The Thurrock Business Board representative presented the item highlighting the Board’s specific requests of Highways England, which centred around two key areas. Firstly that the network was better managed up to opening of any new crossing; Secondly that any new crossing was able to benefit the local Thurrock economy – through jobs and an improved economy – as well as genuine improvements to transport including rail.
Representatives from Highways England confirmed that they would formally respond once they have reviewed the content.
HE advised Members that rail developments were outside of the remit of Highways England and would fall to the Department for Transport. The Business Representative added that it was crucial to invite the right people to for discussions around rail with the Department for Transport, especially the big freight companies.
The Task Force were assured that Highways England aimed to get as much expertise as possible and training within Thurrock, working very closely with local communities, chambers of commerce and other such organisations. It was crucial that this work started now with colleges and apprenticeship schemes. Highways England were currently working with a not for profit organisation, ‘Class of Their Own’, working to bring Design, Engineering and Construction into schools, this scheme was in the early stages but was a key part of providing jobs for the long term in the local area.
The issues around the current Dartford Crossing required a much wider debate, hence the proposed traffic summit. There were a number of difficult situations to be managed and the Lower Thames Crossing was about managing the entire network, not simply the addition of another route.
The Chair advised that the current crossing required a state of the art traffic management system, and this should be included in the Council’s ‘shopping list’.
The Corporate Director of Place recognised that rail was beyond the remit of Highways England and suggested that officers could liaise with the Department for Transport if the Task Force so wished. The Task Force agreed that this should occur.
The Resident Representative stressed that that the business perspective was understandable, but additional railway through the tunnel could result in even greater impact to the Green Belt and open spaces.
She continued that she was understandably sceptical regarding business opportunities for Thurrock, following previous comments from Highways England that “there would be a need for tea bags and milk that Thurrock could provide (Jan ’18 taskforce).
The Thurrock Business Board Representative also highlighted concern on HEs supply chain expressing concern regarding theory versus reality i.e. once contracts were signed Highways England would have no control over subcontractors and therefore who would deliver the work. He stressed that projects should directly benefit the communities they would affect most and that HE must be specific in what is specified in tender content and selection processes.
Councillor Allen reiterated that he was opposed to the scheme, but if it were to go ahead Highways England would need to provide the best outcomes for residents, as the route would affect the borough for over 100 years.
Councillor Liddiard noted that Tilbury would be host to the Lower Thames Crossing, Tilbury2, the RWE Npower power station and quite possibly the majority of the new housing to be built in Thurrock. He sought assurances that there would be coordination between these schemes; otherwise he could envisage very real problems for the area. The Corporate Director of Place informed the Committee that Nationally Strategic Infrastructure Projects, such as the Lower Thames Crossing, Tilbury2 and the power station, did need to reflect each other in their submissions to the Planning Inspectorate given the cumulative effect of development in one area. The Business Representative confirmed that NSIPs had to consider the cumulative impact of other schemes in the area, depending on the stage of those schemes. As Tilbury2 had been ahead of the others it had to give some consideration however, the Development Consent Order application for the Lower Thames Crossing would be submitted later.
The Lower Thames Crossing would therefore have to give full consideration to other developments as that DCO Application followed all the others.