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The bottleneck of the Dartford Tunnels must be fixed as soon as possible
Our continuing policy is to support a solution that deals fully with the traffic congestion and pollution problems at Dartford, and to deal with them at source. The missing link in the M25, Britain’s busiest motorway, the bottleneck of the Dartford Tunnels must be fixed as soon as possible. Highways England’s own traffic forecasts show that Option C will not fix the problems at Dartford. What is needed is a solution that completes the M25, separates national and regional from local traffic, and which can deal with the pollutants arising from exhaust fumes. The LTCA continues to advocate Option A14, dual motorway grade tunnels from south of Junction 2 to north of Junction 30, thereby removing all M25 through traffic from the existing crossing.
Our objectives have always been:-
- to oppose Lower Thames Crossing options which are to the detriment of the environment and communities of north Kent and south Essex;
- to promote Lower Thames Crossing solutions which provide maximum relief from traffic congestion and pollution; and
- to promote measures to mitigate the adverse impacts of the final crossing option selected.
Our specific Aims and Principles
We are disappointed that the Government has announced that its preferred route for the crossing is Option C3 Western Southern Link (C3WSL), and appear determined to ignore the views of thousands of residents in Kent and Essex. We are convinced that this is the wrong decision, and one which condemns the long-suffering residents of Dartford to continuing congestion and pollution for another generation.Nevertheless, we have now formulated more specific aims and principles to mitigate the impact of Highways England’s proposals upon the environment and people affected by the Option C3 Western Southern Link proposal.Our Specific Aims and Principals are:
- To extend the tunnel portals south of the A226, so that Chalk Church is not separated from its community;
- To oppose any junction on the A226;
- To maximise the use of bored and/or cut & cover tunnelling, cuttings, and the natural topography to minimise the visual and noise impact of the link road on the environment and the local community;
- To optimise the design of the A2 junction to improve traffic flows whilst minimising adverse impacts on the environment and the local community.
- Extend tunnel portals
The plans presented during the 2016 public consultation would sever Chalk Church from its parish community(1). It is essential that the tunnel portals are extended as far south of the A226 as possible, to minimise the visual impact of the crossing, and to prevent severance of the local community.Chalk Church is an integral part of Chalk community, frequently used as a place of worship, and social gatherings and is a burial ground for many people from the local community. It is morally indefensible to separate the community from its local church, and to find that loved ones’ graves were separated from the community would cause unnecessary distress to their descendants. In addition, the tunnel portals as shown in the current plans are too close to established residential properties in Chalk. To extend the portals south of the A226 would reduce noise and pollution, and make the proposals more acceptable to residents in this area.
- No junction on the A226
A junction on the A226 would attract traffic to & from Gravesend, and to & from Strood and the A289 Wainscott Bypass. Highways England forecasts that up to 8,500 additional vehicles a day would be attracted to the A226 – we believe it is likely to be more than this. Traffic would use minor roads in Shorne, Higham, Chalk, and Gravesend as rat-runs to access this junction.The A226 is already used as an alternate route in the event of a problem on the A2. An incident at the new crossing (or indeed at the Dartford Crossing) would result in the A226 becoming gridlocked, preventing residents from Shorne and Higham accessing schools, shops, and services in Gravesend, impacting the local economy.In addition, there is a risk that a junction on the A226 would encourage the sort of inappropriate development we have seen at the approaches to the Dartford Crossing, putting at risk the RAMSAR-protected marshes and the last remaining metropolitan Green Belt on the Thames between London and the Medway conurbation.
With the selection of WSL, there is no need for a junction on the A226. Unlike ESL, traffic travelling to and from the A289 and Strood now has direct access to the crossing via the A2.
Let’s not make the same mistake twice! The mistakes at the Dartford Crossing MUST NOT be repeated east of Gravesend. The costs saved by omitting this junction and the A226 diversion that would no longer be needed can be used to offset further mitigation against the adverse impacts of the crossing and link road.
- Maximum use of tunnelling
Air pollution is a major concern both at a National level and locally. Evidence shows that the young are particularly affected by air pollution which can hinder brain development. There are about 10 schools which would be closer to the new motorway/trunk road than they currently are to other major trunk roads and as a result would be potentially adversely affected unless mitigation is implemented.The advantage of tunnels is that noise is reduced, and exhaust emissions air can be captured and treated before being released to the environment. This would provide air quality mitigation for those close to and downwind of the crossing.The LTCA advocates as much bored and cut & cover tunnelling as possible, extending as close to the A2 as technical possible. Ideally, this should be extended west of Thong Lane and south of Astra Drive / Vigilant Way.
Once underground, the route the tunnel takes on its way to its northern portal is less important. For example a much more direct alignment and therefore a shorter route could be achieved which may reduce costs. A longer tunnel would certainly reduce the land take and cost of compulsory purchase.
- Optimisation of the junction with the A2
There are a number of major concerns about the indicative designs presented by Highways England to date.Namely:
- Closure of three key slips roads that currently provide direct access to the A2 from Gravesend and Shorne, replaced by, in our opinion, a wholly inadequate link road;
- A poor layout of the WSL junction due to the tightness of the bends resulting in reduced traffic flow at the junction with the A2;
- Unnecessary destruction of property
Various alternative ideas are in circulation which appear to offer a number of benefits over the original Highways England design. The LTCA would advocate a scheme that:-
- Requires no more land than the original layout, ideally less, increasing cost effectiveness,
- Negates the need for tight bends which would otherwise impede traffic flow, thereby reducing journey times,
- Has considerably less impact upon the environment,
- Provides for uninterrupted traffic flow to and from the M2,
- Requires less overall groundwork,
- Requires less compulsory purchase of property.
(1) It was announced on November 1, 2017 that the previously proposed junction on the A226 is to be removed from the proposals.