MORE than 500 people debated plans for a new Thames crossing at a Gravesend public meeting – and told transport officials none of the above.
The hall at Thamesview School was packed on Thursday evening (July 4) as James Hooson and Fiona Wilson from the Department for Transport presented the three options drawn up by the government.
Mr Hooson suggested building a new crossing at the same site as the existing Dartford one would best unblock that bottleneck and be the least environmentally damaging but would not provide a new route across the Thames.
He told the audience option B connecting the A2 with the A1089 offered such a route and would boost economic activity in the area but could also cause delays on the A2 and A13 and damage an area of "important heritage value".
Option C connecting the M2 with the A13 was presented as the best way to shorten journey times across the river but at the greatest environmental cost.
Locations for the three options.
An addition to option C would widen the A229 between the M2 and the M20 at an additional cost of nearly £2 billion.
Protect Kent charity chairman Richard Knox Johnston drew the biggest cheer of the night when he said: "There are many people in the county of Kent who would like to go for option four: don’t do any of the three.
"You claim very strongly that lifting the tolls at the Dartford Crossing and having vehicle recognition is not going to make that much difference. Most people in this room wouldn’t agree with that.
"If you have the courage of your convictions why don’t you do away with the tolls for a period of two months so that we can all see what difference that makes instead of modelling it on a computer?"
Ms Wilson’s response met with jeers from some sections of the audience. She said: "The work we have done before shows that lifting the tolls would increase the traffic and make the situation worse.
The Dartford Crossing.
"It is a congestion charge and it is helping to manage the traffic."
She told the meeting the government considered two options for crossings east of Gravesend but did not include them in the consultation as they were not economically viable.
Gravesham Council leader Councillor John Burden told the audience the council opposes all three options, while option B would put the proposed Paramount Park theme park at Swanscombe in jeopardy.
He said: "You are going to be losing 27,000 jobs in the immediate area if you go for B. I am therefore very worried we are consulting on three options when we actually know one of them has no legs anyway."
Referring to the proposed cost of option C with the extra work done on the A229, Gravesham MP Adam Holloway said: "Five thousand million quid for a country that is nearly bankrupt is rather a lot of money and I just pray no one thinks they can spend it."
Option A: The cheapest option would build another crossing at the site of the existing A282 Dartford to Thurrock bridge and tunnel.
Cost: £1.2 billion to £1.6 billion.
Option B: The shortest route would connect the A2 at Swanscombe with the A1089 in Tilbury.
Cost: £1.8 billion to £2.2 billion.
Option C: The most expensive option would connect the M2 motorway with the A13 in Essex, which would then deliver traffic onto the M25 between junction 30 at Lakeside and junction 29 at the A127. Widening the A229 between the M2 and the M20 would add an additional £2 billion to the cost.
Cost: £3.1 billion to £3.2 billion (£4.9 billion to £5 billion with additional works).
Derek Parsons, 82, retired ship builder, Clipper Crescent, Gravesend.
"I think it’s no to all three options because the Department of Transport is working with facts which are already out of date. I think the best suggestion is to lift the tolls and see what traffic you get through."
Richard Douglas, 35, management consultant, Marsh View, Gravesend.
"Option C is the most damaging environmentally and option B must surely be rejected on economic grounds. That leaves option A but I don’t believe another crossing is actually required at all."
Charles Reilly, 63, insurance company director, Woodlands Lane, Shorne.
"I would say none of the options but if it has to be done I would say A. When they built the railway they followed the line of the A2 and the M2 because the scar was already there. Why create another scar?"
Nigel Bourne, 53, vicar at Chalk Church, Vicarage Lane, Chalk.
"Option C would basically go through our church grounds where we hold the village fete every year and other similar community events. I think we should wait and see what the result of the free flow tolling is."
The public consultation on the new Thames crossing options ends on July 16. Visit gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-transport/series/lower-thames-crossing