Published: 13:00, 25 July 2014
A decision needs to be made NOW on where a third Thames crossing will go after an accident in the Dartford tunnel led to 10 hours of delays.
The chaos, which happened the day after the government announced it was delaying a decision on the third Thames crosssing, turned Dartford town centre into a car park as motorists battled to avoid the jams, only to find all routes in the area clogged.
Toll charges were lifted due to the massive backlogs on the M25 but did little to ease the mayhem.
It was the worst of several recent incidents and now Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite has called for Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin to visit to see the problems for himself.
The overturned lorry last Wednesday saw tailbacks stretch back more than eight miles and town centre traffic came to a standstill as a result.
Cllr Kite said: “A traffic incident like that speaks a thousand words. Simply putting another crossing at Dartford will not solve the problem.
“I’d like to see the transport minister come to Dartford and see how bad it can get as well as see how frustrated we are knowing that option C at Gravesham is the common sense choice.”
The delays began when an HGV flipped onto its side and was left resting against the central reservation at about 11.30am.
Delays did not begin to clear on the anti-clockwise carriageway between J3 at M20/A20 (Swanley Interchange) and J2 at A2 (Darenth Interchange) until 9.45pm.
The Highways Agency said three lanes had to be closed for the vehicle and a diesel spillage to be cleared.
Drivers stuck in the area reported taking hours to travel just a few miles, with many sitting in stationary vehicles in temperatures of up to 28C.
The lorry driver is understood to have suffered minor injuries, police said.
There are rumours that Whitehall are working on “detailed plans” in relation to option C, which is a more complex than putting another crossing at Dartford.
Cllr Kite added: “The government should spend a couple of days in Dartford watching the huge queues which repeatedly occur on our roads.
"I think people feel a bit brow-beaten by the Dartford crossing but we haven’t lost the opportunity to show the government what it’s like when something like last week’s accident happens.”
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson said: “The recent spate of crashes on the M25 and in the tunnel serve to illustrate why any new river crossing should not be in Dartford.
“I have told both the Prime Minister and the Transport Minister that another crossing in Dartford would not give the motorist an alternative route that is so obviously needed.
“The removal of the toll booths in October is an important step in tackling congestion in our area.
“I’m afraid that the last government did nothing about the problems we experience with congestion at the crossing so we are to an extent dealing with that legacy.
“The removal of the tolls cannot come soon enough and I strongly believe that any new crossing should be sited further down the Thames.
"The new Garden City and theme park are exciting projects but they make it even more important that any new crossing gives a separate route across the river.”
But the MP has been criticised by the man seeking his seat next year.
In a letter to the Messenger, Labour’s Simon Thomson said: “His position seems hopelessly confused as he has to defend yet another delay.
"He claims he is against a new crossing at Dartford but doesn’t want the government to rule it out either.”
The government revealed last week that detailed plans for two options for a third Thames crossing were being worked on, delaying an announcement meant for last autumn.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the decision would not delay the long-awaited scheme and would allow a proper assessment of how a new payment scheme on the existing crossing was working – a scheme not coming into force until October.
The two options are for a crossing close to the existing crossing – so-called Option A – and Option C, connecting the A2 and M2 to the M25 via the A13.
Gravesham council leader John Burden added: “I’m still hopeful that it will be option A.
"We’ve heard the same rumours of it being option C as the choice but I don’t think any decision has been made.
"I don’t think anyone even knows, especially as they’re saying we won’t hear anything until May after the elections.
"You have to wonder if they’re holding back because of the elections but really, we need to get on with it now.”
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