2 June 2017

Lower Thames Crossing debate re-opened as Labour pledge to put brakes on government’s plans

Labour has pledged to reconsider the government’s plans for the Lower Thames Crossing.

Andy McDonald, the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, said that ‘all options’ would be considered again if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister next week, with Chris Grayling’s decision to approve the new route linking Kent and Essex having divided opinion.

He said: “Before we agree to spending £6.5 billion we have to be sure that we will actually resolve the problem of congestion around the existing crossing and that is then done in a way that does as little damage as possible.”

Back in April the government said the crossing would create a new link between the A2 and the M25 and reduce the burden on the busy Dartford Crossing.

The planned route will run from the M25 near North Ockendon, cross the A13 at Orsett before crossing under the Thames east of Tilbury and Gravesend, with a new link road taking traffic to the A2 near Shorne, close to where the route becomes the M2.

Another £10 million was promised to help Dartford’s roads in the meantime and Gareth Johnson, MP for Dartford at the time of the announcement and hoping to retain his seat, said going back on the plans would be ‘a disaster’ for the area.

“This is another reason why a Labour government would be a disaster for our town as it’s now party policy to scrap our plans to have another crossing away from Dartford and to potentially have another crossing at Dartford,” he said.

“It flies in the face of common sense and everything we have been saying on this.

“We cannot have another crossing here at Dartford. I have always said it would be catastrophic for our town, with the roadworks we would have to put up with and the extra traffic on roads that cannot cope as it is.”

Dartford council leader Cllr Jeremy Kite (Con), who wrote to Theresa May to urge the government to opt for the crossing east of Gravesend, added: “The uncertainty of having a whole new debate on it would be huge. It would take years. It’s absolutely ridiculous.”

The issue is one of few to have united the Conservatives and Labour in Dartford in recent times, with both parties having backed the government’s decision.

Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Dartford, Dr Bachchu Kaini, has made combating air pollution a key part of his campaign and Dartford Labour leader Cllr Jonathon Hawkes issued a statement condemning the ‘further delay and uncertainty’ that would be caused by re-opening the crossing debate.

He said: “Our position has not changed. Dartford Labour campaigned for a new crossing to be built east of Gravesend and that’s what should happen.

“There are always going to be pressures and challenges to the decision that has been made. For example, the Conservative candidate in Gravesham is still actively campaigning for the crossing to be built in Dartford.

“However, Highways England undertook once of its biggest consultations and the clear result was for a Lower Thames Crossing be built in Tilbury.”

Cllr Hawkes continued: “It has the support of the Freight Transport Association, Kent County Council, The Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, South East Local Enterprise Partnership, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce and London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Any further delay in the construction of the crossing will exacerbate the appalling situation for Dartford residents and that’s why Labour in Dartford will continue to campaign for work to start as soon as possible and for the funds urgently needed to improve our local road network.

“As MP, Bachchu Kaini will always stand up for the interests of Dartford, even if that means standing up to our own party.”

In Gravesham the two parties were united in their condemnation of the government’s plan for a crossing in their area, with Adam Holloway and the Lower Thames Crossing Association’s Bob Lane among those to have raised doubts about the new crossing’s potential to improve traffic flow in north Kent.

Mandy Garford, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Gravesham, said: “I strongly welcome Labour’s commitment to look again at this issue.

“The people of Gravesham were denied a proper voice by the Conservative government on arguably the most important infrastructure project affecting our area for a generation and it seems only right that we halt the plans for Option C until we have had an open and honest re-evaluation of all the facts.”

Ukip has also promised to reject the Lower Thames Crossing, going so far as to include it in the party manifesto.

It states that Ukip would look to re-open a consultation for a crossing further east, including the option for a crossing through Canvey Island, linking the A130 to the M2 in Kent.

Other parties have also made the issue of the crossing a key part of their local campaigns, with the Liberal Democrats and Green Party backing the idea of a new public tram scheme linking the counties.

Credit to: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/dartford/news/crossing-debate-re-enters-spotlight-126484/