LTC – HGVs and freight

It will come as no surprise to most that there are a large number of HGVs using the Dartford Crossing.  In fact the current crossing sees more HGVs than is usually observed on the Strategic Road Network(SRN).

In 2019 21% of the total traffic using the Dartford Crossing during DartCharge chargeable hours were HGVS (Reference 4.2.62)  This was more than double what is typically seen on other routes in the SRN.  Obviously this doesn’t include HGVs that travelled outside of the chargeable hours either.

National Highways predict that if the proposed LTC goes ahead 34% of HGVs using the Dartford Crossing would instead use the LTC.  (Reference 5.2.25) This is stated for an opening year of 2030, which has since been delayed due to the 2 year delay rephasing announced by Government.

They also predict that approximately 13% of all vehicles using the LTC in an opening year of 2030, would be HGVs. (Reference 5.2.25) Again remembering that the opening year has since been delayed by 2 years.  13% is again more than the average 10% on the SRN.

HGV induced demand

We’ve mentioned it before that more roads lead to more traffic, this is called induced demand.  It may be that new routes, like the proposed LTC open up a new route, or that initially there is a change in user behaviour that results in journey times possibly improving for a short time, so more traffic starts using the roads, and the levels of traffic grow yet again.  Take a look at this video for more info on why induced demand happens.

We were amazed to learn from reading the LTC DCO application documentation that National Highways do not include HGVs or LGVs when calculating induced demand.

This is particularly relevant with the proposed LTC since it is being designed to offer an alternative route from the ports in the East and South East through to the Midlands and beyond.  Of course the majority of port traffic would be HGVs and LGVs.

Over the years National Highways promoted the proposed LTC with videos of companies that were saying they support the proposed LTC as it would allow them to grow their companies.  Most of these companies were the kind that were using HGVs and LGVs.  In other words proving there would be induced demand by HGVs and LGVs.

For HGV and LGV induced demand not to be included in assessments for the proposed LTC means what is being presented is not a true representation of what would happen if the LTC goes ahead.

We’ve been told that this is standard practice, to omit HGV and LGV induced demand traffic in assessments, but quite frankly we don’t care what is standard practice, we’re talking about a huge project, costing a huge amount of money, and to not assess things adequately is unacceptable.


Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP) – HGVs

In the Transport Decarbonisation Plan it is stated:

We will decarbonise our freight system, pioneering new zero emission technologies with mass scale demonstrators for HGVs.

Increasing amount of freight will shift from road and air to more sustainable modes, with digital solutions and data sharing optimising efficiency.

It also highlights that rail freight trains currently emit around a quarter of the carbon emissions of HGVs per tonne mile travelled.

And that 16% of 2019 domestic Green House Gas emissions were from HGVs.


Moving freight from roads to more sustainable rail

On the 20th December 2023 (the day the LTC DCO examination ended) it was announced that Government had set a target to grow rail freight by at least 75% by 2050.

It stated that this will boost economic growth and lead to significant environmental benefits by taking lorries off our roads, cutting emissions and congestion in the process.

Yet rather than investing in rail improvements between Ashford to Reading to get more freight off the roads and onto more sustainable rail, Government are instead pushing ahead with the proposed LTC that would not only keep above average levels of HGVs on our roads, but also encourage growth of HGVs on our already congested roads.


Hazardous and oversized HGVs

One of the other factors in regard to the current Dartford Crossing, is the amount of times the traffic is stopped to allow for hazardous vehicles to be escorted through the Dartford Tunnels.  This happens on average every 15-20 minutes.  Put traffic lights anywhere else on the Strategic Road Network and turn them red every 15-20 minutes and the results of congestion and chaos would be the same.

Additionally, where the Dartford Tunnels are now older and smaller compared to the size of todays vehicles, the lights at the crossing also need to be turned red when an over height HGV gets in the lane for the wrong tunnel, as the second tunnel is the only one that higher sided HGVs can go through.  If they are in the wrong lane, the lights go red, whilst the HGV in question is corralled off the road and into the service area to be turned around and go through the correct lane.

Whilst such restrictions would not happen with the proposed LTC (if it goes ahead) such traffic may still need to use the Dartford Tunnels.  For example fuel tankers going in and out of the West Thurrock area are unlikely to use the LTC as the Dartford Crossing allows more direct access for them.  Particularly as LTC traffic wanting to get to and from the west of Thurrock has to detour.  Remember there is no direct access to the LTC from the west of Thurrock, it has to take the Stanford Detour; and there is no direct access from the LTC onto the A13 eastbound, it would have to go east on the A13 and u-turn at the Orsett/A128 junction to head back westbound on the A13.

We’d also question, if as much traffic as National Highways suggest move to electric vehicles, how much of a reduction there would be in fuel tankers on the roads in general, as if the vehicles are not using fuel then there wouldn’t need to be as many fuel tankers moving about on the roads.  Without as many fuel tankers how much would that reduce the hazardous vehicles using the Dartford Crossing, and thus reduce the amount of times the lights are turned red to escort hazardous vehicles?  As that is one of the main things that slow things down at the current crossing this is of course very relevant.



The deep flaws in how we model freight (May 2024) – click here