Published: 17:01, 25 March 2021
| Updated: 11:27, 26 March 2021
The Dartford Crossing would still be over capacity even if the Lower Thames Crossing goes ahead, according to an update from highways bosses.
Highways England revealed the multi-billion pound road tunnel between Gravesend and Essex would result in a yearly reduction of 13 million journeys, but would still leave Kent's existing major road artery dealing with up to 20,000 excess vehicles a day.
It comes as part of the latest community update published by the government-owned company tasked with delivering the Lower Thames Crossing (LTC) project, dubbed Britain's most ambitious road project in a generation.
It's been touted as a potential solution to the congestion problems at the existing Dartford Crossing and highways bosses say it will also unlock billions of additional economic benefits, double the road capacity and create thousands of jobs.
Part of its latest update features a new video re-iterating its commitment to relieving local transport concerns.
The Dartford Crossing has a capacity of 130,000 vehicles per day but is now regularly used by more than 185,000 vehicles per day, says Highways bosses.
Congestion caused by the ever increasing volume of traffic and regular incidents means regular tailbacks, often spilling over onto local roads.
It went on to state the proposed new LTC road tunnel would take up to 36,000 vehicles off the Dartford Crossing every day.
However, the Thames Crossing Action Group (TCAG), which opposes the plans, pointed out this would mean it would still be nearly 20,000 over capacity a day.
Laura Blake, chair of TCAG, said: "One of the first things we noticed in relation to these figures in the video is the fact that Highways England have previously always stated that the capacity of the Dartford Crossing is 135k vehicles per day.
“Regardless of which figure you use, this official Highways England video clearly shows, what we have been saying for some time now, that the Dartford Crossing would still be over capacity even if the LTC goes ahead, and that’s not even taking into account the predicted traffic growth by the time LTC opens, if it goes ahead, which is estimated to be around a 20% increase.
She added: “Highways England are admitting that the Dartford Crossing is running between 50-55k vehicles per day over capacity, and they predict this would only be reduced by up to 36k vehicles per day if LTC goes ahead.
“Of course this is also not taking into account things like the fact that Highways England are not considering how traffic would migrate between the two crossings when there are incidents, if the LTC goes ahead, and that there are not adequate connections, which will result in even more congestion, chaos, and pollution.”
But highways bosses stressed the latest figures, based on the "busiest days", had been included to give an accessible indication of the "scale of the reduction", which it equated to 13 million journeys a year.
A spokesman for Highways England said: “The proposed Lower Thames Crossing is part of the largest investment in our road network in a generation.
"If given the green light it will add billions to the economy and play an important role in our economic recovery by supporting tens of thousands of jobs and opportunities for businesses during construction.”
“The Dartford Crossing is one of the most important transport links in the UK, connecting the regions key manufacturing centres, distributions hubs and ports.
"The Lower Thames Crossing will almost double road capacity across the Thames east of London, and significantly ease congestion at Dartford and the surrounding network by diverting over 13 million vehicles away from it every year.”
It has now been four months since Highways England pulled its original Lower Thames Crossing bid.
The application was withdrawn in November following feedback from The Planning Inspectorate that it was poised to reject the plans.
The government-owned company says it is continuing to work with government planners and engaging with neighbouring local authorities to address feedback and strengthen its application.
In December, Dartford councillors were told they could expect the bid to be resubmitted in April, while highways bosses teased out further "technical" information.