

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