Engineers this week urged the government to build a third Dartford Crossing or risk seeing the M25 paralysed by gridlock - even after the planned widening of the ring road improves congestion hot spots to four lanes.
Following the government announcement last week (NCE
news alert Friday 20 October) that a study into a third crossing would begin next year, engineers told NCE
that the case was indisputable as the approach to the crossing was heavily congested at peak times.They added that the widening of 100km of the M25, which begins in 2008, is set to increase demand even further.Chartered engineer and chief executive of the Freight Transport Association Richard Turner said that a new crossing should be in place by the time the M25 widening is completed in 2016.'With four lanes of traffic existing crossings will not be able to cope and if they can't cope we have got to do something to make them cope,' said Turner. Last week the government said it would increase toll charges at peak times and scrap fees at night to try and reduce congestion. Turner dismissed these proposals as 'a joke'.Essex and Kent County Councils this week put further pressure on the government by launching a joint £100,000 study of their own into a third Dartford Crossing.'It will look at whether it is achievable and where it will go,' said a Kent County Council spokesman. 'It could be a bridge or a tunnel. It could be alongside the existing crossings or further down the river at Gravesend, Swale or the Isle of Grain.'He added that Kent and Essex would be lobbying the government for a bigger study into a new crossing.'We expect the government to look at it in a lot more detail,' he added. Transport minister Stephen Ladyman confirmed that a capacity study would begin early next year and would consider a third crossing.'In the longer term, traffic at the crossing will continue to get worse so we have to consider options for additional capacity and move forwards towards a decision. I have requested a study including the possibility of a new crossing,' he said.The estimated cost of a new crossing is £1bn and head of roads and transport policy at the AA motoring trust Paul Watters said that the £70M annual toll revenue from the existing crossings should be used to pay for it.'There isn't much transparency about where the money is being spent at the moment,' he said.Alan Stilwell, chairman of the ICE transport board, said the case for the new crossing was 'probably' very strong.'We are happy to see any studies to determine where new highway capacity is required,' he said. 'Probably the solution is a combination of measures, but there is no doubt that there are certain parts of the road network where increased capacity is required.'