THURROCK’S most notorious congestion hotspot could become gridlock hell during the Olympics as drivers are forced away from London’s Blackwall Tunnel and to the Dartford Crossing reports Kent News.
Fresh fears were sparked by the release of traffic plans by Transport for London (TfL) showing that an approach lane to the Blackwall Tunnel, both northbound and southbound, will be reserved for VIPS, athletes and media representatives, called ‘games lanes’.
It will mean severe congestion for public travelling between 6am and midnight, in the run-up and during the Games, which run from July 27 to August 12, raising concerns that the Dartford Crossing will become an alternative option and subsequently attract thousands more vehicles than previously expected.
TfL plans show that for traffic travelling on the southern approach to the Blackwall Tunnel from the Sun in the Sands roundabout lanes will be reduced down to two, while games officials will travel on the outside third lane.
But on the final approach– when the road reduces to two lanes – ‘games lane’ traffic will have to merge in with public traffic, potentially causing a bottleneck ahead of the entrance to the tunnel.
A similar system will be used on the northern approach, but when the ‘games lane’ stops, public traffic wanting to travel left towards the A13 will have to merge with games vehicles. If games vehicles want to travel through the Blackwall Tunnel they will have to merge across.
The predicted gridlock could force motorists to use the already-congested Dartford Crossing, which is expected to handle some 300,000 vehicles a day during the Games – a figure which could rise as more and more frustrated drivers opt to use the Kent crossing rather than the London route.
Activist James Willis, who launched the Honk if you Give a Hoot campaign to see tolls scrapped at Dartford, said he was very concerned about the impacts.
“This would be a good opportunity to trial the removal of the barriers and tolls and it would be in the Government’s favour to do this during the Games,” he said.
“I’m looking to launch a petition and I’m talking to people in Essex to try and push this forward.
“The planned hike that was postponed was common sense by the Government, but more needs to be done.”
Tory MP for Dartford Gareth Johnson said the only way to get over the problem of congestion was to remove the tolls altogether.
“I don’t mean just during the Olympics, this is not just something that should happen temporarily,” he said.
“The tolls need to be scrapped completely.
“I welcomed the Government’s decision to suspend any increase until after the Olympics, but the way to reduce congestion is to get rid of tolls – people stopping to hand over money is the problem.”
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has put pressure on the Government to suspend tolls during the Games.
He stressed that the Dartford Crossing would be an “obvious” alternative route for drivers who would usually use the Blackwall Tunnel to travel in and out of London and suggested charges be temporarily scrapped.
He said: “During the Olympic Games we are going to need to consider alternative ways of working or travelling and heading for the Dartford Crossing will become a major consideration for drivers in the east of the city.
“That is why I have asked the Government to give serious thought to suspending the charge to use the crossing during the Olympics.
“It would be a very considerate act that would be greatly appreciated during the Games.”
A planned hike in charges from £1.50 to £2 last month and a further increase to £2.50 due next April have been postponed by the Government until after the Games.
But the London Mayor said it would be “even better” if they were suspended altogether during the Olympics.
London’s Transport Commissioner, Peter Hendy, said the Olympic Route Network, which involves the games lanes, was vital to ensuring all athletes, officials, media and others working at the Games got to their events on time.
A Highways Agency spokesman said they were working closely with delivery partners to make sure traffic was kept moving during the Games.
“We are aware that the Dartford Crossing could be a pinch-point and are considering what the likely extra demand on the crossing during the Games will be and what appropriate action we can take. Already though, we know that the Olympic Delivery Authority is planning extensive park and ride facilities for the Games near Ebbsfleet and Lakeside, which should help reduce pressure on Dartford.”