23 March 2016
The Green Party rejects the assumptions and conclusions that first appeared in the National Infrastructure Plan 2011. Faced with projections of a 34% increase in road haulage vehicles and cars using the Dartford River crossings by 2041, the plan looks no further than the construction of additional roads.
The public consultation document issued by Highways England offers four options to the expected rise in road traffic using the existing M25 /Dartford Tunnel/Bridge. All of the options involve further road building alongside either a tunnel or bridge.
There is no mention of trying to stem this increase by improving other modes of transport, especially rail. With or without further road building these increases in motorised traffic are not sustainable.
The study pays scant attention to the environmental and human costs. The various options cause destruction to ancient woodland, areas of outstanding natural beauty, pockets of the Green Belt and agricultural land. Thurrock and North Kent already experience high levels of air pollution (especially caused by NO2) with resulting health issues for local people; a new road will only worsen the living conditions – including more noise - for local people.
The projections suggest that the proposed new crossing would cut 5 minutes off journey times in peak hours and 12 minutes at other times. These are meagre benefits to motorists compared to the irreversible damage to the environment and health of South Essex and North Kent.
The Green Party favours investment in public transport. While two of the country’s largest retail outlets have been constructed in areas close to the Dartford River Crossing there has been no investment in rail services to link Essex and Kent, indeed the only rail service that crosses the Thames close by is Eurostar. The estimated cost of the proposed new crossing, somewhere between £4-£6 billion, would be better spent taking freight off road and onto rail and investing in bus services. This would markedly improve the quality of life of residents in both counties.
The consultation booklet sells the proposed crossing by saying that it would create 5000 jobs. At no point does it adequately analyse how many of these jobs would be permanent or available to local people.
Finally Highways England chooses to ignore the impact of increased motorised traffic upon climate change. The Paris climate talks acknowledged that our climate is at tipping point, and that every effort must be made to restrict increases in climate to 1.5 degrees centigrade. The scale of traffic increases projected is totally inconsistent with an attempt to restrict CO2 emissions. It is the view of the Green Party that the financial costs of traffic delays at Dartford are a small price to pay when compared to the greatest threat that humanity faces.
In conclusion the study paints a one dimensional scenario of a new road solving the traffic flow issues between Dartford and Thurrock. The new road will inevitably become clogged up by cars and lorries. Do we then build yet another road ? It is time to step back and demand a better way to travel.
Policy makers should calculate the optimum number of cars that can be permitted to circumnavigate London. It is vital that the quality of life of those living close to the M25 is taken into consideration.
Cllr Jonathan Essex, Chair South East Green Party
Paul Jeater, Chair Brentwood & Chelmsford Green Party
Stuart Jeffery, Co-Chair of the Confederation of Kent Green Parties
Cllr Caroline Russell, Transport Spokesperson for London Green Party
Keith Taylor MEP, South East
Cllr Martin Whybrow, Kent County Council