Lower Thames Crossing opponents claim £8.2bn price tag is ‘not realistic’

Opponents of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing have cast doubt over the project’s price tag.

The Thames Crossing Action Group (TCAG) said that National Highways’ £6.4bn to £8.2bn valuation for the scheme is “not [….] realistic”, in its official response to National Highways’ ongoing consultation.

Consequently, the group said it expects the final cost to be “a lot higher” than the current estimates.

The group’s response adds: “The ever rising cost of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing is now up to £8.2bn.

“However, we do not consider this to be a realistic figure and have serious concerns that the true cost would be a lot higher.”

It continues: “The [Lower Thames Crossing] would not be affordable or value for money for the government or users. It is a false economy to proceed with the proposed [scheme].”

The 22km route between Kent and Essex was initially estimated to cost £5.3bn. However, that cost was revised to the current £6.4bn to £8.2bn valuation after changes were made to the scheme in December 2020.

More recently, further changes to the Lower Thames Crossing planning application have added £362.5M to the final estimated cost of the project – however National Highways maintains that the extra cost will not push the final price above the upper £8.2bn estimate.

National Highways unveiled changes to its planning application in June. Changes have been made in regard to traffic management, air quality control, noise and vibration, as well as the impact of the new crossing on the environment and landscape.

They have been added to the project’s development consent order application after National Highways was forced to pull its original plans following feedback from the Planning Inspectorate in November last year.

In its response to the latest consultation, the TCAG describes the road scheme as a “hugely destructive toxic triangle”, and claims that it will cause “chaos, congestion and pollution” for the area.

The group also claims that the crossing will not relieve congestion at the Dartford Crossing and fails to support local development due to poor connections.

It adds that the scheme can “in no way” be considered sustainable due to the additional traffic that will be generated.

In response, Lower Thames Crossing executive director Matt Palmer said: “The Dartford Crossing is one of the UK’s strategic arteries. As the only road across the Thames east of London, and the only road connecting Kent and Essex, it is used by tens of millions of us every year to see family, get to work, and now more than ever, for the movement of the fresh food and goods that we rely on day in day out. But it is over capacity, and on its busiest days it is used by ​over 180,000 vehicles a day, far more than the 135,000 it is designed for, leading to congestion, long delays and diversions, and increased pollution.

“The Lower Thames Crossing is the most ambitious road project in a generation, and it will almost double road capacity across the Thames. A new road for the future, it will benefit local communities by reducing congestion and improving air quality across the region by diverting over 13 million vehicles off the Dartford Crossing each year. The scheme will create new jobs and drive economic growth by unlocking new opportunities for those living, working and doing businesses in the area.”

National Highways plans to submit a new planning application later this year to restart the consent process. If given the green light, construction is still expected to start in 2024 and take around six years, leading to a revised road opening date between 2029 and 2030.

Despite the setback to the planning application, procurement for the project has continued.

Last week, National Highways announced its shortlisted bidders for £1.9bn worth of road building contractors as part of the project.

In April, the roads operator also confirmed the shortlist of bidders for the £2bn tunnelling contract as Bam Nuttall, Ferrovial Construction and Vinci Construction Grands Projets (BFV JV); Bouygues Murphy Joint Venture (BMJV); and Dragados-Hochtief Joint Venture (DH JV).

Meanwhile, National Highways awarded the £162.5M Integration Partner contract to Jacobs earlier in the year.

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