The next phase of the ‘CONsultation’ process over the Lower Thames Crossing was announced by Highways England last week and will start this coming Wednesday (1o.10). This is the news item announcing the exercise: A consultation on updated plans for a new Lower Thames Crossing set to start. These are the dates of the public consultation events on both sides of the river: Lower Thames Crossing Statutory Consultation.

As far as Highways England are concerned, the decision on the crossing is a done deal and all that needs to be done is to tweak and refine the route in ever greater detail. Basically the consultations are about asking residents affected by the route carving its way across Thurrock and Gravesham on the other side of the river for their input on exactly how they want their quality of life to be degraded. It looks as though Highways England are hoping for polite conversations with residents about the technicalities of embankment heights, cutting depths and the like with no one having the temerity to question the need for the road.

Given that there is also a proposal for a cross river tram link from Lakeside and Grays through to Bluewater, Gravesend and Dartford which would revolutionise public transport connections in the region, it is beyond bizarre that the Lower Thames Crossing is seen as a done deal. This is one of a number of reports about the proposal that have appeared in local media on both sides of the river: Council considering tram link across Thames.

You would have thought a regional transport strategy with an eye to sustainability would have taken the decision to build the tram link first, see what impact that has on traffic flows across the existing Dartford River crossing and only then, start to consider if any new road crossings are actually needed. Particularly when completion of the Lower Thames Crossing is still a decade away and experts reckon the tram link could be built a fair bit sooner: KenEx Thames Transit tram from Bluewater to Lakeside takes step forward. That would take joined up thinking and a lack of any undue ‘influence’ from the road and oil lobbies on the politicians who claim to run things for our benefit.

Well, we haven’t got anything remotely resembling an integrated regional transport strategy that takes into account the need for future sustainability in light of the growing threat from climate change. We also have a political class who have too many among their number enjoying close relationships with corporations who seek to influence political outcomes in their favour, regardless of the cost to future generations.

As we’ve stated previously, the Lower Thames Crossing is still a concept, albeit one that has had a lot of work put into it. It only exists as a notion in people’s heads, numerous maps, documents and spreadsheets in digital form on numerous computers and servers plus a fair bit of printed paper. The crossing and it’s associated approach roads has no physical manifestation at present. If a major infrastructure proposal is still some way from having any physical manifestation, then as far as we’re concerned, there is still everything to play for in stopping it and getting more sustainable transport options onto the agenda. All it needs is enough people to consider radically different tactics and it’s game on.