A key study identifying possible options for a new Dartford crossing was published today by transport minister Lord Adonis.
The Department for Transport will now move to the next stage and look in more detail at the shortlist of potential options for tackling congestion and improving capacity across the Thames.
The research, carried out by Parsons Brinckerhoff and WSP, proposes further detailed work should be carried out into the feasibility of, in the longer term, providing a new crossing at one of three sites.
It also says further work should be carried out to identify whether short term improvements could be delivered to provide a smoother flow of traffic at the existing crossing.
Adonis said: “The Dartford-Thurrock river crossing is a vital transport link for both the national and South East economies which has brought huge economic benefits and opportunities. However many more vehicles want to use the crossing than it can accommodate and congestion here is likely to get worse in the future unless something is done.
“Following the completion of the first phase of a Department for Transport-commissioned study, I am pleased to announce that further work is now to be carried out to look at improving journey time reliability and safety at the existing Dartford Crossing, alongside a more detailed analysis of potential options for a new crossing.”
The three potential options for a new crossing identified in the study are:
- At the site of the existing Crossing
- Between the Swanscombe Penisula and the A1089
- From east of Tilbury to east of Gravesend to the M20
The study also recommends further work should be carried out to consider whether improving the layout of the toll plazas or applying one-way tolling on the existing crossing could deliver improvements to the flow of traffic in the short term.
The report comes after 14 months of research. In February 2008 the Department for Transport commissioned a study to provide advice on the future need for additional crossing capacity in the Lower Thames and identify possible future options.
The study looked to make best use of available transport models to better understand the impacts of current and future demand, and review previous work on what can be done to improve traffic flow through the existing Dartford Crossing in the short to medium term. It also updated the available information to gain a better understanding of current issues, and to underpin work to look at potential viable future options.
The study concluded that the existing Crossing is operating at or above its effective capacity for long periods, with typical daily flows of between 145,000 and 150,000 vehicles per day. The overall flows have reduced slightly in the last few years but the make up of traffic has changed, with greater number of HGV movements. Movements over the Crossing show no pronounced morning or evening peaks, instead flows are high across the day.
Recent analysis of performance under the Public Service Agreement for roads shows that the route containing the Dartford Crossing is one of the routes with the highest levels of delay nationally, and this level of service is experienced by around 40% to 45% of Crossing users.
The injury accident rate for the network surrounding and including the Crossing is twice the national average, with the range of incidents caused by complex and inter-related factors, from the complexity of the surrounding networks and junctions, to the merging and weaving of approaching traffic, breakdowns and the physical capacity of the northbound tunnels.
The study states that due to the physical constraints at the current Crossing, the level of service experienced is not equivalent to that for other parts of the surrounding strategic road network, and the Crossing is acting as a bottleneck.
The study looked at the forecast future performance of the Crossing given the predicted levels of traffic growth, the impacts of the planned expansion of the Port of Dover and the planned growth in the Thames Gateway. It concluded that without action, the situation is set to worsen significantly.
The study proposed further work on two sets of possible measures which may provide improvements in the short-term. The first set of measures could see changes to the configuration of the toll plaza, signing and promotion of DART-Tags to see whether this would improve traffic flows. The second set of measures could entail one-way tolling with the removal of the southbound plaza to allow a larger improved northbound plaza.
The study also considered major infrastructure options to provide additional capacity and produced a high-level assessment of the impacts, and the degree to which they could address the performance of the existing Crossing.
The study considered five potential options and concluded that 3 of the 5 options have the potential to address the issues at the existing Crossing, and recommended that these options should be taken forward for further investigation.
The Department for Transport has today indicated its acceptance of the findings set out in the Study and will commission the further work necessary to assess the suitability, deliverability and impacts of each of the three options.