THURROCK Council Leader Cllr John Kent and Transportation chief David Bull are off to Parliament on Monday (12 January) to give evidence to the Select Committee investigation into strategic river crossings.
Speaking today (Monday, 5 January) Cllr Kent said: “Although the committee investigation is far wider than our issues around the Thames bridges and tunnels in Thurrock, this gives Thurrock the chance to have its voice heard at a national level.
“Not only do we have half a century’s experience dealing with the advantages and disadvantages of a strategic river crossing on our doorstep, we also have knowledge built up over decades of trying to deal with the various consultation schemes that are put forward by central government and other agencies.
“That has been particularly difficult in recent years with first five proposed crossings, then three, then two – and we’re still no nearer an answer.
“I think one of the things that proves our case is the introduction of free-flow tolls at Dartford. Thurrock Council has been fighting against having any tolls at all for many years, but in 2010 and 11 we started calling for the toll booths to go and for free-flowing tolls to be introduced.
“Once they eventually listened to us, things improved as we all know.”
He added: “But the main issue is the lack of openness and lack of co-ordination between all the various agencies involved – it seems there are no published or projected figures to justify a crossing and no detail of the possible costs for the various different options, yet decisions are still being made anyway.
“Dropping Option B in 2013 and Option D years before that without considering how things have changed shows how central government looks at the national strategic issues at the expense of the local impact and local interests
“Yet it is the local interest and the local impact that leads to common sense coming to the rescue.
“We said the congestion was caused by traffic having to stop at Dartford. We called on the government to do away with the tolls altogether for a trial period and see what happened; we said if you must have tolls, make them free-flow and do it quickly.
“The past few weeks have shown we were right. If there is an incident on any stretch of motorway there are delays and congestion and that remains the case here, what we don’t have now are the daily queues across the river and the weekly congestion around Junction 31 and West Thurrock.
“If we were right about that – perhaps now they’ll listen to the rest of our argument. Once you’ve done away with the toll booths, sort out the A13/M25 and Lakeside interchanges properly and you don’t need another crossing in Thurrock.
“Perhaps they’ll listen to our common sense ideas about the need for all highways organisations – in our case the government, the Highways Agency and Transport for London – to share their information because each of their plans impacts on the others, yet none of them are talking or paying attention.
“And perhaps they’ll listen to our common sense idea that plans shouldn’t be set in stone, circumstances change and plans need to change with them.”
“Just maybe next week’s discussions will make people sit up listen and act on the common sense information from people who know, the people who live with these things day-after-day, month-after-month, year-after-year. Just maybe!”