|Jackie Seeks Guarantees From Roads Minister On Proposals For New River Crossings|
Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price secured a debate in the House of Commons last Thursday on the Government’s proposals for more river crossings across the Thames.
Jackie welcomed the Government’s support for the new East London river crossing which the Mayor of London has said will be built within a decade. She highlighted the absence of sufficient river crossings east of Tower Bridge as a barrier to growth and jobs in East London and the Thames Gateway. However, she made made clear that she would oppose proposals for a new crossing in Thurrock unless there were clear guarantees about the impact.
Jackie said, “There will of course be massive benefits if new infrastructure can be achieved, but I would like to put on the record three criteria that I would like the Minister to take on board when considering the options. We want assurances: first, that the new crossing will not result in the destruction of Thurrock’s green belt for the purpose of constructing new motorways; secondly, that it will not add additional traffic volumes to our already overcrowded road network; and thirdly, that it will alleviate congestion at the Dartford crossing. Clearly, the degree to which the new crossing interacts with the existing road network will determine the degree to which congestion is alleviated. Without these assurances, there will be extremely strong opposition in Thurrock to a new crossing.”
In response, Roads Minister Mike Penning said, “I am not going to be drawn into a debate about where the crossing should be, because further down the line some bright lawyer will drag me through a judicial review, stating that I have expressed a view too early on, but the business case will be significant. The infrastructure to which there is a connection, and the cost of developing it, will be hugely significant, and the effects on the environment—I am acutely aware of the green belt and the pressures on it each side of the river—will be taken into consideration.”
“What will also be taken into consideration is the effect on the local communities each side of the river and, particularly, on their local road network, because if we do not do so there will be no point in us moving on from where we are today.”
“We will consider very carefully where the new crossing should go, and we will ensure that any effects on the local infrastructure, particularly junctions 30 and 31, are addressed in the early plans.“
Responding on behalf of the Labour Party, Poplar MP Jim Fitzpatrick congratulated Jackie on securing the debate and agreed that there are insufficient crossings east of Tower Bridge. He asked that “given that the centre of gravity in London has been moving east for the past 20 years and will continue to do so, does she think that, if we have the money, two crossings just would not cut it and that we would need four or even six?”
In response Jackie replied that a much more long-term approach to our national road infrastructure was needed and reminded him that the last Government had ducked the issue, despite concluding that the existing infrastructure was inadequate. She said, “we need the courage to have the debate and think about what is really important for the long term. If we do not have that, we will be putting much-needed jobs at risk, and we cannot afford to do that right now.”