Review £24 billion roads programme say Lower Thames Crossing campaigners

NATIONAL Highways have announced another round of Lower Thames Crossing consultation just days after Thames Crossing Action Group, who represent those who are opposed to the proposed £8.2bn Lower Thames Crossing project (LTC), have called for the £24bn RIS2 road programme to be re-opened.  

RIS2 is the Government’s second road investment strategy, and includes the highly controversial LTC.  A section of National Highways Licence, which Government uses to set out the Secretary of State’s statutory directions and guidance to National Highways states that if there are “Major variations, which would affect the Licence holder’s overall funding, have a material effect on the integrity of the RIS or otherwise compromise the Licence holder’s ability to comply with the RIS, would require the RIS to be re-opened.”

The group have wrote to Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP, on Mon 14th March calling for him to re-open RIS2 based on a variety of major variations.

·        The RIS2 budget was reduced hugely by £3.4bn in the 2021 Spending Review.

·        The 18 month delay to the proposed LTC (which is £8.2bn out of the £14.7bn RIS2 capital enhancements budget).

·        Failure to progress the LTC was defined as an “existential threat” to National Highways in their Annual Report 2021.

·        ‘Smart’ Motorways make up a large section of RIS2 and have been paused whilst 5 years of safety data is collected and analysed.

·        The National Policy Statement that governs the RIS2 projects decision making process is being reviewed, and is not compliant with UK climate law.

·        The increasing importance of UK Food Security and RIS2 would destroy so much agricultural land.

·        New legal levels on air pollution are due to be enshrined into UK law by the end of Oct this year.

National Highways’ Annual Report and Accounts 2021 states that they consider the delivery risk assessment if the LTC is not promoted successfully to be “extreme” and “likely”, defining this as an “existential risk” to National Highways.

Laura Blake, Chair of Thames Crossing Action Group said:

“There are so many reasons, as highlighted in our letter to the Secretary of State why the £24bn RIS2 roads programme should be re-opened and reviewed.

National Highways consider the failure to progress the LTC as an “extreme” and “likely” risk, and even an “existential threat” to National Highways itself.  Given the 18-month delays and the scale of this high-risk scheme, the Secretary of State must surely consider it essential to re-open RIS2 for full review and consideration.  The LTC is obviously a project that the Secretary of State inherited from his predecessor, and we hope that given its risk, harms and cost he will thoroughly review it as part of the re-opening of RIS2.”

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