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Controversy surrounds new Lower Thames Crossing announcement
Controversy surrounds the Government's decision to develop detailed plans of two options on where to place the new Lower Thames Crossing before the scheme progresses.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the decision would not delay the long-awaited scheme and would allow a proper assessment of how a new payment scheme on the existing Dartford Crossing was working.
Mr McLoughlin said the crossing would either be built next to the existing Dartford crossing - option A - or connect the M2 with the A13 and the M25 between junctions 29 and 30 - option C.
Mr McLoughlin said: "We are committed to a new lower Thames Crossing, but whichever location is chosen, it will have a big impact on people in the area and we must make the right decision.
"This work will not delay the delivery of the crossing but allows us to choose the best option for local people and the region's economy, so that it helps boost transport links and economic growth."
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson has supported the Government’s plan, calling the decision "prudent" but is firmly backing 'Option C' saying that 'Option A' would lead to more of the same traffic difficulties we have today.'
Mr Johnson said: "A second Thames crossing is expected to cost up to £3 Billion, that is the equivalent of 30 new hospitals and it would be wrong to spend that kind of money without having the full facts.
"I am totally against building another crossing in Dartford, the so-called option A, as it would lead to more of the same traffic difficulties we have today.
"Building a crossing further down the Thames estuary is in my opinion the best alternative for motorists but I accept that we need to see exactly how the traffic will flow after the tollbooths are removed to tell how best to build the roads in that area."
"It is right we are careful and prudent. Today’s decision will not delay the building of crossing, due to be in place by 2025, but we have to make sure we get it right."
Labour's parliamentary candidate for Dartford, Simon Thompson, has branded the shceme unnecessary saying: "There is no case to build the new crossing in Dartford, but this dithering by the government is just going to create more uncertainty for local people and businesses. It’s another example of the government and Dartford’s Conservative MP letting local people down over the crossing."
Gravesham Council have slammed the Government's indecision saying "it will blight villages east of Gravesend and threaten to affect a areas of natural beauty, scientific interest and a vital green lung between Gravesend and the Medway conurbation."
Gravesham council leader Cllr John Burden said: “Due to the nature of the announcement which is for further study rather than a route choice, it will effectively blight a vast area including the villages of Chalk, Shorne and Higham whilst this occurs. It threatens the very existence of Kent’s flagship country park at Shorne Woods and is not only the most damaging but also the most expensive option.
“This further delay, which we hope is not just because elections are on the horizon, will mean our residents will not know what is going to happen to their homes and communities until after May 2015.”
And The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has said that "a decision needs to be made sooner rather than later."
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."
The existing Dartford to Thurrock crossing, which consists of the QE2 Bridge and a tunnel, is used by 140,000 vehicles a day.
The transport secretary said despite the introduction of a new remote payment system called Dart Change in October 2014, it is expected that by 2025 traffic levels will be greater than the capacity of the existing crossing.