Representatives from Highways England provided a brief outline of works progressed since the last meeting of the Task Force which mostly centred around project related development matters. There was also ongoing work around ecology and environmental surveys, ground surveys, air quality surveys, environmental mitigation works and contract and procurement strategies.
The Task Force was updated that statutory consultation would now not take place until late summer / early autumn. Information would continue to be shared with Council officers and weekly meetings would continue.
The Chair requested that Highways England provide a response regarding the 17 point document referenced at the previous meeting, though he did not expect them to have a response to hand.
Councillor Kelly requested certain items be added to the action list, given the continuing problems Thurrock faced when issues arose with the crossing. He felt the two routes should be connected and form a bypass for one another; residents should have alternative routes when issues arose. He was also concerned by the figures used by Highways England, which suggested the proposed Lower Thames Crossing would siphon off 14% of the traffic leaving 130,000 vehicles using the current crossing which would then backfill with more traffic on the existing crossing. The current congestion issue would therefore not be resolved. There was a lack of investment on the current crossing. He therefore requested:
Highways England understood the challenges; Members were advised that the entire UK network was under pressure however the existing Dartford Crossing did have its own issues and therefore a traffic summit with officers had been proposed. While the investment and studies were not within the remit of the department present directly, representatives would ensure they were coordinated and communicated, and could be discussed further if necessary. New crossings and routes released pent up demand, which was difficult to predict (i.e. create new car trips). Work with the Dartford Crossing, A2 and M25 was already featured within present schemes and would be a continuum, but no, the Lower Thames Crossing would not solve traffic problems at the Dartford Crossing.
The Chair urged Highways England to put pressure on the Department for Transport regarding the existing network of road – irrespective of roads being local or motorway.
The Task Force heard that there was currently a study underway looking at the Thurrock – Dartford Corridor to consider short to medium term measures, both in terms of highway solutions and opportunities for public transport and other alternative measures. The first meeting was scheduled for Friday 23rd and would begin the process.
Councillor Liddiard queried whether putting sections of the route in cut and cover would reduce pollution particulates. Members were informed that the particulates would be reduced where the route was covered however they would be more concentrated at either portal.
The Chair highlighted that the A14 route (tunnel on the approximate alignment of the current crossing) included a filtered tunnel, which was seen as being very beneficial to the community.