LTC Exec Director admits LTC not fit for purpose

Would you consider the proposed £8.2bn Lower Thames Crossing fit for purpose if you knew that Highways England are creating it knowing it will not solve problems at Dartford, and that according to LTC Exec Director will only cope for at least 30 years?

We certainly don’t consider that fit for purpose, and we’ve been saying this for years now.

 

BBC Essex Radio Interview – 2nd Sept 2021

TCAG Chair, Laura Blake and LTC Exec Director, Matt Palmer were interviewed by Sadie Nine on BBC Essex Radio on Thurs 2nd September 2021.

Laura spoke to Sadie about how and why the proposed Lower Thames Crossing is not fit for purpose.  How the Dartford Crossing would still be over capacity even if LTC goes ahead, and how there would not be adequate connections particularly when there are incidents.

Sadie then questioned Matt Palmer on some of the points Laura had raised!

Her first question to Matt was to ask, “Do you recognise the figures there that Laura has quoted from the consultation documents?”

His reply was to say,

“yes Laura makes a great case there, and I suppose the point really is your listeners, you know, stuck in traffic today are experiencing the Dartford Crossing does really need relief“.

He mentioned how the conversation about a new crossing had been going on for sometime now, and that they have been through a lot of consultations to try and find the right route!  Stating that the Secretary of State for Transport has chosen this as the proposed route back in 2017, and that this is the route they are now consulting on and developing.

Matt then went on to say

” what the route will do is on day one opening will drop to 85% of the sort of design life….design traffic on Dartford. So we get spare capacity on Dartford and then it will take til, I think Laura did say it actually, to the late 40’s before we get back to the traffic of today or yesterday type numbers.

So it does buy us time, it’s not the be end…..you know it won’t solve the problem indefinitely, and we’ve never been saying that.  The reality is you know this is one of these pieces of infrastructure we need to relieve you know the crossing.  There will be more need for other things later, erm, and other developments, but this is a very good doubling of capacity east of London, and you know, is essential to the economy in both Kent and Essex.”

So hang on a minute there Matt, Dartford Crossing would drop to 85% of capacity?  How do you work that out? Let’s take a quick look at the numbers on that.

  • HE state Dartford Crossing currently often at 180,000 vehicles per day
  • Dartford Crossing design capacity is 135,000 vehicles per day
  • Predicted traffic growth by time LTC opens (if it goes ahead) increase of 20%

So, 180,000 often now + 20% traffic growth is 216,000 vehicles per day.

Take away 21% that HE predict would use LTC instead of Dartford Crossing you end with 170,640 vehicles per day still using the Dartford Crossing.  That’s most definitely still over the 135,000 capacity!

Even without the predicted traffic growth by the time LTC opens, 21% off 180,000 is still  142,200 vehicles per day still using the Dartford Crossing, so still over capacity!

We’d love to know how Matt reaches the 85% capacity figure he states, and have indeed sent an email to ask!

He openly admits that it would not solve the problem, and also that more would need to be done moving forward.

He mentions doubling road capacity east of London. Even if you believe their statements about extra capacity they usually state it is an extra 90% capacity, which is not double!  And that figure is based on more technical workings out with traffic flow data etc, not just a straight forward amount of lanes/tarmac being laid.

As for essential for the economy of Kent and Essex, Thurrock Council have published reports stating how badly the LTC would impact the local economy – read here!

 

When might the DCO be resubmitted?

Sadie went on to ask about the first attempt of the LTC Development Consent Order (DCO) being withdrawn last year.

Matt spoke about the consultation and DCO process, and mentioned about how long construction may be, if they get permission.  He confirmed that Laura was absolutely right about construction being 6-7 years, but said that in any one location is would be less time.

He finished up by saying that at the moment the reality is probably that the DCO application will be resubmitted  in the back end of this year or into the New Year!

Remember at the time they withdrew the DCO application in Nov 2020 they said they would be resubmitting it in the New Year?  I guess the key question at that point maybe should have been what year!

Sadie then pushed Matt for more detail on what those in East Tilbury may be facing with construction of the tunnel, how long would they would be putting up with construction?

Matt’s response was

So the tunnel itself of the 6-7…..sorry 7 years of the construction period is anywhere between 3-4 year, erm, there are other parts where we are building the link roads as you imagine it’s a couple of years and the intensity changes as we go along….”

We’ve submitted another question asking if the estimated time to construct the tunnel has changed, as the last time we asked we were told 4.5-5 years!

 

How many lanes?

Sadie then asked Matt about how many lanes there would be through the tunnel and the road running down to it.

Matt responded

So we’ve got three each way through the tunnels, erm, and then it varies along it’s length depending on what we need. So there’s a stretch where we go down to two but the reality is it’s designed to suit the traffic, erm, so there is…..so the tunnel crossing itself is three lanes in each direction and the great thing about it is it’s not a bridge so therefore it’s not susceptible to high wind problems……..

The aspect of not being a bridge is questionable too, since whilst wind may not be an issue at the actual crossing, ie tunnel, there is of course another serious concern and that is the risk of flooding!

It didn’t take Sadie long to jump in and point out to Matt that there are currently four lanes at the current crossing, and then the LTC tunnels would be three lanes dropping to two. She asked would that not cause enormous congestion and make people think they’re not going to use it because it if goes down from 3 lanes to 2 you’ve had it!?

Matt responded by telling Sadie about how the traffic modelling for LTC has been the most extensive modelling done across the country.

Sadie went on to say that in her personal opinion and from her experience witnessing other road projects, including the M25 when it was first built, that she was throwing her cards on the table and saying that the LTC plans don’t seem wide enough to her!

Matt’s response was about current traffic and uncertainty over what will happen moving forward, but that there would be traffic growth. He then said

what we know is we’re going to create a scheme that will cope for at least 30 years….

He then stated that we’re moving towards electric vehicles, cars now and later vans and trucks, which he says would mean a decrease in noise and air pollution.  Although the did have to correct himself mid sentence since he actually said EVs would decrease air quality!!

We think maybe Matt needs to realise that EVs still emit harmful PM2.5 (the tiny particles from brake dust, tyre wear, and road wear) because as we’ve mentioned before LTC would create a toxic triangle.

It didn’t take Sadie long to leave us with a final thought as the interview concluded, due to running out of time, that what Matt was saying was that Highways England are proposing to spend £8.2bn of taxpayers money to only look after us for 30 years!

At a cost of £8.2bn that works out at over £273million per year for those 30 years!

Bad enough when you put it like that Sadie, but then take into account that the figures Matt was using are not even accurate to HE’s own data.  When you use their own figures the picture is in reality far worse, with the Dartford Crossing remaining over capacity from day one of LTC opening, if it goes ahead. 

A serious concern that we have been raising for years now.  The proposed LTC is simply not fit for purpose.

 

We have submitted a number of questions to Matt/HE about points Matt mentioned in this interview and will update again accordingly as we receive any response.

 

Listen again

Sadie Nine interviews TCAG Chair, Laura Blake and LTC Exec Director, Matt Palmer on BBC Essex Radio – 2nd Sept 2021.

 

Related

Sadie Nine on BBC Essex Radioclick here

LTC is not fit for purposeclick here