31 January 2016
The Green Party has responded to Highways England's consultation for a new £ multi-billion tunnel to be built under the Thames between Tilbury and Gravesend (1).
Highways England claim that the tunnel will bring economic benefits to the Southern and Eastern regions and that it will help to reduce congestion at the current Dartford crossing. Greens argue that this is short-sighted and flawed. A second crossing would do nothing to tackle congestion in the long term, as it will fuel further increases in traffic, known as 'induced traffic' (2).
Greens are also highly concerned about the wider impact new roads and a tunnel will have on local residents and the environment. Thurrock has already been identified in a World Health Organisation report for breaching safe levels of air pollution (3). Greens believe a new crossing will not alleviate pollution in South Essex in general and will bring heightened pollution to residents along the route corridor, on both sides of the Thames.
Greens want to see measures put in place to tackle air and noise pollution, rather than endlessly extending road networks. Greens are highlighting that the billions of pounds spent on this development could be better invested in measures which would reduce pollution and tackle the urgent issue of climate change. Greens are calling for investment in rail networks to make them fit for purpose, allowing people and freight to move in a more sustainable, less polluting way (4).
Leader of the Green Group on Essex County Council, Councillor James Abbott, said:
"South Essex has some of the highest air pollution levels in the country, and developing further road networks does nothing to counter this. With air pollution in the county responsible for ill health and early deaths every year, it's time to stop pouring money into more roads. We need cleaner, sustainable travel options that move people and freight more efficiently and without causing so much pollution.
The new tunnel will be connected up with yet more new roads cutting through the countryside – and it is likely that further countryside will be lost to development linked to the new roads – particularly near the new junctions."
The Green Party's national transport spokesperson, Caroline Russell, said:
"Instead of building more roads and encouraging more people to travel by car, we need policies which are fit for the 21st century. Our Government just participated in securing a global deal to tackle climate change - in light of this commitment, our obsession with carbon-intensive travel has to end."
Greens are urging concerned residents to respond to the consultation.
4] Green MP Caroline Lucas's Railways Bill calls for the railways to be brought back into public hands, to improve investment in our rails and to ensure affordability and access: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2015-16/railways.html
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