Wednesday 11th March 2020 saw the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announce the Spring Budget 2020. The Road Investment Strategy 2: 2020–2025 was also released. We take a closer look.
We remind everyone that this is simply the Government allocating funds against the project, it does not change anything else, Highways England have still not been granted a Development Consent Order, and until such time as they are they do not have permission and construction cannot begin.
Budget 2020 Policy Paper
In the official Government Budget 2020 Policy Paper – www.gov.uk/government/publications/budget-2020-documents/budget-2020 point 1.41 states:
1.41 Strategic transport projects
The government is transforming regional connections through the largest ever investment in England’s motorways and major A roads. The second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) will spend over £27 billion between 2020 and 2025. It will take forward schemes such as dualling the A66 Trans-Pennine and upgrading the A46 Newark bypass to address congestion, and building the Lower Thames Crossing to increase road capacity across the Thames east of London by 90%.34 RIS2 will be delivered alongside the government’s plans for decarbonising the transport sector, which are set out in the ‘Growing a greener economy’ section of this chapter.
Please note that the reference point 34 takes you to a link at the bottom of the doc that links directly to the About page on the official Highways England Lower Thames Crossing website. Remember Jim O’Sullivan is investigating the fact that we have reported the info on this site is out of date and misleading, and we have been issued with an official complaint reference. (You can read more about that here – www.thamescrossingactiongroup.com/yet-more-he-inadequacies/)
Road Investment Strategy 2: 2020–2025
The Road Investment Strategy 2 which covers the years of 2020-2025 was also released. Some key points that we picked out:
- Through this investment we want to make the network safer, more reliable, and more sensitive to the places through which it runs.
- By making the most of green infrastructure and good design, we want people living alongside the network to experience less noise, light and air pollution.
- And this RIS must support the Government’s wider plans for decarbonising road transport.
- The SRN is designed and managed as an integral part of a wider transport network. Users of the SRN do not encounter friction at the points where it joins other networks when planning or undertaking journeys, be they local, regional, national or international.
- Make good quality connections with the local road network.
- In line with the principal purpose of the SRN, many of our ambitions seek to focus the SRN’s design to better accommodate the needs of motorised users, recognising that these are the vast majority of users overall. However, this is not at the expense of other road users such as cyclists.
- We do not consider the LTC to make the road network safer, more reliable, or sensitive to the areas through which it runs.
- People living alongside LTC would definitely not experience less noise, light, and air pollution.
- Judging on the limited info we’ve managed to find LTC certainly won’t comply with Carbon Net Zero
- LTC would clearly create friction at points where it joins other networks at each of the 3 main junctions that create the LTC, at the A2/M2 in Kent, around the A13, and where it connects to the M25
- Again we state LTC does not have adequate connections to the exisiting road network
- When we questioned HE about access through the crossing for cyclists back in the 2018 consultation we were told there would be none, because it was considered a motorway so cyclists would not be allowed. However, HE are now stating it is no longer to be considered a motorway, but rather an all purpose trunk road. We will be asking again about how cyclists can use the LTC to cross the river!
As you can see from the image to the left (taken from page 90 or (page 95/130 in the pdf doc) LTC was mentioned. The funds made available as part of the RIS2 for LTC are listed as £6.4bn – £8.2bn.
Up until now Highways England have been telling us, even as recently as during this consultation that the predicted cost was £5.4-£6.8bn, so clearly that now appears to be rising, as we all expected!
Guess that means it’s time to update the article we published on the estimate cost per mile of the LTC – www.thamescrossingactiongroup.com/estimated-cost-per-mile/ ! The new cost per mile working on the figure of £8.2bn would be nearly £573.5m per mile. Again to put it into persective, after all the questions have been asked about the cost per mile for HS2 which comes in at £307m per mile of track, LTC now has a cost of nearly £573.5 per mile. Shocking.
Page 100 (or page 105/130 in the pdf doc) also notes various road projects and what stages they are currently considered to be. LTC is listed as committed for RP2. RP2 means construction of this project is expected to start by 1 April 2025, which is nothing we wouldn’t have expected.
Tilbury Link Road
However, don’t overlook the fact that the Tilbury Link Rd is listed under RIS3 pipeline in this document also. This means these are proposals that Highways England will develop during RP2 so that they could enter construction in RP3. Funding for construction of these schemes has not been committed.
You may remember we have previously questioned why the Tilbury Link Rd was removed from the LTC scheme, and were told that their traffic modelling showed it wasn’t deemed neccessary.
We have also mentioned previously that the Port of Tilbury officially stated that they would only support Option C3 (the proposed route) if they got a link road. The link road was removed as part of the 2018 consultation, and the Port of Tilbury were not happy. Since then we have learnt that the Port of Tilbury, Highways England, and Thurrock Council have been discussing the Link Road as a standalone project.
We believe that the Tilbury Link Rd is being removed from the LTC scheme to improve the cost benefit ratio, but simply treating it as a separate stand alone project, so it has to have it’s own budget and doesn’t fall within the LTC budget or consultation to help ease LTC through.
Back to RIS2 for LTC
On page 101 (106/130 in the pdf doc) they state that they acknowledge they will expect to investigate linked improvements on the A2 into Kent as part of the pipeline of work for the next RIS. You can see the full text in the image to the right (click image to enlarge).
This on top of the fact they state on page 37 (42/130 in the pdf doc)
- “we recognise that the plans for the Lower Thames Crossing will have an impact on the road networks of Kent and Essex and we will consider what that means for the shape of the SRN in those areas“,
This proves to us that the true cost of LTC is not being considered. If something is deemed neccessary as a direct result of LTC then it should have to be included in the LTC scheme, and the true cost benefit ratio be considered. Not a manipulated cost benefit ratio to suit the wants and needs of Highways England to keep pushing through projects that are not fit for purpose, and do not offer value for money.
There is also a section on page 36 (page 41/130 in the pdf doc) in the document that states:
- The safety of our roads is of paramount importance, and it is also important that people who use our roads feel safe and confident in how to use them. In 2019, the Department commissioned an evidence stocktake to gather the facts on the safety of smart motorways and make recommendations.
The stocktake is expected to conclude shortly. Highways England will need to deliver its recommendations and assess what they mean for the delivery of enhancement projects involving smart motorways that had been included in the RIS1 investment plan or recommended for future development.
We will bring you further updates on ‘Smart’ Motorways once we have managed to track the official stocktake findings down.
No we’re not talking about elephants, we’re talking about trunk roads! There is a section on page 37 (page 42/130 in pdf doc) that states:
- We are currently in discussion with the relevant local highway authorities and Highways England with a view to making some changes during RP2.
- Trunking: The A13/A1014 from the end of the trunked A13 through to the recently-opened London Gateway Port, with a view to transfer to Highways England.
Currently HE maintain and control the A13 between the M25 and the A1089, and also the A1089 down to Tilbury. But at the moment the A13 from the A1089 through to the Stanford junction (A1014), and the Manorway come under Thurrock Council Highways. What this is saying is that it is being discussed that the A13 would become Highways England’s responsibility all the way along from the M25 through to the Stanford junction (A1014), and include the A1089 as it does now, but also the A1014 (Manorway) all the way down to London Gateway Port.
Whilst all of this is not technically part of the LTC scheme we do feel it relevant to share in light of the Stanford Detour.
Budget 2020 Policy Paper – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/budget-2020-documents/budget-2020#budget-policy-decisions
Have your say!
We would suggest that either or both Questions 5 and 8 in the Consultation Response Form could be the places to comment on the cost side of LTC, and also the ‘Smart’ aspect of LTC. Remember LTC is not being proposed as a ‘Smart’ Motorway, it would be a ‘Smart’ All Purpose Trunk Road, or a Trunk Road that is designed to ‘smart’ motorway standards.
You may wish to include any comments on the Tilbury Link Road under Question 1c and 1d (Previously proposed Tilbury junction), and/or Question 1e and 1f (A13/A1089 junction). At the end of the day if there is no Tilbury Junction and Tilbury Link Rd then the A1089 and other local roads will be the only options for traffic, including traffic from the Port of Tilbury, Amazon etc.
What else can we do?
If certainly wouldn’t hurt for us to write or email the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, with some comments about the Spring Budget 2020 in relation to the LTC, it’s rising cost and huge per mile value, and the poor cost benefit ration and manipulation of data and figures to try and improve the LTC scheme by not including all aspects that are a direct result of LTC into the LTC scheme and costings.
Also to write or email the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps MP with regard to concerns over ‘Smart’ Motorways, and raise some points on LTC and how it is not fit for purpose, and would be a huge waste of taxpayers money. Baroness Vere of Norbiton, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State also signed the RIS2 Minsiterial Forward, so she would be another one to write to/email.
We will no doubt be doing further updates and calls for action on this kind of thing in due course, once consultation is out of the way, and we have a bit more time again! Watch this space!!