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Land affected by the new Lower Thames Crossing (map: Highways Agency)

New crossing could make us cross!

CRITICISM HAS RAINED down on Tory Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP, who has announced the route of a new Lower Thames crossing. The Government will be going ahead with “Option C”: a new tunnel going under Green Belt land and crossing under the Thames to linked the M25 (near North Ockenden in Essex) with the A2 (near Shorne in Kent).

Grayling said he expected the construction project to create more than 6,000 jobs and suggested it would boost the economy by over £8 billion. Construction would involve creating a new road from the M25 which would head south, crossing the A13 at Orsett – and a new road heading north from the Western Southern Link (which leads to the A2). The two new roads would be joined by the new tunnel.

Critics included Adam Holloway, Tory MP for the Gravesham constituency in Kent, who said that this “crazy idea” would be a “disaster for the people of Dartford”. Others have expressed concerns that the roads would destroy parts of the Green Belt and would cause problems for residents and schools in its vicinity – not least by increasing air pollution.

Grayling hoped that the new Lower Thames tunnel would ease congestion on the Dartford tunnel and Queen Elizabeth bridge – but Mike Golsby, speaking for “A Bridge Too Far”, the campaign group which had opposed Option C – doubted that traffic volumes would be reduced.

Residents of Tower Hamlets and other East London boroughs will be responding to the announcement by crossing their fingers. The new crossing is likely to increase the overall volume of traffic crossing the Thames as the journey becomes easier. The Highways Agency estimates that 4.5 million lorries will use the crossing in its first year alone. The big question is: once these lorries have crossed the Thames, where will they go?

If the traffic is travelling north to south, East London will not be greatly affected. The danger is that traffic from south England, especially the Kent ports, will increase, use the three crossings that will replace the existing two – and then head into central London along the various “A” roads that go through East London, spewing out pollution as they go. The new Lower Thames Crossing should be built alongside facilities to unload lorries and bring goods into central London by rail. As yet, the Government has shown no intention to plan in that co-ordinated way.

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