Major issues surrounding the key debate of a new Lower Thames Crossing took centre stage at Thomson Snell & Passmore’s latest breakfast networking event.
Tim Allen, partner at Peter Brett Associates, an expert on assessing traffic flows, tackled the controversial issue of the government proposal to construct a new crossing to ease congestion on the existing M25 crossing at Dartford.
He argued that the position is not quite as simple as a recent government consultation would suggest, in which three routes were suggested. These included an option connecting the Swanscombe Peninsula with the A1089 – which the government has now signalled has been dropped.
This leaves two main possibilities, including upgrading the present bridge, or connecting the M2 with the A13 and the M25 between junctions 29 and 30.
Concerns have been raised by residents and businesses regarding the volumes of traffic using the bridge each year- which have led to major road delays.
According to Mr Allen, the government’s consultation painted a picture of the financial benefits clearly outweighing the £5 billion cost, the traffic specialist suggested that delays at the Dartford crossing costs the economy only £15 million per year – and this was less than 1/15th of one percent of GDP growth.
This wasn’t particularly significant, especially against a payback period of more than 33 years for the new crossing to pay for itself.
In Mr Allen’s opinion, although congestion may be reduced initially by a new bridge, there was compelling evidence to suggest that the road network would return to its ‘natural equilibrium’ within a few short years.
Any new crossing would allow drivers to make journeys they would not have previously contemplated and road traffic congestion would simply rebalance around current levels.
Mr Allen asserted that the best of the three proposed locations would be the route that links the A2 near Chatham with the M25 and crosses the Thames east of Gravesend, as this would be closer to the desire line for freight. He suggested that the new crossing would have a different purpose to the existing facility at Dartford.
Hence, while a new crossing would not significantly reduce traffic in the long term, it may well provide economic growth in the future.