The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has said today that “a decision needs to be made sooner rather than later” – in response to the announcement by the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin the DfT is to ‘appraise route options in detail’ at each of the proposed Lower Thames crossing solutions.
FTA added that the Department for Transport (DfT) is still not providing a definitive answer to the much needed crossing with today’s decision still not providing the answer as to which of the two possible locations it is to be built at. The Association has also repeated its message that “congestion needs tackling now,” stating that the cost of queuing should be taken into account, which for a 44 tonne truck averages £1 per minute, outweighing the cost of the toll and ultimately the price of constructing the right crossing to relieve what are now real pinch-points at Dartford and the Blackwall Tunnel.
Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s Head of Road Network Management Policy said:
“Once again the DfT’s announcement today brings us no closer to building the much needed new Lower Thames Crossing. Congestion needs tackling now, and this appraisal appears to add further delay to the process building of the crossing. There is absolutely no doubt that improving capacity and easing congestion at Dartford is essential in the longer term and while the introduction of free flow tolling in October will bring FTA members recognise the need for a longer term solution.
In December 2013 the DfT said that it would discard one of the three locations in the consultation and work on the remaining alternatives; Option A –close to the existing crossing, and Option C connecting the A2 and M2 via the A13. It has been said today that the decision comes as the Department publishes its response to the public consultation on location options for a new Lower Thames crossing, which generated more than 5,700 responses.
On behalf of its members the FTA contributed to the Department for Transport consultation outlining that a new Thames Crossing would be an integral part of the solution to improve capacity for traffic at Dartford. The Association added that there was an urgent and vital need to ease congestion at what is one of the most important national artery routes.
Mr Bingham added:
“FTA has consulted with our members at length on the issue of what the best crossing would be. As a result it was widely considered that Option C would bring the most benefits to the freight industry, and would help tackle congestion at Dartford, and therefore we feel that today’s announcement is simply slowing down the process”.
FTA pointed out that the introduction of free-flow tolling in 2014 will go some way to relieving the queues at the tunnels, but added that even with that, there would still be the requirement for new capacity and there was a definite need to plan more efficiently for the future in order to cope with traffic on these essential routes.