The transport secretary has said it is ‘likely’ motorists will have to pay to use the £4.4billion Lower Thames Crossing, when it eventually opens in the Gravesham countryside.
Chris Grayling said it “wasn’t the first time” he had been caught in Dartford Crossing traffic after turning up an hour late to a meeting at the crossing offices on Wednesday afternoon.
Having announced the news that Option C – a bored tunnel east of Gravesend – was the government’s preferred option for a Lower Thames Crossing, Mr Grayling travelled to Dartford yesterday to discuss the decision.
He said: “It is likely it will be a toll tunnel, but it’s going to be something for the next government to decide.”
Mr Grayling also took the opportunity to discuss the £10million improvement works approved for the Dartford Crossing and the town’s road network.
“That will be relatively quick, Highways England now will take that forward as quickly as possible, this is small scale improvements to traffic junctions.
“I’ve also looked at mitigation measures being put in beyond that £10million particularly sensitive to people in the Dartford area, when there’s a problem on the motorway it ripples around the Dartford area, so we can look to see if there’s anything we can do to improve Dartford and keep the local road network a bit more separate from the motorway.”
In the wake of Wednesday’s decision, anti Option C campaigner Bob Lane claimed the government had been “hoodwinked” by a “biased” Highways England consultation on the crossing.
Mr Grayling dismissed the claims as wrong, saying: “I really wanted to be confident in my own mind that the crossing we put forward today was better, rather than putting in place a bridge or tunnel at Dartford.
“I’ve challenged Highways England, I’ve been and looked at the route for the crossing to the east, I’ve been very careful to make sure this is the right decision and I believe that it is.”
Before the decision, councillors in Gravesham had discussed the possibility of taking up a judicial review against Highways England’s consultation.
But chief executive Jim O’Sullivan told us the government’s major road and motorway management company was not expecting any legal action.
Mr O’Sullivan added: “One of the reasons it took so long for a decision is because we took the consultation seriously, we had discussions with the secretary of state about changing one of the routes slightly east to avoid homes, which we thought served the local communities better, so we think we’ve done a very thorough job.”
There had also been talk before the decision of legal action against Highways England last week
The Lower Thames Crossing is expected to be up and running between 2025 and 2027.
Everything you need to know about the crossing in our ESSENTIAL GUIDE.
Full reaction to the announcement HERE.
Quote, unquote – Kent responds to the decision HERE.